The Big Nothing by Adrian Fogelin


Date reviewed: 9/30/04           Grades 6-8              IL 9-12          Author’s website

Summary: (Uncorrected proof copy) Related to Crossing Jordan & Anna Casey’s Place in the World. Ben and Cass are dating, Justin feels left out. Jemmie and he become friends and he develops his first crush on her. Older brother Duane enlists and is shipped off to Gulf War; mother and father’s constant squabbles over infidelities leads to father moving out and mother falling into a deep depression. Justin becomes caregiver to mother and anxious about brother’s safety. Piano lessons/practice with Nana Grace and Jemmie is the bright spark in his life.

Personal Reaction: I really liked this book – bi-racial relationship isn’t a bi-racial issue, just typical teenage crush and excellent description of how relationships can become awkward when your friends change in front of your eyes.  Nearly current Gulf War issues dealt with appropriately. Some brother-to-brother language could cause issues if read aloud, but I think you could get away with skipping or substituting the words. Justin deals as best he can with parental problems with each other. I liked Stand Tall by Bauer better on that issue though.

Points for discussion with children or topics for study:  racism; achievement, self-identity; historical treatment of blacks; Revolutionary War and major figures; virtual reality, fantasy fiction, time travel

Connections to other books? Others with bi-racial friendships – The Moves Make the Man by Brooks and Maniac Magee by Spinelli. Most others by Fogelin are good!

Realia: map of Tallahassee or Tall.-to-Atlanta route; soldier’s apparel; personal letters; inflatable lips (Jemmie/Justin and Ben/Cass); basketball; piano or sheet music (jazz); stuffed cat; ratty sneakers

Food items connected to story: ice cream, biscuits, bacon; chicken soup – homemade; burritos (any boxed/instant foods) *homemade stuff from Nana Grace, instant stuff from Justin’s house

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