Books

REVIEW | 'An Absolutely Remarkable Thing'

'Fault in Our Stars' author John Green has gone all out to promote his brother's new book

Unless you believe the Williams sisters when they insist they’re rooting for each other in Serena-vs.-Venus matches, John and Hank Green may be the most adorably supportive siblings ever.

John, whose YA novel “The Fault in Our Stars” sold more than 10 million copies and became a hit film, has paid his success forward with an outsize surprise campaign to promote Hank’s own YA debut novel, “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.” To plug the Sept. 25 release of the book - about the effects of internet fame on a young woman whose video of a strange sculpture goes viral overnight - he rented a slew of billboards near the brothers’ childhood home in Orlando (“It turns out renting billboards is a bit addictive,” he joked.) He also filled the London stadium of his favorite soccer team, AFC Wimbledon, with ads, and made “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” their training kit sponsor.

Then he shelled out for sponsorships with FIRST robotics teams in Pennsylvania, Canada, Indiana and South Dakota; speech and debate teams in Oklahoma and Alaska; a team of solar car-building kids in California; a professional women’s Ultimate Frisbee team in Texas; a college rugby club in Montana (who made rugby balls from the book’s cover art); a girls’ lacrosse team in Georgia; a Boston-area Little League team; the Dutch national quidditch team; a Harry Potter podcast; a South African rowing team; a rugby team composed of future doctors in Glasgow; and a high school quiz bowl team in Ohio. As if that weren’t enough, he’s also tweeted exhaustively about the novel’s release, and is joining Hank on six of his book tour appearances.

And naturally, he announced the whole sneaky shebang on YouTube - where he and Hank shot to internet fame with their beloved channel, vlogbrothers. After launching the account in 2007 as a way to keep up with one another, the enthusiastic duo still follow their original formula of trading frenetically paced vlogs like a pair of dueling pianists: Where John might use his four-minutes-or-less to review the latest Star Wars, Hank might ping back a musing on why local Florida news is so weird. In between solo offerings, they link up for joint vlogs so they can reminisce about their first concerts, or hash out who had more girlfriends in high school. (For their rabid fan base and 3.1 million YouTube subscribers, no minutia is too minute.)

They’ve coined mantras - i.e., “Decreasing World Suck” and “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome” - with the kind of earnest uplift you might expect from a cartoon superhero. But theirs is a safe space for unabashed sincerity: In a post titled, “In Which Hank is the Nerdiest Nerd,” the sandy-haired, sweetly rumpled Hank, 38, marvels while taking apart an antique adding machine. And John, 41, is every bit as heartfelt in his explanation of why “Harry Potter Nerds Win at Life.”

The brothers’ fans, aka “nerdfighters” (those who “fight for intellectual engagement and celebrate unironic enthusiasm,” according to John), hang on their every offering, no matter the subject or mood. Hank can give existential advice on finding your life’s purpose in one vlog; and then list off his “15 favorite feelings” in another (which includes “smelling the first iris of the year - not like, of an eyeball. Don’t sniff each other’s eyeballs, unless it’s consensual”). John topped a million views with both his case for gay marriage, and a video in which he replaced the curse words in a rap song with names of Romantic poets. Whether high or low, their compulsively engaging output is enough to convince you these siblings are indeed stamping out world suckitude, vlog by vlog.

But even more supportive than the vast fan base they’ve found on YouTube are the boosts they consistently give one another. In a recent vlog directed to John, Hank recounted a question he’s repeatedly been asked by press while promoting his book: Is there a “sense of competition” between him and his wildly successful author brother? He answered, “I don’t imagine my success in relation to your success ... it’s not because we’re not competitive. But I honestly feel like every time something good happens to you, it’s a good thing happening to me. That is a gift.”

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The feeling couldn’t possibly be more mutual - just ask the billboard outside John and Hank Green’s childhood 7-Eleven.

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