Josh Swensen isn’t your average teenager – when he observes America, he sees a powerhouse of consumerism and waste. He’s even tried to do something about it, with his start-up controversial website. But when Josh rises to messiah status of the internet world, he discovers that greed and superficiality are not easily escaped. Trapped inside his own creation, Josh feels his only way out is to stage his death and be free of his internet alter-ego, “Larry.” But this plan comes with danger, and soon Josh finds himself cut off from the world, with no one to turn to for help. In this suspenseful young adult novel, Janet Tashjian has written a probing tour-de-force.
Accelerated Reader Rating: 5.6
"A thrilling read, fast-paced with much fast food for thought about our consumer-oriented pop culture. The voice is clear, the ending satisfying. Teenagers will eat this one up."
- Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
"A terrific read with a credible and lovable main character."
- School Library Journal, Starred Review
"Tashjian fabricates a cleverly constructed scenario and expertly carries it out to the bittersweet end."
- The Horn Book, Starred Review
- Booklist, Starred Review
"This is a great, well-written read."
- The Colorado Independent
A Booksense Pick
A Best Book for Young Adults
A New York Public Library Best Book for the Teen Age
A Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
A Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book
Media Literacy is a hot topic now and The Gospel According to Larry is often used in classrooms as an example of how students can analyze and evaluate media content. Such themes as Internet safety, hiding behind a screen name, celebrity worship, and online bullying can also be addressed.
Larry is often taught as a companion book to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Students can compare the Transcendentalist Movement to Larry’s anti-materialism.
The Larry books are also taught in modules on social activism, advertising, branding, globalization, and workers’ rights. Many schools have also done their own anti-ad campaigns like Larry.
Vote for Larry opens up discussions about the Electoral College, the 28th Amendment, the importance of one vote, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the democratic process.
Because the Larry books are fast, suspenseful reads with a male lead character, they are often used by librarians and teachers to appeal to reluctant readers, especially boys.
Cathryn Berger Kaye is an educator and consultant specializing in service learning. She facilitates teachers who want to help their students make a difference. She’s used the social activism of the Larry books in classrooms all around the world. She’s an amazing force for positive change; her website is abcdbooks.org
Tricia London, a great librarian from Avon, MA, put together a PowerPoint LarryJeopardy game that she generously shares here.
Random House also has a teaching guide for The Gospel According to Larry that you can download.