What I’m reading
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
by Hank Green
I received this book free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review
I beginning-loved this book. But it beginning-tricked me.
I went from addicted, ‘just one more page’ reading sessions to thinking ‘who is this person and do I really care.’ I wanted moar robots but got pages upon pages about internet fame instead.
A third of the way through I forgot the main characters name, even though she’s called April May. Maybe that’s why I forgot it? Was it my brain rebelling? Her name put me off in the same way I abandoned (500) Days of Summer halfway through, despite everyone saying I’d love it. Too artificial-cutesy-whimsical. I can enjoy cutesy, but it needs to earn its place.
I think I was supposed to forgive April May some of her failings because she was ‘Quirky,’ but really I needed her to be strong enough a character for me to forgive her quirkiness.
I don’t think it’s a bad book, and when I checked the blurb it did say it’s a book about
“how the social internet is changing fame and radicalisation; how our culture deals with fear and uncertainty; and how vilification and adoration can follow a life in the public eye.”
I enjoyed some of the riffs about marketing, and I liked that the characters were older than most YA casts (post-college, first job, still uncertain about money & love). But the pacing was patchy, the theme over-wrought, and getting to the end was a slog. I understand why other people like it, but I was relieved to move on to my next read and I won’t be back for the sequel.
The New York of action movies, all bustling sidewalks and apartments too tiny to sneeze in. A city so full of wonder and activity that when a giant robot appears on a street one night, no one cares. Apart from April May…
Miranda, the scientist. I recognised my own science-y friends in how enthusiastic & unstoppably-inspired she gets. My BFF’s eyes light up when she talks about genes & she loses track of time, the same way Miranda gets excited about the strange, giant figures in NY.
What can I learn as a writer?
There are lots of writing books and classes who warn novelists not to mislead the reader about what kind of book they are getting.
Holly Lisle talks about Promises in her writing classes, Les Edgerton’s Hooked is a book all about controlling what you’re signalling with your first chapter, and my writing lecturer swore by Nancy Kress’ Beginnings, Middles and Ends.
I’m not saying Hank Green personally wanted to trick me, but a couple of tweaks to the start of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing could have re-framed my expectations in time for me to like it more.
Not Transformers 😉