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Literature / An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

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“You can only do so much pretending before you become the thing you're pretending to be.”
"Even on this most terrible days, even when the worst of us are all we can think of, I am proud to be a human."
April May

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is the 2018 debut novel of Hank Green, best known as one half of the VlogBrothers, as well as the younger brother of award-winning novelist John Green. A sequel, "A Beautifully Foolish Endeavour," was released in 2020.

The novel revolves around a twenty-three year old design graduate living in New York, named April May. When heading home from work at 3 AM, she stumbles across a colossal statue of a man in the middle of the city, with no sign as to how it got there. April calls her friend Andy, and they make a video with the statue, which April dubs "Carl", and upload it to YouTube.

Overnight, the video becomes a viral sensation as it turns out Carls have appeared not just in New York, but in cities all across the world - and they may not be of human origin. April is thrown into the media spotlight, somewhere it turns out she does not mind being, and becomes embroiled in a vicious culture war as to what the Carls' purpose on Earth is, and how humankind should respond to them.


The first chapter, narrated by the author, can be found here.

Contains Examples Of:

  • All Issues Are Political Issues: The Carls, a collection of unmoving, unspeaking statues, whose alien status is only revealed by their chemical composition, become a locus for pre-existing political tensions. Liberals view them as having come to help humanity progress and understand each other better, and should be welcomed. Conservatives view them as a potential threat that should be distrusted, if not destroyed entirely. This leads to radicalisation, terrorist attacks, and murder.
  • Attention Whore: April cops to becoming addicted to the attention being the face of the pro-Carl movement earns her.
  • Commitment Issues: April has some pretty severe ones, that lead her to sabotage her relationship with Maya shortly after discovering Carl.
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  • Demonization: Literally. Several of April's opponents among the Defenders think she's an alien plant.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • April's is pretty gruesome, as a burning wood beam impales her head, tearing half her face off. And she's still conscious for a few seconds afterward. The chapter it happens in actually contains a Content Warning at the beginning.
    • There's also Martin Bellacourt, the man who tries to assassinate April, and is turned into grape jelly by the Carls. Even more squick-worthy because it's strongly implied the reason why grape jelly in particular is because April was wearing grape jelly flavored lip gloss.
  • Freudian Excuse: Averted. April herself says her various emotional issues can't be blamed on her upbringing. In her own words:
    April: "I had a very happy childhood, but I wasn't a very happy child."
  • He Who Fights Monsters: April loathes the Defenders and their reactionary, myopic worldview that sees everything new as a threat, but as she grows obsessed with arguing against them, she becomes just as reactionary and myopic.
  • Interface Spoiler: Of a sort. The copyright page at the front of the book indicates that the lyrics of several notable pop songs will appear in the story.
  • Never Found the Body: April herself.
  • No Bisexuals: In universe. One of the first things Jennifer Putnam, April's agent, does is to insist that while she understands and respects bisexuality, the confusion over the matter would only distract from April's message, and so it would be easier for everyone if she simply identified as gay.
    • Comes back to bite April later, when Petrawicki uses this against her in a TV debate.
  • Playing Both Sides: Near the end of the book, it's revealed that Jennifer Putnam isn't only April's agent, but Peter Petrawicki's, as well. April does not take this well.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The President, who can tell April off for some of her questionable decisions while still being able to relate to the scrutiny she's under, telling her she still views her as an ally. April even later identifies her as her "new best friend".
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The Defenders, the followers of Peter Petrawicki who believe the Carls are - or at least might be - a threat, and should be treated accordingly, increasingly shade into this. After the July 13th terrorist attacks, they definitely count.
  • Sequel Hook: The book ends following Andy's POV, several weeks after April's apparent death. Then he hears a mysterious knock on the door, and receives a text from her.
    • There's also the fact that the book has clearly been written by April after her own death. She even refers to herself as having died a few times early in the book.
  • Tragic Hero: April, who wants to use her newfound position to promote a message of greater connectivity between humans, that she believes the Carls are also on Earth to promote. However, she grows addicted to the attention and validation she receives for being the face of this movement, and does more and more morally questionable and self-destructive things to try and maintain that status, eventually leading to her death.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: At least, this is what Andy thinks of April after she fires Robin once she finds he knew that Jennifer Putnam was Peter Petrawicki's agent as well, despite all he's done for her.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: In-Universe. The puzzles in The Dream often rely on very obscure sets of knowledge, and in particular, combining different obscure sets of knowledge. This is a big part of what supports April's argument that the Carls are there to encourage humanity to work together, as it's far more likely for a group of people to know all the information required than any individual.


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