Review Blog

Nov 23 2018

An absolutely remarkable thing by Hank Green

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Trapeze, 2018. ISBN 9781473224193
(Age: Young adults+) A recent graphic design graduate working in New York comes across a larger than life sculpture on the sidewalk on her way home from a late stint at the office. The robot sculpture so impresses her that she rings a friend and together they name it Carl and make a YouTube video. By the morning their video has gone viral and 23 year old April May and her friend Andy Skampt are famous, not just because they made the video but because they were the first to name and publicise the sculptures which have popped up all over the world simultaneously and are now universally known as 'the Carls'. All of their training in visual engineering comes into play and Andy's lawyer dad ensures they get paid for the use of their material and all their media appearances. April begins the process of  'intentionally converting myself into a brand' p. 83 and as their fame grows so do the compromises she makes trying to stay in the front of the internet storm. One of the casualties of their fame is April's relationship with her partner Maya and it dawns on her that life will never be the same again. As it becomes more and more apparent that the sculptures are not of this world April finds that, while her audience still strongly link her with the Carls, they start to polarise into either loving her or hating her. 'People all over the world whom I had never met and would never meet hated me. Hated. And what they thought about me was completely out of my control' p. 168. As the plot unfolds April bravely tries to counter the negativity and fear using the power of collaboration and open communication with the online community, harnessing human talent and ingenuity beyond individual possibilities and beyond borders.
Hank Green, with his famous author brother John Green, and his own internet fame as a blogger and YouTube science educator understands celebrity and contemporary culture better than most and the technical side of the story was refreshingly thorough. April is an engaging narrator, wryly acknowledging the compromises and mistakes she makes but sometimes the author's commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary culture gets in the way of the story.
Set in today's globally connected world this is a relevant book for a wide range of readers, from young adults who might be warned of exploitation, to older readers who might discover the true extent of the online world and how it impacts our lives.
Sue Speck

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