In 2014 I was introduced to the novel Looking for Alaska by John Green. The novel was actually published in 2005 so I was rather late to the party but I read it, loved it and soon read John Green’s other works including Turtles All The Way Down which I reviewed last year. John Green is also a famous vlogger and runs a Youtube Channel that he shares with his brother, Hank Green. Fans of the brothers call themselves Nerdfighters. Hank was perhaps most famous for his Crash Course series on YouTube but recently has delved into the world on literature. Around the same time I was publishing and advertising my book, Hank was going through the same process for his novel, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. It was interesting to compare our journeys and because I have been a fan of Hank for many years I feel as though his book deserved a review.
WARNING: mild spoilers from this point onwards.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is about a young vlogger called April May who is the first human to discover a series of statues that have mysteriously appeared on Earth. She makes a video with a statue in New York that becomes a viral hit and she soon becomes a celebrity that appears on talk shows and news reports, discussing the statues which she calls “Carls”. April then leads her fans to uncover the mystery behind the statues by solving clues that the Carls have seemingly left.
If this plot sounds familiar to you, then you might be thinking of the Doctor Who episode the Lie Of The Land, where alien monks erect statues of themselves around the globe. In many ways the novel did feel like a sci-fi adventure despite being set firmly in reality. I think the strongest aspect of the novel was the realism. April May is one of the most realistic characters I think I’ve encountered in young adult literature. April is a typical twenty two year old, working in a job she hates and dreaming big. She is a flawed human being and as her fame increases she becomes more vain and arrogant and more believable as a character. Hank defies common stereotypes (something his brother John sometimes falls foul of) by making April bi-sexual and discusses the media’s attitude to different sexualities. The reaction of the humans, upon discovering these statues have appeared overnight, is also realistic and I would see myself making similar website post and videos if I were in April’s place.
This is Hank’s first publication and in some places his inexperience does show. There were certain scenes where he does gloss over details and I had to go back and read the text again. At several points within the novel, the President of the United States of America appears (in this universe the president is a woman and not Donald Trump) but she doesn’t really have much of an impact on the story apart from being a milestone April passes on her journey to stardom. Hank also does something that it a pet peeve of mine. He ended the book on a cliff hanger. Normally this wouldn’t bother me but the fact that An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is part of a series of books wasn’t made clear during the vast marketing campaign. When I buy a book I expect a complete story, with an ending.
My biggest issue with the novel isn’t actually to do with the book itself, it’s to do with Hank’s publication journey. Hank has stated, very openly, that the only reason his book was published was because he is the brother of a famous writer. If he had submitted his manuscript anonymously or under a pseudonym he said he knows that the novel may not have been published and definitely wouldn’t have been as successful. With the Nerdfighter community numbering in millions, Hank’s book was fated to be a guaranteed success. Due to the fact that the book is well written and I know through his videos and projects that Hank Green is a decent person, this doesn’t upset me too much when compared to other celebrities turned writers (I’m looking at you Katie Price).
I’ll award An Absolutely Remarkable Thing 9 statues out of 10.
If you’re still debating to buy the book or not you can watch Hank read the first chapter for free, on the video below. You can also check out my review on Looking for Alaska and Turtles All The Down by clicking here and here.