Janet Tashjian's young adult novel The Gospel According to Larry should not be confused with the abundance of other young adult literature out there designed to teach supposed values. This novel is revolutionary in the sense that it questions many of the values that other novels--adult as well as juvenile--hold so dear. Larry is a character to be admired, in some ways at least, by adults as well as teenagers.
The Gospel According to Larry fits in well with the growing anticonsumer movement. Larry is an icon of anticonsumerism, creating a web site which soon becomes a worldwide sensation. It becomes such a sensation that it even spurs Bono of the band U2 to organize a free benefit concert along the lines of Live Aid.
What makes Larry's web site so exciting and interesting? For one thing there are Larry's so-called sermons. Larry speaks out against the commodification of everything and the cheap and cynical selling of fashion as a personality statement. Larry only owns seventy-five possession. Before he'll buy something new, he has to decide which of his current possessions he'll be willing to discard before adding something new to list of 75. Part of the mania of Larry's web site is his anonymity and the challenge of figuring out who he might be as uploads pictures of his possession one at a time.
Unfortunately, for some people figuring out who Larry is becomes an obsession. Some begin to question the ethics of an anonymous cultural critic. Why doesn't Larry show himself, make himself known. Who is he? Who is this person who has the gall to call into question all that the free market system has given to the world?
Two teenagers, Beth and Josh, on the other hand represent the oppositional viewpoint.
They see Larry as a beacon of truth, a hero of chivalric proportions and their interest in finding out who Larry really is benevolent. Though best friends, Josh's feelings for Beth do much deeper. He is in love with her. And would do anything to win her. Anything.
Except for letting Beth know that he, Josh, is Larry.
As he struggles to maintain his secret identity, Larry's web site really begins to take off. Eventually it grows so famous that Bono organizes Larryfest, a free concert with food sold at cost. (Not bloody likely…). It is the high point of Larry/Josh's existence. And also the end of his anonymity. One of those desperately searching to out him figures out that Josh is the one.
Soon things are spiraling out of control. Beth feels betrayed. Josh is being manipulated by the media as if he were one of the commodities he spoke out against. Larry devolves into just another brand name. In order to escape the chaos and put an end to Larry's story, Josh fakes his own suicide and Josh decides to hit the road, still hoping to change the world in some way, writing down his story and delivering to a writer of young adult fiction, Janet Tashjian.
Included in the back of the novel are questions for classroom discussion, an interview with Tashjian and a link to Larry's official web site, thegospelaccordingtolarry.com.