REVIEW: Hank Green’s debut novel is a remarkable commentary on culture of the Internet, fame

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Less than one month ago, I sat in a church with 1,200 other people and listened to Hank Green read an excerpt from page 69–in a church–of his debut novel, “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.”

Green’s voice is instantly recognizable; it’s a voice that has spilled out of computer speakers and classrooms alike through his plethora of online-based projects that include Crash Course, SciShow and Dear Hank and John.

His book chronicles the newfound fame of 23-year-old April May after she stumbles upon a mysterious statue in the streets of New York City. April and her friend, Andy, upload a mocking news report about the statue, which she names Carl.

In the morning, April May is famous–like really famous. The Carls popped up in cities across the world, and no one knows what, or who, they want. In a whirlwind of fame and mystery, the book follows April as she seizes the opportunity to make her mark on the world.

In the aftermath of her fame, which she dives headfirst into, April must deal with the consequences the spotlight has on her identity, her relationships, and her–and her loved ones’– safety.

As Green read from his book–an object he held as if he couldn’t believe it was real–I forgot I was listening to him read a piece of fiction. April May’s snarky voice fell away and the room grew silent. The passage Green had chosen discussed the loneliness and isolation of fame and the weight of deservedness when you choose that fame. Suddenly, the show wasn’t about the book anymore, it was about us–humanity.

That’s what makes this book special.

Sure, at surface value, it’s a book about aliens. But it’s not really about aliens–it’s about us.

The way people feel like they have a right to others’ privacy simply because those people choose to share some parts of their lives on the Internet. The way people hide behind vitriolic comments and Tweets. They way both Green and April May had to make a decision to become a brand themselves, and in that decision, opening up their lives to that hate.

This book was a fast read. Something about April May’s narration had me hooked; her self-deprecation was refreshing. The commentary on the social climate of Internet fame was eye-opening and forces readers to question the way our culture dehumanizes people who live a public life and how the Internet has the power to radicalize rhetoric.

As Green made his closing remarks about how ideas in books are important, and while the Internet can be big and scary, it also brought everyone in that room together, and no matter how hard we tried, or how many days we tried, we would never be able to get that exact group of people together again.

But for an hour-and-half, we were together. And together, we can figure out a lot.

Madison Obermeyer is a senior in mass communications and a copy editor for the collegian. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com

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