Book Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Title: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
Author: Hank Green
Series: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing #1
Publication Date: September 25th 2018

Synopsis: "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 armour - 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 centre 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."

My thoughts: I was definitely excited to get my hands on Hank Green's debut novel - I am a Nerdfighter and watch vlogbrothers with my husband pretty often, and we also listen to their podcast, Dear Hank and John, pretty frequently whenever we're in the car together. Hank seems like a wonderful guy - insightful and interested in the world around him, and he also tries to be aware of what fame does and of his own privilege. All of this means that I was intrigued by what he would write about.

Having now finished the book, I am a little torn. Everyone has been saying that this is an insight into fame and what it does to people, plus its impacts on relationships and the way you conduct yourself. All of that is true, for sure. This is extremely interesting to read from that point of view, and I think it really shows how self-aware Hank is about his YouTube fame and the jobs that he has. I found it uncomfortable to read about - but I have a fear of a lot of the things that happen to April May, so that isn't really unusual.

What kind of threw me was the scifi elements of this book. I love me some scifi, and the mystery around the Carls was actually really fascinating. I loved reading about how different elements of the mystery came into light, and seeing how people tried to tease out the riddles. That was all really fantastic. But I feel a little like maybe Hank tried to do too much with this book - it feels a little like a mash-up of a lot of things, and with April May being the main character (I'll talk more about her in a second), it just felt... a bit messy at times.

April May is an unlikable character - let me just put that out there. There are things that she says, does, and agrees to in this book that just made me feel deeply uncomfortable and anxious, and I honestly think that was on purpose. And that makes sense for the storyline and the points Hank was trying to make. But, the thing is, I don't really get on with unlikable characters - I know some people adore them, but I'm just not one of them. The fact that I couldn't relate to April May made me feel like I was on the outside looking in, and flinching every time April May did anything. I think the other characters - Andy and Maya in particular - really helped me to keep reading, and I think I will probably pick up the sequel when it comes out. The mystery is just too intriguing.

{I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

A favourite line from the book: '"A robot of few words, but your appearance speaks volumes."'

You would like this book if: You like insights into YouTube fame and constructing an identity for the internet; you enjoy some scifi mystery tied into said insights.

Tea to drink while reading this book: It's set in New York City mostly, so I think probably coffee is the go if you can drink it. Perhaps even a holiday-themed coffee.

Rating:  7/10

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