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Book Review: “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing”

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Hank Green

Hardcover, 343 pages

Publication Date: September 25, 2018

Publisher: Dutton Books

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

“An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” was incredibly hyped when it came out last fall. Hank Green, already famous to many millennials and Gen Z-ers for being one half of the YouTube sensation Vlogbrothers with his brother John, made his debut with this novel, which premiered at No. 1 on The New York Times’ hardcover fiction best sellers list. John Green is already well-established in the writing world with massively successful young adult novels like “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Looking for Alaska.” Fans and critics alike were curious to see how Hank Green would do with his first foray into writing.

“An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” begins with art school grad April May stumbling across a large statue in the middle of New York City one night. She calls her best friend, an aspiring YouTuber, and together they film and post a video about the mysterious, robot-like figure, which seemingly appeared out of nowhere. These statues appeared in various cities all over the world, and by the next day, April has found herself and her video to be overwhelmingly popular on social media.

But then the government gets involved, the statue turns out not be from Earth and April finds her stardom growing along with becoming a target of online and in-person hatred. Her life is transformed by the statue she jokingly named Carl.

I have to admit, I had low expectations of this book before I even picked it up. I was never a huge John Green fan, and I tend to be picky about what young adult books I like. I was pleasantly surprised to discover Hank Green does a great job as a sci-fi writer. The properties of Carl and how the world reacts to the presence of aliens were interesting to read. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the rest of the book.

I had little sympathy for April May, the main character. At 23 years old, she is one of the most childish and selfish “good guys” I have ever encountered in fiction. The supporting characters, who were supposed to make up for April’s multitudes of flaws, were poorly developed and two-dimensional. The most mature and level-headed character in the book, Maya, is relegated to the background for most of the novel.

I felt like Hank Green did not expect much out of the intelligence of his readers, and this is perhaps the thing which frustrated me the most about “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.” He takes time, and too much of it, explaining the themes of the book in the writing itself. April’s sudden viral fame and position of authority end up causing her a lot of problems, so Hank Green decides to include multiple passages—disguised as April lecturing to herself, which is not a good idea, either—about how social media is bad in certain contexts and how easily hate can spawn between different people. I figured that out for myself just by reading the book, and I certainly did not need the author to spell it out for me. Hank Green needs to trust the people reading his work to understand it, as it was annoying to have the lessons of the book explained like I was unable to comprehend them on my own.

If Hank Green had made this more of a sci-fi story and less of a young adult, coming-of-age tale, I would have enjoyed it more. As it stands, though, I cannot recommend “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.” I spent too much time frustrated and angry to endorse anyone else reading it. This is the first entry in the series, but I doubt I will read the sequel unless I happen to find myself incredibly bored.

Paige Holmes is a junior journalism major from Topeka, KS. Reading is her favorite thing to do because it teaches one how to think, imagine and live. Paige believes there is no better way to learn something or be entertained than by reading a book. Her favorite genre of books is fantasy/thriller and her favorite book is ‘Opening Moves’ by Steven James.

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