An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
I’d like to start this review by making it clear that I have been a Nerdfighter (i.e. a part of the community that rallies around Hank and John, actively works to decrease world suck, and generally allows themselves to experience the joy of being excited about things) since the early days of their YouTube channel. I've since found myself watching their videos less and less, but still supporting their other endeavors. This, however, only sways my opinion slightly. Hank, to me, has always been the “left-brained” brother. I associate Hank with things like SciShow (an informative web series based around scientific topics) and songs about space and the universe. John is the bookish one. The one with the book club. The one with all the quotes about reading.
If the brothers were high school teachers, Hank would be math and science and John would handle the English and history. So naturally when I found out Hank was releasing a book, I thought it would be non-fiction. Maybe about the universe, or how science has changed the world.
I was very worried when I found out it was fiction. Would it be another John Green novel? Would it live up to the standard that I have come to expect from the Greens? Would I have to pretend to like it while actually DNFing it?
So, while I saw the hype, I shied away from learning too much about it. In fact, I didn’t even read the description until after I started the book. I did see pictures of the statues at BookCon, because, well those were hard to miss but I had no idea what I was in for and, honestly, I kind of like that it happend that way.
Right off the bat I came to several conclusions. One: This is most definitely not a John Green novel. The age of the protagonist (early 20s) is one of the determining factors of this, as is the SciFi aspect. But the voice is what really sets it apart. The MC of most John Green novels is a incredibly self reflective, almost brooding, introvert with a quirky side. April May, the MC of this novel, is in-your-face spunky and incredibly outgoing. She takes pride in being fun, carefree, and never too serious. Obviously there is some introspection, but usually at the cost of making fun of herself.
Two: I wasn’t going to be able to stop reading even if I tried. Much to the dismay of my friends, family, and employer, I walked around in an AART haze until I finished the book. Wait. No. Scratch that. I am still in an AART haze.
Hank pulls you into this world that almost feels like it could happen. He makes you feel for the inanimate objects and April May. As April grows and her character arc develops, she starts to point out many things that make you stop and think. About the world. About people. About yourself and what you truly desire and what you are really scared of.
What, on the surface, is just a book about a few metal robot statues and a quirky graphic designer turned vlogger is actually both a love letter and a warning to/about the Internet and Internet fame. How it brings people together, but can also tear them apart. About how addictive fame can be and how it feels to continuously chase the next thing that will keep you relevant so as not to lose your audience.
April May and the story of the immovable robots that show up in the middle of the night, isn’t actually the story here. This novel is more about the way the community either rallies behind or against them. It’s a story of humanity and togetherness. Working towards a common goal with your fellow man. Looking at those that intend to harm and saying that you won’t let them stop you from being good. April quickly becomes less of an early-twenties, start-up slaving, New York City nobody and more of an ambassador to and for the human population.
She makes it clear that this book is from her point of view, and thus is skewed to make her look better. But when there is two sides to an issue, I tend to route for the ones calling for love and acceptance rather than hate and destruction.
This is the book the world needed right now. When everything feels like a giant dumpster fire everywhere you look and you are quickly losing faith in humanity, this book reminds you that the hateful acts are done only by a tiny number of people. It is a reminder that we must persist in our fight to decrease world suck and all those things that come with it.
In summary, pick up the book to be entertained by quick wit and the hilarity that ensues when April May gets herself in way over her head but leave the book with a renewed sense of solidarity and love for your fellow humans.
P.S. I highly suggest listening to the book on Audible if you enjoy audiobooks. It's an incredible performance and the final chapter may feature a very familiar voice.