“The power that each of us has over complete strangers to make them feel terrible and and frightened and weak is amazing.” ~ Hank Green, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Published by Dutton, 2018
Re-readability: We’ll probably revisit this one someday
Rating: Pete’s: 4.5 out of 5 stars Indiana’s: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Bleary-eyed, trudging home from work in the wee hours of the morning, April May finds what she thinks is the latest weird outdoor sculpture in New York City. But as more of them show up in other major cities across the world, it becomes apparent that these things aren’t from earth. The Carls, as they become known, bring a whirlwind of change for April, who was the first to discover and document them. She has to deal with becoming a celebrity of sorts and an expert on something no one knows anything else about. Hopefully along the way she’ll be able to figure out why the Carls arrived in the first place.
Pete: This was one of those cases where I knew nothing about the book going in and was pleasantly surprised. I haven’t watched much Vlogbrothers, but I have read a couple of John Green books, so I expected this to be in a similar vein. It was and it wasn’t—the whimsical style was there, but the tone and plot were quite different.
Indiana: Agreed. It felt like adult fiction’s answer to YA. I found the premise to be unexpected as well, probably because the John Green books I’ve read didn’t revolve around aliens. Hank Green managed to create a convincing plot around aliens that felt more like fiction than sci-fi, if that makes any sense.
Pete: Yes, despite my strong opinions when it comes to sci-fi vs. fiction, this book felt like contemporary fiction. Maybe this is just because it’s a character-central story, but the Carls (the robot statues that suddenly appeared all around the world) put it firmly on the sci-fi shelf. I though April May was a fantastic character—not someone who I would ever want to know or be friends with, but a fascinating and well-developed character.
Indiana: She had such a strong voice that she really came alive as a character. My head came up with a voice for her and I read the majority of the book in her voice. But she’s hilariously and sometimes not-so-hilariously flawed. It’s part of what makes the first person perspective used in the book work for me. On another note, I appreciated how Green brought in all these sort of extremist voices shortly after the Carls landed on earth. There were some, like April, who were optimistic about earth’s new guests and others who were determined that the Carls were there to destroy earth.
Pete: I think the introduction of characters like Peter Petrawicki made for a great foil for April. I was usually frustrated by Petrawicki’s message, but I had to occasionally remind myself that April had done some massively irresponsible (and selfish) things. She is the sort of character who is fascinating and I find myself rooting for, even though she makes plenty of mistakes, most of which were driven by greed and a desire to be liked.
Indiana: Right and because she seems to be able to communicate with the Carls in some way, she’s got this sense that she’s the chosen one, that out of the billions of people on earth, the Carls wanted to talk with her. It doesn’t help her gain humility, that’s for sure. But despite all that, she’s so genuine in her faults and fears that it’s easy to sympathize with her. What did you think about the pacing? For the majority of the book, I felt like events were flying by. But the very end felt a tad slow in comparison.
Pete: The pacing was my only complaint, but it’s a minor one since it really only applies to the last 100 pages or so. The beginning was incredible fast, and new mysteries were being revealed with each chapter, but the finale did feel a little sluggish at times. There have been a lot of negative reviews for this book, but I thought it was believable, rewarding, and unusual—absolutely a book I’ll be recommending to others. And I am definitely reading the sequel!