Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

I feel a little bit sorry for Hank Green when it comes to his writing career, kind of, because I can't help but feel he's going to be stuck for a while, lost in the shadow of his brother. Certainly, the buzz surrounding his debut novel An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, published in September, was largely oh my God John Green's brother wrote a book - I will readily admit that a large part of why I wanted to read this book was John.

It seems to be uncool to like John Green's books right now, but I've never been cool and I don't mind telling you that TFiOS holds a special place in my heart and that I thought Turtles All the Way Down was excellent but I'm not here to talk about that. Or about how Hank is John Green's brother (which you knew because a: I said it once already and b: you've seen the vlogbrothers videos anyway), I'm here to talk about Hank's book, which I read and which I want to try to review as a book in and of itself and without comparing it to the work of the already bestselling other sibling.

Which I suspected may be difficult as soon as I saw the main character was called April May because (I found myself thinking against my own will) that's a John Green character name if ever there was one.


Let's get to the point.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is not, alas, an absolutely remarkable thing, but it is a pretty good book. I didn't love it but I also didn't hate it and I did find myself reaching for it whenever I sat down for five minutes which is A Good Thing.

The deal is this. At 3am one morning 23 year old April May comes across a massive statue that has just appeared in New York City. She calls her best friend, they make a YouTube video and go to sleep. The video goes viral and by the time April wakes up the next morning her life has changed. These same statues - they become known as Carls - have appeared all over the world and as the person who first saw the first one, April finds herself the poster girl for the whole bizarre scenario,

The premise is good and really interesting and it's a little bit sci-fi which is always a tick in The Plus Box from me and somehow even though it isn't especially fast-paced or exciting, I found myself utterly engrossed. I'm not sure what that's about actually, because when I finished I was mostly annoyed; whilst reading I was pretty annoyed and yet still, somehow, I couldn't stop reading it.
I think it's the social commentary. I do love that in a book. And here, snuggled in alongside this story of a girl who accidentally made first contact with an alien is a sharp and unsettling look at the social media age. It's a sharp reminder that the internet isn't real - something I think to myself quite often when I open my instagram and was a contributing factor to the reason I removed myself from Facebook a couple of years back - that it is actually scarily easily to perpetuate a not entirely accurate version of self to the masses (let's be real here, we all only ever show a fraction of who we are in our online presence. My instagram doesn't show my anxiety or my insecurities or my dilapidated office or my not so 'insta-worthy' home or the way last night I posted a photo of the book I was starting and then not five minutes later was curled in a ball of period pain, almost in tears on the phone to my boyfriend) and the way Green portrays this, via April who didn't even know what Twitter was before she found herself Internet Famous is so sharp and insightful. He's internet famous himself, our author and you can't help but wonder how much of this book comes from personal experience, whether at some point he's had a sudden flash of enlightenment, found himself living his life for how it looks online rather than just actually living it and as such this book became a brain dump for all of that.

Or perhaps he hasn't. Perhaps he's just really astute. I don't know. I just know that I was totally there for that aspect of the book.

And that's what makes the rest of it so sad.

The problem, pals, is this: I don't like April May. She's just....she's a dick. I didn't care about her because I didn't like her. Even when her agent tries to force her to label herself as gay because its easier to sell than bisexual, my hackles weren't really up, because I just couldn't find a way to care about this girl I didn't like. She's just....she's not nice to people. Her relationship with her girlfriend Maya is just toxic and made me really mad and she's pretty shitty to everyone else around her also and I just, I didn't like her. Manic Pixie Dream Girl Chosen One can just do one, actually, here because she's horrible. 

Also the meshing of the whole Carl story (which had so much potential) and the fame didn't quite hit the mark. Perhaps the two threads were too different to be woven together, I don't know, I just know that something was a little bit off and that actually it all got really really repetitive. Which was a shame.

And the ending was super annoying - unless there's going to be a sequel in which case the ending was only regular annoying. It's quite a pretentious preachy ending to a book, and I don't need that especially when it comes seemingly from nowhere. I'm all for the moral of the story, and I totally agree with the basic message but the last couple of chapters of this book felt like they were ramming that message down my throat in a mad panic and it really bugged me. Too much moral, Hank, too much moral.

It was fun though, and I liked it, and I tore through it and if (when?) WHEN Hank Green writes another book I shall read it. I just hope it's less preachy and has a main character I don't want to nip in the face.