An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

I’ll admit, I was excited to read this book for perhaps the wrong reasons – through high school I loved the VlogBrothers YouTube channel (run by Hank and John Green) and consumed basically anything the brothers created. I ended up outgrowing the Green brothers’ YouTube content a few years ago, but when I heard Hank had a book coming out, I jumped at the chance to read it. Unfortunately, this book really didn’t work for me – the title alone should have been enough to tip me off to this book – the entire book is overly grandiose and has a strong sense of being too big for its boots.

The Carls just appeared.

Roaming through New York City at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship–like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor–April and her best friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world–from Beijing to Buenos Aires–and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

You know that friend that when they get drunk they start saying the most mundane things like they’re the deepest discovery or the most profound thing? That’s this book. The entire style comes off as overly grandiose and arrogant – it’s like it was written with quotability in mind rather than entertainment. I felt like the book was constantly trying to drop higher than thou monologs – it definitely needed a huge dose of levity to balance the over the top speeches. The dialogue is where this grandiose nature is most apparent – it is honestly really cringe-y for most of the book. Also, I had a feeling this book won’t age well – it’s chock full of cultural references that in a few years won’t be as relevant.

The plot itself of this book was pretty interesting – statues show up around the world at the same time in one night with no context or warning. No one knows how they got there or why they’re there, but it becomes a world wide game to see who can solve the mystery of the statues first. The plot was a little slow to begin with, but at the end of the book the pacing was killer.

This book tries so desperately to be a quirky/cool girl book, but it blows way past the mark. You know that GIF from 30 Rock of Steve Buscemi saying “How do you do, fellow kids?” – that’s how this book felt. The author was trying so hard to emulate what he thought a ‘cool’ young adult would speak and act like that he ended up making a parody of the personality type he was trying to emulate. Unfortunately, I found the attempts at humor to be lackluster and grating.

April May is not a likable character. She looks down on people around her. Ignoring the mainstream is not a personality trait, and it seemed to be the only thing that defined her. She consistently treated her friends poorly and really had very little redemption or growth by the end of the book. Most of the side characters were minor with very little backstory and contribution to the story.

Unless you’re a diehard Vlogbrothers/ Hank Green fan, give this book a pass. Its story is slow moving and the writing style is jarring. If you’re looking for some great sci-fi books, check out Ready Player One and The Martian2/5

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3 Comments

  1. Oh man. It’s been on my TBR list for ages but I just couldn’t summon up the courage to read it. For some reason, something was telling me to wait. I’m disappointed to hear it fell short, but also not that surprised.

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