Before I begin, let me firstly say that I have yet to read a John Green book, yes yes The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Town John Green. You can face palm now🤦🏿. So you can imagine my surprise when I find out his brother is also an author! I would also like to come clean to the fact that I had never heard of this book before I had unwrapped it as a present from my sister-in-law. So, I couldn’t have formed any preconceived notions about the book and to be fair, I had no idea what it was about, because the title gives nothing away. Read along to see if I would have preferred to have kept it that way.
The book is set in “modern day” New York, about a young graphic designer, April May who is the first human to make contact with an “alien” life force, whom she names Carl. She films the encounter with her friend unknowing the turn of events this triggers and instantly becomes a viral sensation. As the story progresses you learn that there are numerous of these “Carls” all over the world and oddly April becomes their advocate to humans. Her discovery throws her into a life of fame she isn’t prepared for and in some ways is too immature for, as she creates a persona she believes she needs to be in order to “sell” the idea that the alien life force isn’t a threat. Eventually, her relationships and friendships begin to suffer as she becomes obsessive and all consumed by the messages the Carls are trying to send out, being the only one who can solve the biggest puzzle she almost gets an ego complex; which as you can guess ends up causing problems.
Break it Down:
The one interesting thing about this book was the fact that the author made not qualms about April being a “flawed” character, often times when you read a book the protagonist is usually “perfect” generally speaking, April was far from the straight laced character we’re so very used to. She constantly made stupid decisions, became a shitty friend and used the people closest to her for her own purposes, all because of the Carls. Despite her true belief that they were a force of good and not a threat to humanity, and despite the fact that she thought they were sent to Earth in order to get us to work better together, she herself wasn’t being as open and fully transparent with her friends once she realized she was the “special” one. Green did a great job of making her sound like a genuine millennial, her dialogue and the way I visualized her as a character was a breath of fresh air and easier to relate to. I liked that she was a bit reckless and not cookie cutter, I liked that she didn’t have a bad childhood or any baggage to speak of, but that she was just a complicated person, but she still wanted to feel wanted, it was just a shame that that want was misplaced in the Carls and not in her girlfriend, Maya, or in her best friend, Andy and eventually her new friend Miranda.
I had an immense number of WTF moments while reading this book, sometimes because the main character, April made some choices that had me banging my head or rolling my eyes. I don’t know if Hank’s aim was for this book to be a critique on human nature in the age of social media, but it definitely came out like he was trying to send a message. April’s thirst for attention at all costs, her drive to be the 1st to discovery and the “re-branding” of herself in order to portray a carefully coiffed social media version of the April May she thought people wanted to see. This kind of annoyed me about her, the fact that she never quite seemed to grasp the fact that people liked her because she was honest and “rough” around the edges, they could relate to her. She then becomes almost robotic and somewhat disingenuous with her persona because it wasn’t who she really was. Throughout the book, the author kept referring to the fact that April was somehow special or chosen, but what I couldn’t figure out was if April is the key, then why was this never explained? What about her is so special? Considering I read the book and only had about a 1/4 like for April, I expected this revelation to be my aha moment and it would all click and make sense, but that moment never came…What you do see as the book progresses is how quickly yet gradually April begins to change and push away the people she claimed to cared deeply about, she constantly made decisions which put herself in jeopardy, but it also gave her attention. I think her attention-seeker tendencies were what irritated me most, and her obsession with social media and seeking constant and an insatiable desire to be validated by millions of strangers rather than her actual friends or family. The mad rush for her to be notorious, sent her to a trap which ultimately got her killed, (spoiler) she was too busy live streaming to notice a fire had began in the warehouse she was in and even slower to realize that her blindness for fame had in some ways caused this. Hence why I believe the author was almost trying to send a message or critique to us.
I’m not a sci-fi fan, I don’t read anything from that genre, because well it normally confuses me and I simply don’t get it. This isn’t something against the book, because it had a tough remit considering I didn’t like the genre. I also thought the main character made some really jerky decisions, and that irritated me. But I suppose that’s the sign of good writing because it evoked emotions.
The RnR Rating:
3.5 out of 5 R’s- not because I didn’t like the book, but mostly because the buildup throughout re: the Carls seemed to be a bit of a let down by the time the book concluded. It was an easy read and it was very much written like a film, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it does eventually gets made into a film.
Would I recommend the book?:
Yes, though it’s not my genre of book, it was a very easy page turner and the dialogue was 100% believable and funny in many parts.