Study Guide

Nothing Appearances

By Janne Teller


We had just started seventh grade, and we were all so modern and well-versed in life and being in the world that we knew that everything was more about how it appeared than how it was. (3.14)

It's kind of funny that Agnes thinks she and her classmates are so worldly, considering that later they're all impressed about going to Atlanta. Not that there's anything wrong with Atlanta. But Paris it ain't.

The most important thing, in any circumstance, was to amount to something that really looked like it was something. (3.14)

And this, friends, is the central rule of Facebook. Our online persona is often the biggest mask of all.

"Then how come everyone's making like everything that isn't important is very important, all the while they're so busy pretending what's really important isn't important at all?" (4.20)

Yeah, good question, Pierre Anthon. If he asked you, how would you answer?

"You'll be a fashion designer and teeter around in high heels and make like you're really something and make others think they are too, as long as they're wearing your label." He shook his head. "But then you'll find out you're a clown in a trivial circus where everyone tries to convince each other how vital it is to have a certain look one year and another the next." (4.29)

Check out the fashions from 10, 20, and 30 years ago, and we guarantee you'll find at least one look that makes you wonder what in the sam hill people were thinking. We can definitely be influenced to think things are beautiful or ugly depending on what the rest of the world thinks. Case in point: polyester.

We all knew that none of what we had collected mattered to us, really, so how were we supposed to convince Pierre Anthon that it did?

He was going to see right through us.

Squat. Zilch. Nothing. (5.12-14)

What gives Pierre Anthon the power to see through others? Do you think growing up on a hippie commune made him more of an individual? Or is he just blessed with some sort of awesome insight.

I swapped hair elastics with Gerda, whispered with here about boys, and confided to her that I had warmed a bit to Huge Hans (which wasn't true in the slightest, but though you're not supposed to lie, this was what my older brother referred to as force majeure, and even though I wasn't quite sure what it meant, it definitely entailed that right now lying was okay.) (6.4)

Force majeure is a clause in a contract that frees both parties from responsibility in the case of events beyond their control (for example, if you buy a house that's struck by lightning, you don't have to keep making payments). Do you think it actually applies here?

Without her hair, Ursula-Marie would no longer be Ursula-Marie with her six blue braids, which meant that she no longer would be Ursula-Marie at all. (11.12)

Of course cutting your hair doesn't make you a different person, but Agnes is so caught up in appearances she can't see this. Ah, 7th grade.

One Jon-Johan had become another Jon-Johan, and we didn't care for this one. I thought maybe it had been this one Sofie had seen that night with the innocence, except that time it had been him on top, and suddenly I got shivers down my spine thinking about how many different people one and the same person can be. (17.36)

Why would Jon-Johan have behaved the same way the night of Sofie's rape that he behaved the night she cut off his finger? Uh, yeah… we'll give you a pass if you don't even want to go there.

It was nice inside the fame and the belief in the meaning, and I didn't want out of it, because beyond that there was only the outside and nothing. So I carried on parading myself around and looking superior, exactly as if I really had found the meaning and had no doubts whatsoever. (20.30)

Take note: often, the people who seem the most confident are actually the most insecure. It's kind of like how the most talented people are usually the most humble: they're actually good at what they do, so they've got nothing to prove.

Suddenly everyone knew that the heap of meaning was art, and that only an uninitiated ignoramus could say otherwise. Even the art critic from the biggest of the local newspapers backtracked and said that he'd now considered the heap more closely and that it was indeed a work of near genius…He had only seen the work from the front the first time, he wrote. (21.2)

Quick, find one piece of contemporary art and ask yourself if it's really art. Not sure where to start? Check out Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, or Jeff Koons, or watch the Banksy film Exit Through the Gift Shop.

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