Mysterious Book Report No. 471

by John Dwaine McKenna

Anthem, (Grand Central Publishing, $29.00, 448 pages, ISBN 978-1-5387-1151-4), by award-winning writer and TV producer Noah Hawley, is going to be one of the most talked about books of the new year.  The novel is thought-provoking, controversial, compelling and dystopian, beginning with it’s opening sentence: “The summer our children began to kill themselves was the hottest on record.” And that’s just the first of many thoughts that will make you sit up and take notice.  You’ll find yourself thinking, “What’s this guy about? Where’s he going with this?” It’s only one of many times you’ll say that while you read.  Believe me . . . you will.

Young people in their teens begin killing themselves in greater and greater numbers all across the world, while adults and parents are beside themselves trying to figure out why.  Is it the pandemic?  Isolation?  Why are they writing A11 on or next to their bodies?  As the mystery of the suicides grows, we’re introduced to Simon Oliver, a privileged fifteen year-old who found his older sister’s body after she killed herself by overdosing on the pharmaceuticals that their epically rich father manufactures.  It’s the first of a boatload of ironies and social commentaries to come.  Depressed, Simon is sent to a rehab facility outside Chicago called The Float Anxiety Abatement Center where he meets another inmate who calls himself The Prophet.  He tells Oliver that they’re going to start a new utopia, one run exclusively by teenagers, because adults have made a disaster of planet earth; they’ve abused, lied to and taken advantage of the younger generations . . . as well as making a complete mess of society in general and civilization as a whole with their endless wars.  Without much of a plan, Oliver and The Prophet escape from the Float facility, promptly hooking up with a motley bunch of outcasts, renegades, and outlaws, followed by much fleeing, fighting, and setbacks that lead to peril, a few disasters, all mixed in with observations like this: “How do you make people behave in ways they know are immoral?”  Answer: “You undermine the idea of morality itself.”  If you’re ready to be intellectually challenged, provoked and made to think, read this book.  You’ll learn a lot, squirm a little and disagree with some of the authors premises,  but enjoy it throughout.  One thing is for certain . . . you won’t be able to put this one down!!


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