Top Shelf: Hank Green’s debut novel truly is ‘An Absolutely Remarkable Thing’

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Hank Green new book shows off his own writing bona fides (wikipedia.com)

Hank Green’s debut novel, “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” proves that John Green isn’t the only talented Green brother; the first-time novelist holds his own, and his book should make his way onto your reading list this year. It came out back in September, and after months of trying to find the time to read it, I was finally able to get around to it over spring break.  

The book follows the story of April May, who, while walking home from work at 3 a.m. one morning, stumbles across a giant sculpture right in the middle of a New York City sidewalk. She calls her friend over, and the two of them make a video about the metal giant, whom they dub “Carl,” and post it to YouTube. When they wake up the next morning, they discover that dozens of Carls have appeared in cities across the world, and their video has garnered hundreds of thousands of views.  

The more that’s learned about the Carls, the more it is increasingly evident they are unlike anything that has existed on Earth before. April finds herself acting as the spokesperson for the Carls. She is forced to deal with her growing fame and the millions of people listening to what she has to say, all while trying to figure out what exactly it is that the Carls want from humanity.  

Admittedly, I was a bit worried I wouldn’t like the book. I’ve never been super into science fiction, and I was worried Hank Green would struggle to live up to his brother’s name in the literary world.  

If you haven’t heard of him, Hank Green is one half of the Vlogbrothers duo on YouTube. He is the CEO of the production company behind Crash Course and SciShow on YouTube, as well as co-founder of a variety of companies like VidCon and DFTBA.com. He is an amazing individual on his own, but many people only know of his brother, who wrote “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Looking for Alaska” among other popular titles.  

Hank Green announced he was writing a book a few years ago, and I’ve been tracking its release ever since, which means I was terrified I would hate it. I am so happy to say that I did not.  

The book speaks about the role of social media in our society, which is always something I have a hard time reading about in books. Maybe it’s because I feel social media and books are separate worlds in their entirety, or maybe it’s because adults struggle to write about social media in a way that isn’t entirely incorrect or just shaming our generation for using it. 

If I was going to allow anyone to write about it, though, it’s definitely Hank Green. He does so in a way that makes it feel natural, and since he is someone who has lived in the social media spotlight for years now, you can feel his ethos shine through. It’s remarkable to read about Twitter and YouTube in a way that doesn’t feel patronizing.  

Another thing I absolutely adore about this book is something that actually isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, but that’s the point. The president, without any character questioning or commenting about it, is a woman. She’s consistently referred to with female pronouns and there’s no “Oh my god, the president is a woman!” moment. It’s just a fact in the book, similar to how the main character is bisexual, and I love that.  

The book is topical and an important read considering the current state of the world. It addresses warring political ideologies and the terrorist actions that can come from them. It’s also full of science, which made me remember just how smart Hank Green actually is.  

The pacing of the book is a bit slow for me. There’s a decent chunk of time where not much happens, and I found myself getting bored halfway through. It picks up again, but I think the book could have achieved a similar effect if it was shortened. This leads me to my second point, which is that I had no idea the book was part of a two-book deal. There’s going to be a sequel, and “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” ends with a serious cliffhanger. 

It was frustrating, especially as someone who didn’t realize it wasn’t a stand-alone book. The ending wraps things up, but not in a way that I found to be satisfying enough to last me until the sequel comes out. I’ll inevitably need to reread the book again when the next one gets published, so it’s a bit disappointing to go through the work of finishing a novel only to not be rewarded with the tying of all loose ends. 

All and all, the book was an enjoyable read, and I’m really happy with it. Hank Green proved he is a writer in his own right and doesn’t need to rely on his brother’s name to get published; he is immensely talented himself. 

Rating: 4/5. 


Courtney Gavitt is a Staff Writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at courtney.gavitt@uconn.edu.

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