In the first book, Josh Swensen is a gifted 17-year-old with a best friend, Beth, whom he secretly loves, and a stepfather in marketing. His self-proclaimed goal is to make the world a better place, and he hates the consumerist society of mainstream America. Josh Swensen is also Larry, a well-known anticonsumerist Internet guru who becomes more and more popular throughout the course of the book, and his fans even organize a fundraiser Woodstock-ish concert in his honour.
Eventually Josh's identity is revealed by an old woman named Tracy Hawthorne, username betagold, who has been attempting to unravel Larry's true identity throughout the entire book. After being exposed to the media, Josh simply can't take the media pressure anymore, lamenting how Larry himself has become a consumer product. His stepfather disowns him, his best friend reveals that she sees their relationship Like Brother and Sister, and even his hideout near Walden Pond is found by media sleuths and run into the ground.
The second book, Vote for Larry, is about Josh's failed run for President of the United States after un-faking his death and re-emerging into the public spotlight; while the third book, Larry and the Meaning of Life has all of Josh's friends conspiring to cure him of his bout of depression with the Batman Gambit of the century involving a terrorist plot, betagold pretending to need a kidney transplant from Josh (which is convincingly faked), and a group of gurus which justs happens to include the second love of his life, Janine. That's just the tip of the iceberg.
Tropes present in this work:
- Did Not Get the Girl: One layer of the first book's ending. Beth rejects Josh as a lover because she thinks of him as a brother which is promptly changed in the sequel, and not only that, ends up dating the Jerk Jock from the first act of the book again because he has supposedly reformed. Talk about a kick to the balls; no wonder the guy faked his own suicide.
- Distracted by the Sexy: The source of a lot of the Unresolved Sexual Tension comedy between Beth and Josh. Specifically Beth's lips.
- Hollywood Hacking: Betagold claims to have found "Larry" using IP address tracing, but since Josh was accessing his own servers, one wonders how she got his IP address in the first place. The described system of Josh using disposable cell phones as modems is unnecessary for the same reasons. If betagold did manage to get Josh's IP address, she would still probablyonly be able to trace it to the ISP that issued it, which won't give out customer information to anyone without a warrant. On the other hand, the publically accessible whois information for his domain registry is required by law to be accurate and up-to-date (though it could possibly point to his hosting service, not him).
- The Knights Who Say "Squee!": Due to their music's connections with his past and Bono's political activism in general, Josh can't resist going fangirl when he finally gets to meet U2.
- Love Letter Lunacy: Josh writes such a letter after seeing Simon and Beth making snow angels. He lampshades how corny his letter is, but as he admits "the words just wouldn't stop".
- Love Triangle: Vote for Larry has two: Josh/Simon/Beth and Josh/Beth/Janine.
- The Mole: Tim Hawthorne in Vote for Larry.
- Moment Killer: At Larryfest.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: An interesting variation: by the time Vote for Larry was ready for publication, the Democratic party hadn't announced their ticket for the 2004 election. So instead of going after John Kerry, Tashjian inserted a faceless Democrat and decided to attack the Party in general, and Bill Clinton in particular. Every other instance of a celebrity appearing in the books, however, is done in full with no apologies.
- Secret Identity: Both Tracy Hawthorne (betagold) and Josh (Larry).
- Sequel Hook:
- Vote for Larry ends with Josh trying to find Janine, who he had accidentally accused of being The Mole during his failed presidential campaign, promising to return when he finds her.
- Also seen in Larry and the Meaning of Life, which ends with Josh having to decide between taking a train to Princeton, where he'd go to college, or Miami, where other adventures would presumably play out. His choice is not disclosed, leaving the reader in suspense.
- Society Marches On: The plot of the first novel is centered around the idea that Josh's well written, enlightening sermons create a massive fanbase and start a pop-culture movement. The original book was published in 2003, making it contemporary with the rise in popularity of blogs and so forth. Despite this, no blogger ever reached anywhere near the success Josh did, especially before ever even showing his face. The only weblebrities in real life to gather crowds like this are people like the VlogBrothers, one of them was already a world-famous author. Larry had an entire festival centered around him, headlined by U2, which was compared to Woodstock, and he became basically a living prophet in many characters' eyes).
- Victorious Childhood Friend: Possibly Beth, depending on how you view Meaning 's ending.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Beth's calling-out Josh after finding out he faked his own suicide to escape media scrutiny.