Seeds Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
Hank Green’s An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is… well, it can never be accused of being boring. What makes this novel so compelling, and therefore hard to review, is that is refuses to be put into a box. Hank Green’s debut novel promised to be a YA heavy hitter, if not a potential masterpiece following in the footsteps of its sibling novels The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, to name just a few. But what’s so intriguing about this Absolutely Remarkable novel is the genre expectations that it chooses to meet, and those it chooses to recklessly- albeit successfully- subvert.
We meet our heroine, April May, as she trudges through the nearly empty streets of NYC in the wee hours of the AM one frigid night. On her journey home, she stumbles upon what appears to be a newly erected abstract art installation on a previously unadorned street. The sculpture, which she christens “Carl” in a Youtube video she and her friend Andy impulsively film on the spot, is later revealed to have many surprising- and unearthly- qualities. The discovery of “Carl” and the subsequent media attention he earns April and her posse skyrocket April to worldwide fame (as well as scrutiny and criticism) and have truly cataclysmic implications for not only April, but for her country and the entire world.
Green’s novel, unsurprisingly, follows many of the tropes we might expect of a late 2010s YA bestseller: much of the plot hinges along social media, a “normal” and aggressively relatable protagonist who experiences a singular life-changing event, and a bit too much sappy romantic drama. Simultaneously, however, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing subverts our expectations of YA cliches enough to keep us intrigued. The romance is not at the center of the plot (a direction which, frankly, some of Green’s fellow authors should follow), the YA yarn gradually and compellingly transforms into a sci-fi adventure, and the plot takes an absolutely mind bending twist at the end. The archetype is followed enough to feel familiar, but is subverted sufficiently to avoid coming across as boringly formulaic.
Despite a few moments of relationship drama laid on a tad too thick, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is undeniably worth a read. The characters are imperfect but extremely real (and demonstrate a frustrating- albeit amusing- lack of judgement at points, in my opinion!), nigh impossible to put down, and examines many compelling and exceedingly relevant elements of the human condition. (The societal effects of social media? The dehumanization of those hidden behind a screen? Let’s go!) The cover of the novel matches its story perfectly: modern, vivid, and refreshingly unapologetic.