A Review of Hank Green’s An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Cover of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

It’s been a while since this book came out and I only started reading An Absolutely Remarkable Thing now. I had bought it right away on the first day when a copy was available in my local book store in Freiburg. I’ve moved since, but now that its sequel, A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor (- curse you American English spelling), I really had to give this one a go.

You might have gathered from this blog already if you were attentive to it, that I follow Hank Green’s work in more than his books. I’ve been a subscriber to his YouTube channel Vlogbrothers, he runs together with his brother John Green, for more than 7 years by now. And I derive a tremendous amount of enjoyment from his work and the work of his production company Complexly, so I would be lying if this enjoyment wouldn’t colour my views on this book, Hank Green’s debut novel.

My life over the past weeks has been wild. It has been a while since I finished this book, now that I come to writing this review. I’m heavily relying on my notes that I made while reading.

But let’s get to it without much further ado.

April May sleeping on the floor with Carl's Arm

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is an interesting novel, exploring themes mostly around the concept of fame. It’s protagonist April is a young bisexual woman thrust into fame by the appearance of a mysterious robot or sculpture, that appeared in cities all around the world. Somewhere between social media, and cable news punditry, April takes on the task to advocate for the mysterious visitors all the while her personal relationships are thrown into turmoil by her fame, but also her inability to have honest and open conversations with her loved ones.

This book was the first book with open LGBTQIA+ representation since I read Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower in January of this year (2020) and I was glad for it. While passages of this book, namely this sequences about closing closet doors on boobs, made it onto r/menwritingwomen, it nevertheless managed to write characters that made me as a woman with ADHD feel represented.

Hank Green has talked about the fact that he might have ADHD in the past here. And to me, April felt like an honest representation of a young adult with ADHD, even if other reviewers have noted that April just very much feels like an extension of Hank Green himself, which honestly is a fair description, even if I might add that living with ADHD and feeling like Hank Green aren’t exactly opposite ends of the scale, even if Hank Green had a huge amount of privilege in his life.

Carl the Robot standing with his left arm missing over a city-scape

The appearance of the Carls, as the robot statues are lovingly called, brings up the main conflict of this book around a line of xenophobia versus open-mindedness. This conflict gets addressed in a media war. While humanity collectively is tasked to solve puzzles that appear in synchronised dreams.

My biggest problems with the book I had were honestly the discomfort I experienced from confronting my own interpersonal relationship problems mirrored in how April deals with her girlfriend Maya, and the focus on fame and punditry. I just cared too little about the televised interactions between April May and Peter Petrawicki. The same is true for the veneration the fictional US President of this near-future sci-fi story receives. This is especially true considering the shenanigans of current US politics.

Nevertheless, this was a very quick and enjoyable read, even if I cringed at the inconsiderate behaviour of its protagonist all too often.

Summary

The abrupt limit of the city, grass to the right, and a lonely plane in the sky

This book is a joyously crafted and thrilling sci-fi story imbued with the media conflict of our own time. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in young adult sci-fi stories that value good representation. Even if of course that representation isn’t flawless.

This book definitely isn’t flawless, but it has enough charm and enough will to try to be as good as it can be, that it remains enjoyable throughout despite some cringe-worthy moments, that are honestly as much about myself as they are about the book. I look forward to reading its sequel A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor soon.

My last book review was about the enthralling The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks. My last review of a fiction book was about the wonderful Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi Up next is probably Heinrich Steinfest’s Gewitter über Pluto or East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

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