Wednesday, October 3, 2018


Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I knew right from the first paragraph—the first sentence, even—that this was going to be an amazing book. The first sentence sets the tone for the whole story and establishes a very distinct voice for Hank Green, or rather, for April May, one that was so relatable and casual and honest and hilarious.

I honestly had no idea what this book was about when I started it. I only picked it up to read it for the book club at my work, and I really can’t say if I would have read it otherwise or not. I like John Green’s books, but that doesn’t mean his brother’s books are going to be anything similar. While this had both some similarities and some differences from John’s style, I am so glad I read it because I had a downright great time.

April May (that name cracks me up, but I think that’s the point) is a twenty-three-year-old fine arts grad that is just trying to survive in New York City when, one night, she walks by a massive metal statue of a Transformer in samurai armor standing on the sidewalk. She decides that she and her friend Andy need to document it for YouTube. Not expecting anything to come of the video, they go to sleep, only to wake up to sudden internet fame. April May and Andy were the first to discover a Carl, one of sixty-four metal statues that have suddenly appeared in major cities all over the world. The duo decides to embrace this newfound fame as they investigate these new marvels and what their purpose is.

At first, I thought this was a young adult book because I just assumed that Hank would write young adult books like his brother, John, does. But it’s not, really. While the plot is one I could see being in a young adult novel because of its whimsy and adventure, the characters are all graduated from college and in their early twenties. There’s also quite a bit of profanity in here, more than I normally see in young adult, so I guess this is an adult novel after all; however, I think it’s one that readers both young and old would enjoy. Like this book is a great transition into adult books if you read only YA because it still has that young adult feel. The story reads like a contemporary but it’s technically a sci-fi. I think this book would also be a good transition into the more fantastical genres for people who read mostly contemporary because it does feel mostly like a contemporary to me but still has many science fiction elements.

The story was slightly unrealistic at times as far as the convenience that surrounded April: different pieces of the mystery kept falling into her lap as far as fame, money, and people go. It almost felt a little too easy at times, but I’m going to ignore this fact because of how good the overall story was.

I got the feeling that what Green was trying to communicate in his debut novel was his own thoughts and feelings about the prevalence and impact of the social internet and the importance of worldwide collaborative efforts to make a difference in our society. He brings up some very real issues in this story: how fame changes us, how money influences decisions, how hatred spreads so easily online, and how the act of people working together can accomplish something huge. I also got the impression that April May’s experience with internet fame is similar to Hank Green’s own experience, just based on how she was written; it seemed like he was trying to discreetly share some of his struggles with us in a way that will help us better understand him along with other internet-famous people. The book did feel a tiny bit preachy at times. It didn’t bother me, but I did notice it. Again, though, I’m going to ignore this because I really enjoyed the story and the message (even if it was slightly overdone).

The dreams were definitely my favorite parts of the story. [SPOILERS IN ITALICS: I love the idea of a contagious dream, one that you can control and solve clues in. Sign me up! It reminds me a lot of a full-dive virtual reality game (see: Ready Player One), which I’ve always wanted to experience. But I never even been able to have a lucid dream, so there’s probably no hope for me.]

Another piece of this book that I loved was the multimedia aspect that I think enhances any story so much, consisting of tweets, email transcripts, video transcripts, and text messages.

I think Miranda was my favorite character because of her utter nerdiness (I struggled to understand what she was saying half of the time), and I also really enjoyed Andy. I thought April May was a good lead character, but she was an anti-hero of sorts. She made lots of morally grey decisions that led me to ask lots of questions about humanity and the price of fame, etc. Sometimes I couldn’t decide if I should root for April or groan at her or sigh in disbelief at what she was doing.

[SPOILERS IN ITALICS: The only part of this book I didn’t like was the unbelievability of some of it. Not the whole space-aliens-have-invaded-earth bit, but the part where some of the Carls’ clues revolve around popular American music. I mean, these things aren’t even from our planet, and they’ve appeared in major cities across the whole globe, so why is it American music that they use as their clues? Why not a popular Spanish song or Russian song? (I’m aware the song-clues are from English and Canadian artists, but they are still songs that were popular in America, the “dominant” country of the world. I just think it would have been cool to include popular songs that the white populous of the world wouldn’t know but another huge portion of people would.) The whole book feels very American, but it was supposed to be about something happening worldwide. I think maybe that was an oversight on the part of the author.]

There were also some clues that were just too simple or convenient, and that made the story lose a bit of credibility for me. I don’t like when part of the plot seems unrealistic within the boundaries of the world. I have explained before and I’ll say it again that I like stories to be believable within their own realms. You can get as crazy as you want, but once something happens and you just chalk it up to “this is sci-fi; anything can happen” without giving sufficient explanation and background, I’ve lost interest. On top of that, this story was downright weird. I mean it was a good weird, but weird nonetheless. (In the author’s note, Hank does say he wanted to write a book about “a cascade of weirdness that just kept getting weirder,” and I’d say he succeeded.)

I would be very surprised if Hank didn’t write a sequel after that ending [SPOILERS IN ITALICS: when April finally comes back. Where was she all this time and what happened to her? Obviously, Hank Green knows the answers to these questions. Then there’s also the fact that Carl told April, “Your story just started, April May.” What is the story she has to tell? I’m a little disappointed in how vague and unresolved the ending was as far as the Carls go—we still don’t know hardly anything about them or why they chose April for their plan or what that plan is.I don’t know if I necessarily want a sequel because I prefer standalone novels (and I thought this was a standalone), but I would still be interested in reading another story about the future of April May and Andy and, possibly, Carl.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is a purely enjoyable and entertaining novel. I had such a fun time with all these characters as they tried to figure out the mystery behind the Carls. I definitely recommend checking out Hank Green’s debut, and I think he’s an author to keep an eye on in the future. I am very happy that I decided to read this book, and it ultimately brought up a lot of issues in the world today and started an important discussion about them. It’s a novel that left me thinking about its messages hours after I read the last page, and I think that’s the mark of a good book.

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