An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing Book Poster Image
Engaging, absorbing sci-fi explores celebrity, social media.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Science fiction meant to entertain, not educate. But does explore interesting issues related to celebrity and social media. 

Positive Messages

The greatest thing we can be isn't what any single person can be, it's what we can be and do when humanity is united; if we don't cherish what unites and bonds us as humans, and work hard to recognize it and keep it, we're headed to a very bad place. Negative and positive examples ask questions and provoke thought about social media as a unifying or dividing force, and especially as a force that discourages reasonable, caring conversations about disagreements in favor of rants and outrage. Also asks questions about the power of celebrity: Who has it? Why? How do they use it?

Positive Role Models & Representations

April is an overall positive role model, but she's definitely flawed and doesn't change her behavior after she learns important lessons about selfishness, wanting all the credit, and doing things on her own when she really needs help. Her good traits are optimism, wanting to use her celebrity status for the common good, and trying to be a positive, calming influence in the face of uncertainty. She identifies as bisexual and sees it as being as normal as hetero- or homosexuality. She's in a same-sex relationship with Maya, a very positive African American representation of a smart, artistically talented, and successful young woman. Miranda is a research scientist at UC Berkeley who's also very smart and talented in sciences and is a great model of an effective and efficient female executive. The two men closest to April are good models of loyal support.

Violence

One instance of mildly graphic violence involves a victim trapped in a fire and mentions a collapsing roof beam slicing through a skull, burning skin, and screams of pain clearly but with little gore. The protagonist is in peril several times from attempted murder, once from being shot at and one stabbing briefly described mentions pain and the attacker getting smashed in the face and collapsing with some science-fiction elements involved.

Sex

A couple of same-sex romances involve flirting, a few kisses mentioned but not described, hooking up, and having sex is also mentioned but not described. Hentai, a sexual, sometimes pornographic, genre of Japanese manga and anime, jokingly mentioned.

Language

"Ass," "s--t," "butt," "f--k," "d--k" (calling names), and "Goddamn." Having you "by the short hairs."

Consumerism

Lots of mentions of social media, especially Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Chipotle mentioned a few times as a nearby location. A Wikipedia page is a major plot point. Rare other mentions of incidental products.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A reference to college as an expensive place to cultivate your taste in beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is a science-fiction story by Hank Green, the driving force along with his brother John of several popular science and "nerd-power" YouTube channels. With protagonist April in her early 20s, it's not marketed strictly at teens, but there's a lot of appeal here. April's just out of college and starting out in New York City, which she loves, and she becomes an internationally famous social media star practically overnight. The book asks a lot of questions about the power of that kind of celebrity, and about the ways in which social media divides and unites people. April identifies as bisexual and briefly addresses sexual preference once or twice. She's currently in a same-sex relationship that mentions some kissing and having sex without any detailed descriptions. Rare violence includes April in peril from attempted murder by shooting, and a direct but non-gory description of someone trapped in a burning building, a roof beam hitting the skull, and burning skin. Strong language is also rare but includes "f--k," "s--t," and "d--k" used in calling names. Other strong themes offering food for thought are the power of celebrity, fear of the unknown, and how we can handle experiences, especially negative ones, in a positive way.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bytzivia November 8, 2018

Really good read, may clash with some families' value systems

It's hard to know what age to recommend this book for. The heroine is older than typical teen books and living a pretty stereotypical life of a young care... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byBrianna B. October 24, 2018
This book was very interesting and different. I’m a reader so I’m always looking for the next great book and this is definitely one of them. It kept my interest... Continue reading

What's the story?

AN ABSOLUTELY REMARKABLE THING happens late one night as 22-year-old April makes her way home from her crummy job at a New York startup company. She notices a giant sculpture of what looks like a Transformer on the street near her apartment. How or when the sculpture got there is a complete mystery. Andy and April record and upload a video of April's first up-close look at the sculpture, which she dubs Carl. Practically overnight, April becomes a huge celebrity with a channel, and even a brand, to maintain and protect. And it turns out that more than 60 other Carls appeared in cities all over the world. Is this a massive art installment, or the start of an alien invasion? When people around the world all start having the same dream, answers about the Carls seem further away than ever before, but are definitely leaning more toward alien invasion. As the unwitting ambassador to the Carls, April faces tremendous opposition as she tries to use her celebrity to put a positive spin on something no one really knows anything about. As a few people become more and more frightened, April becomes the focus of their anger, and a target in their crosshairs, too.

Is it any good?

Lively, absorbing, and original, Hank Green's debut novel offers lots of food for thought in a refreshing and engaging way, with an appealing, funny protagonist and very compelling story. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing explores fame, celebrity, power, uncertainty, fear of the unknown, friendship, selfishness, media frenzy, and more. But it does all that in an entertaining and engaging way thanks to plenty of humor, a narrator who's easy to relate to even as you watch her make one mistake after another, and a well-structured plot that keeps the pages turning as it moves in unexpected directions.

The present-day setting and thorough grounding in the here and now make it a terrific option for readers who aren't usually drawn to science fiction. It also adds relevance to the many issues teens will relate to surrounding social media, celebrity influence, and how people respond to things they don't understand. The ending leaves the door wide open, and fans will be glad to know that a sequel is planned. Mild sexuality, some strong language, and brief violence make it best for high-schoolers and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how social media is portrayed in An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. Is it realistic? How does it divide people? How does it bring them together? 

  • Do celebrities, especially on social media, really have a big influence on your life, or the lives of your friends? What's the source of their power and influence? Do they deserve it?

  • If a giant sculpture suddenly appeared on your street, do you think you'd react more like April, or more like Peter Petrawicki? How do you handle uncertainty, and fear of the unknown?

  • Are there rules about how much screen time you have at home, or at school? Are they fair? Is it different if your playing a game, say, as opposed to scrolling through Twitter or Instagram? Why, or why not?

Book details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love science fiction and stories about social media

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate