Wednesday 17 June 2015


Book review: The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher

My edition: Paperback (proof), to be published on 18 June 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books, 336 pages.

Description: When Ana Watson's brother ditches a high school trip to run wild at Washingcon, type-A Ana knows that she must find him or risk her last shot at freedom from her extra-controlling parents.

In her desperation, she's forced to enlist the last person she'd ever want to spend time with--slacker Zak Duquette--to help find her brother before morning comes.

But over the course of the night, while being chased by hordes of costumed Vikings and zombies, Ana and Zak begin to open up to each other. Soon, what starts as the most insane nerdfighter manhunt transforms into so much more. . . .


I love how far the young adult genre has come in the last decade or so, it's a part of the book market that has grown exponentially and while there are certain sub genres that overwhelm the shelves at times, think supernatural and dystopia after the immense successes of Twilight and The Hunger Games, it is the contemporary reads that in my opinion have come the furthest and represent an honest portrayal of the 21st century teens and young adults; from issues books to love stories, and everything in between.

The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak is a novel that falls smack-down into that category of contemporary YA fiction; focusing on two high school kids taking part in a quiz bowl at the state championships. It sounds perhaps like a bit of a dull focus point for a novel, but when you add in the fact that one of the teenagers would much rather be at the nearby sci-fi convention, it soon turns into a geeky and wild ride. Everything you can imagine to go wrong, does in fact happen and even things you cannot possibly imagine do; from wild chases after card tournaments to protecting themselves with a bow and arrow, it's almost as if a fantastical sci-fi movie has come alive that night for Ana and Zak.

The convention is described in all its geeky glory and for someone, like myself, who has a little geek hidden within (I've even been to a convention or two back in the day) it was brilliant to see this world portrayed so unashamedly in the novel, proving that in today's day and age it's totally okay to be obsessively fanatical about something; as long as you don't hurt anyone, you're allowed to be as peculiar as you want.

My only minor niggle is that for a novel that seemed to celebrate geekdom in all its obsessive glory, it still succumbed to one unfair stereotype: that all geeks are overweight or doomed to become so. Even protagonist Zak, despite being described as a lean teen is predicted to become a stereotypical obese-who-will-spend-his-adult-life-in-his-parents'-basement by Ana. Perhaps that is because at the start of the novel Ana is prejudged against Zak and geeks, but the author too mentions this one too many times for my liking when describing con attendees, and that is a shame. Especially for a novel that carries the message that being different is okay.

Other than that this is a super enjoyable and fun novel. It isn't just a crazy wild adventure either, there are some real issues tackled that teenagers today deal with, from parental pressure and teenage pregnancy to bullying. And the characters are flawed, which makes them feel incredible genuine and easy to relate to. The underlying message is that you don't have to be perfect as long as you try to do your best and help others where you can. And that is a lovely and unexpected sentiment from a novel that for the most part is a roller-coaster ride through sci-fi geekdom.

You can purchase the novel from Waterstones, or your own preferred retailer.

Would you like to know more about the author? You can connect with him online at:


Twitter: @BrianKatcher1

Many thanks to the publisher for an advance copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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