An Absolutely Remarkable Thing was the first book I’ve read in a while that I haven’t been able to put down.
The Carls just appeared.
Roaming through New York City at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship — like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armour — April and her best friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world — from Beijing to Buenos Aires — and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the centre of an intense international media spotlight.
Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.
The first few chapters of this novel gave me massive Sleeping Giants vibes. If you haven’t read the novel by Sylvian Neuvel, it follows a very similar plot in that a metal giant appears and causes uproar across the world. The difference though, is the perspective from which it is told. Where Neuvel explores the scientific and governmental aspect, Green considers the public side of such a phenomenon.
I loved this focus of Green’s. It allows him to explore other topics, such as the repercussions of modern-day fame. April May begins the novel as an ordinary 23-year-old who simply sees something cool. She records a video with her friend about the sculpture, naming it Carl, which begins her rise to fame. I think Hank Green details this, and its consequences, incredibly well. I particularly liked that April May didn’t sugarcoat herself. She was aware of and honest about her bad decisions. She is a flawed character, and as such is realistic.
Another aspect I’d like to draw attention to is that April May is bisexual, and at the beginning of the novel is dating a black woman. Their sexuality isn’t the focus of the story, nor is it the cause of conflict. Green brings it up to demonstrate how sexuality is talked about in the media, with a scene where April is on TV and her sexuality is discussed despite being nothing to do with the topic at hand. It is beautifully woven into the story.
The themes in this novel are all talked about incredibly well. It covers a range of topics, and Green approaches each one with care and consideration. He spreads a powerful message, and gives the reader a lot to chew on. It really made me consider how people would react if something like this happened. There’s no doubt the author has spent a lot of time pondering the same!
The writing in the novel is beautiful: simple yet elegant. There are lots of powerful lines in this book (sometimes too many to take in) and it is clear Hank Green is trying to say a lot. It is easy to read in the sense of the style — April is talking directly to the reader, and her conversational tone makes the story flow.
The characters each have qualities that make them unique, and this really comes through! There were reasons to like but question each of them. I was impressed by how well this came through despite the premise being a book written by April about her life.
I really enjoyed An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, and was thrilled to hear about its sequel, A Beautifully Foolish Endeavour. You can count on a review for that one, too!