Title: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
Author: Hank Green
Publisher: Dutton Books
Published: 25 September 2018
I was excited to have this book in my hands, especially, since I ordered it back in May. It was so pretty when it arrived too.
Firstly, I want to talk about is the actual writing of the book. I was surprised by how much I loved the writing style and how Hank Green broke through that fourth wall so well and effectively. I was also unbelievably happy, ecstatic, over the moon, insert any positive emotion here that April May was bisexual. Having queer representation in something that didn’t center around queer representation was so refreshing to read that I did a little dance when I read it.
The premise of the whole novel is how this young woman, 23-year-old, April May stumbles upon a giant sculpture at 3 am. She calls her best friend to come down and have them fill her “interviewing” this sculpture and in that interview, she bequeaths him the name “Carl.” First, I have to say that Andy Skampt is one amazing best friend because there would’ve had to be WAY more than a sculpture to get me out of bed at 3 am.
The next day, they find out that there are Carl’s all over the world, and April’s life changes quite drastically, quite quickly. She and Andy are soon brought onto TV to talk about New York Carl and the Carls in general. Soon, Andy’s dad a big shot Hollywood reporter sends them to L.A. to do a late-night show and to meet with a publicity agent.
In that late-night show, April goes off script, as per usual to ask if anyone else thinks the Carls are beautiful. She goes on to say “even if it was done for marketing, they are remarkable sculptures. It’s easy to forget how much time goes into things, like designing giant fighting robots for movies. It feels cookie-cutter, but thousands of person-hours go into their creation. We love them because they’re beautiful, and they’re beautiful because of hard work” (Green 49). We, of course, have April’s idea of what she thinks of them close to the beginning when she literally runs into them, but here is her first well-thought-out idea of the Carls. Hard work and perseverance and the dedication to one’s craft is most of the time today looked over for that finished product we see at the end. Who cares how my iPhone is able to connect me to my friends, family, and a stranger half-way around the world? Why spend time thinking about the false starts, the failed, attempts, the going back to square ones when I can just watch and enjoy the movie? It’s easier that way. But I did love the fact that she brought up this idea of the work people invest in their work.
Anyway, from this point on there will be spoilers for the rest of the book, so caution, proceed at your own risk.
Now that everyone is gone, we are going to delve deeper into the book. I’m skipping a lot of summary due to the fact that if you are reading this far then you probably have read the book.
So, April and Andy decide to make April May a brand and that when it starts getting into this whole dehumanizing someone who is in the public eye. First off, do I think this is going to stop anytime soon? No. People are assholes and will continue to be assholes because that’s what we are good at, or it seems that way most of the time. There are whole magazines, reality shows, and many corners of the internet devoted to discussing and tearing apart the lives of those who are in the public eye. April May is one of those people who is thrust into the public eye by her own volition. She wants to be a part of this story, and she wants the attention. She wants to know her life matters, which is not an uncommon idea. So, she goes the route of making herself a brand, a public persona, that no one truly knows.
And with that, there is always someone who will oppose a person like April May. That man is Peter Petrawicki who is under the assumption that the Carls are bad and will dominate humans. He never does anything bad, but the rhetoric he spews does end with tourist attacks on 4 cities and three men trying to kill April with a warehouse fire, yet, her body disappears.
We are left with a wonderful first novel by Hank Green that leaves us with tons to discuss and think about, as humans, which brings me to two quotes I want to focus on:
Quote 1: “The Dream, this creation of the Carls, it had been there for me to enjoy and I’d been ignoring it because I didn’t feel like I was going to get anything useful done. So what, though? It was marvelous. Just working through what other people had done gave me a feeling that this was all actually worth it. When you get stuck fighting small battles, it makes you small. Hopping from cable news show to cable news show to discuss controversy after controversy had made me small. I thought only about the fight, not why I was fighting” (Green 180).
Quote 2: “This is what humanity is, solidarity in the face of fear. Hope in the face of destruction. If the Carls are here for any reason . . . then maybe they’re here not to learn about us but to teach us about ourselves. I am learning more every day and I am learning now that even . . . As I was saying, even on this most terrible of days, even when the worst of us are all we can think of, I am proud to be a human” (Green 242, 248)
What are we truly like when something like this happens? Will we react with fear and apprehension or welcome and joy? This doesn’t only apply to alien beings that randomly pop up in big cities but to humans we meet each and every day. The fact that we are not this way with our own fellow beings, species is a travesty, but like April says she is proud to be human. She is proud of what has been accomplished and what can be accomplished by humans, by us. Most of this part reminds me much of what the Doctor from Doctor Who thinks of humans as so wonderful and beautiful. Coincidently, that is the same way the Carls think of humans too, when the beam falls on April and she enters the Dream one last time, she is met with Carl and is granted 3 questions.
One of them she asks “Humanity, what do you think of us?”
“Beautiful,” Carl replied.
Beautiful. Among all the fighting and tearing each other apart and even on our worst days, we are beautiful to beings that are far more advanced than us. Even though it’s fictional, it is more humbling than anything I’ve ever heard or read. Maybe because I would like to think that whatever other beings out there think of us that way.
I’m not sure what I’m saying or what I can say about the two above quotes can ever truly convey how they made me feel when I read them.
I’m left with more questions than answers and more things to discuss than I ever thought there would be. Along with desperately needing the sequel, like now, (please Hank?!). No, okay, didn’t think so, but a girl can hope!
For now, I will marvel in this beautifully written book I was given and the hours that went into making it. Thank you Hank Green for the words and the time and for “an absolutely remarkable thing (book)!”