Book Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
Green, Hank. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: A Novel. Dutton, 2018.
I have already sung the praises of the Green brothers on my previous blog, I Read What They Read. It does, however, bear reiterating that the creations of John and Hank Green have had a significant impact on my personal and professional life. John and Hank’s Crash Course videos made frequent appearances in my classroom. My sister and I twice made the pilgrimage to their yearly YouTube convention, VidCon, and had a wonderful time. And, of course, I have devoured and loved all of John Green’s YA novels. With that said, I was of course looking forward to Hank’s first novel, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.
April May is an ordinary 23-year-old working a boring job at a tech start-up. That changes when, on her way home, she encounters what she perceives to be an enormous art installation: a hulking, robotic statue. She calls her friend Andy, and in minutes the two are creating a funny, casual video. As Andy films, April May discusses the statue, who she playfully calls Carl. And even though the statue seems a bit odd—it’s warm to the touch, for instance—April doesn’t think on the statue further before she goes home and falls into bed.
When April wakes up, the world has completely changed. Carls have popped up in cities all across the globe, and no one knows how they were installed nor their intent. April, who is believed to be the first person to have interacted with a Carl, is suddenly thrust into the limelight. Are the Carls just fun pieces of art or something more sinister? How will April use her newfound fame? And was April drawn to Carl for a specific, predestined reason?
The premise of An Absolutely Remarkable Thingis both fantastic and timely. Readers are immediately intrigued by the Carls, and Green unravels the mystery in a satisfying way. I was impressed, too, by April’s consistent voice and her honesty. As the frenzy over the Carls begins to swell, two camps emerge, and both seemed to be aligned with the two major political parties. April describes her blind, seething rage toward the other camp in a way that perfectly mirrors our country’s current political divide. Her preoccupation with social media and her fan base will resonate deeply with many of Green’s fans.
Having watched a number of John and Hank’s videos and listened to their podcasts, it’s not surprising to me that someone as analytical as Hank did a vast amount of research to make this novel as authentic as possible. That said, there are times when the amount of information bogs down the narration. I hoped, too, to see some of April May’s art background make an appearance in the novel. Although it initially drew her to Carl, it wasn’t (to my recollection) mentioned again, and I think the convergence of art and puzzle solving would have been a fantastic thematic idea.
Still, it is mind blowing that this is Hank’s first novel. He has crafted a brilliant, fun book that will appeal to a wide range of readers.