Synopses & Reviews
This ALA Best Book for Young Adults introduces 17-year-old prodigy Josh Swensen, who only wants to make the world a better place. His wish comes true when his virtual alter ego, Larry, becomes a media sensation after posting sermons on anti-consumerism on his Web site.
About the Author
Janet Tashjian also wrote True Confessions and Multiple Choice.
Reading Group Guide
1. In his quest to be antimaterialistic, Josh has just seventy-five possessions, including shirts, shoes, keys, books, CDs, and underwear. If you had to limit the things you own to seventy-five items, what would they be?
2. Josh states, “I've only wanted one thing in my life-to contribute, to help make the world a better place . . . not with technology, but with ideas.” Is Josh true to his vision?
3. Is the way Josh/Larry manipulates his followers any different from the way the media, big business, or politicians manipulate the public?
4. Josh steals confidential documents from Peters briefcase in order to attack the companies his stepfather represents. Is he right to do this? Does the end justify the means?
5. Paint a picture of Joshs character. Why is it that he has only one friend? Discuss his relationship with Beth. Do you think he would have created the Larry Web site if he had told Beth how he felt about her?
6. Discuss the ethics of spouting views on the Internet, or in any medium, under a false identity. Betagold claims that Larry is a coward for keeping his identity a secret. Do you agree? Or is Larry right to think that revealing who he is would detract from his message?
7. Discuss Joshs motivation for creating the Larry Web site. Is he being honest or is he just playing a game? He is disturbed by the magnitude of the response to his Web site and by the hero he becomes, but he does not close down the web site. Why?
8. Josh is disillusioned by the reaction of the public once his identity is known. No one seems to be interested in his message-people are interested only in him as a celebrity. The producer of 20/20 tells him, “They want to know about you. Youre the story, just you. People want gossip; people want sizzle.” What does this tell you about how the media views the public? What happens when the sizzle fizzles?
9. Josh says that we feast on celebrities, caring for people who have no idea who we are. How do you feel about this? Should we care about the private lives of our favorite rock stars? If you were a celebrity, how would you handle fame?
10. “No offense, Josh, but this idealism thing is a phase, like so many other things youve been through. . . . You dont have enough life experience. You dont know how the real world works yet.” How much of what Peter says to Josh is true, or is it as Josh responds, “Adults always say that to keep kids quiet?”
11. Some of Joshs actions might be considered unethical. Do you think anything Josh does is immoral? Is the writing of his story the solution for Josh, or is it just another way to avoid taking responsibility? How will Josh find peace? Is he on the right path?
12. Joshs/Larrys sermons rail against exploitation of third-world countries, celebrity worship, and the way big business manipulates our lives, to name a few issues. What are the things about society that you and your friends hope to change?