An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

I first heard of Hank Green through his Crash Course YouTube videos. I had previewed a couple first and now use several in my classes. And after hearing about this book, his quirky personality was something I could see myself reading in novel form…

Late one night April May is on the streets of Manhattan when she sees a sculpture on the middle of the sidewalk. It looks robotic, almost like a Transformer, and April is drawn to it. Like most of us in our rat-race lives, she has to check herself, slow herself down, so she can step back and enjoy the piece of art. She is so mesmerized that she calls up her college buddy at 3 am, and tells him to get down there with all his video equipment. A quick setup and a couple takes has them uploading the first reveal of what she dubs “Carl.” They soon find out that these sculptures have landed or been placed in major cities all over the globe, but April and Andy’s video is the first to document the appearances. The YouTube clicks blow up as does April’s social media accounts…

What ensues is an exploration into stardom, the media spin, and the power of personal reflection. Told in first person by April from some time after the events of Carl, the book hits its plot points almost perfectly. Every time the story even remotely tries to slow down, something happens to move it forward… A pressing need. A discovery. A new character. Much of this is made possible by Green’s use of the reflective narrator. But this also makes for an excellent character sketch. April admittedly makes some questionable decisions over the course of the novel (at one point she is told off by the President). Andy’s father is an entertainment lawyer and they fly to LA to meet with him at his company to sign contracts ($$) and discuss the image that April wants to portray in the media. She gives up a bit of her personality to round out and scrub her image for public consumption, including the fact that she is bisexual as opposed to simply a lesbian because one is more “marketable” than the other. I was struck by this and the other changes she agrees to change. 

Overall, this is a fantastic book and I haven’t even mentioned the ‘alien’ factor… And the reason why is because this is one of those scifi-light books that focus on the characters and not so much the possible first contact event. It reminded me of books by Mike Chen that I have read recently.  


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