I wasn’t doing to do a whole written review for this but now that I’ve finished reading it I can’t stop thinking about this book!
My hesitation about doing a review stems from my inevitable bias—I’m a huge Hank Green fan. I even have a signed copy of this book (which may or may not have made me squeal like 12-year-old me was getting boy-band tickets).
I went into this novel wanting to love it, and I did but for vastly different reason than I thought.
The Carls just appeared.
Roaming through New York City at three AM, twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship—like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor—April and her best friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world—from Beijing to Buenos Aires—and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.
Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.
I thought it would be a humorous sci-fi novel about first contact and action and hi-jinks would ensue. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of humour and a far bit of action by the end but it was the fact that it left me in this weird mindset of contemplation that took me by surprise.
I think there a simple reason for this—one helpfully outlined for me by the very book I was reading—I had made Hank both more and less than a human being. To me, he is an internet personality that I admire for his work providing free educational content and whimsical nerd-rock, but those thing, while they are part of what he does, are not who he is. I have no idea who Hank Green is because I’ve only experienced the outward person he shows me in his videos. And because of that I underestimated him.
This novel is about how fame dehumanizes people and how it’s easier to pin our (and by this I mean society at large) fears and expectations on a person who isn’t really a person at all. More importantly, it’s about the ramifications of doing this.
The most insidious part of fame for April wasn’t that other people dehumanized her; it was that she dehumanized herself. She came to see herself not as a person but as a tool.
Anyone who says books involving aliens won’t make you think deeply hasn’t read this one. I would like to thank Hank, for making me think deeply and calling me out on my own dehumanizing habits (and in a way that didn’t make me hate him or his book, so yay!).
You can listen/watch Hank read the first chapter of this book in the video below:
Is there anyone you admire, even to the point of deifying them? Let me know in the comments!