Title: The Improbable Theory of Ana & Zak
Author: Brian Katcher
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Teen Fiction
Date Published: June 18, 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books, A HaperCollins Publisher Imprint
Synopsis: 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. . . .
“A guy & a girl in a sci-fi convention + 24 hours of adventure = one helluva night.”
Perhaps it’s because this book happened in a course of one night (I’m a sucker for 24 hour adventures), or the fact that it happened in a Sci-Fi Fantasy Convention and it brought nostalgia of going to one (I love going to comic cons), or the inclusion of excessive pop culture references (Pop Culture is life) or the bizarre chain of events that our two protagonists had to go through (It was a wild one) or the idea that Ana & Zak are two ends of a spectrum yet found a connection after a night of escapades and chasing down Ana’s brother in a geek convention.
The first time I read the synopsis at the back of the novel, I knew I would love this book. Bought at last year’s Manila International Book Fair, it took me ten months to finally had the time to read this pop culture-infused novel, (Of course, what do you expect? It’s a book about a geek in his natural habitat, so expect a looooot of fandom references). And I loved and cherished every single one. Before diving into the review itself, I just want to share that…I can’t believe I read this book in just five hours! I couldn’t put the book down and before I knew it was already 3:21 in the morning.
With a hint of The Beginning of Everything and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (which are two of my favorite young adult novels), I knew The Improbable Theory of Ana & Zak is a promising novel full of plots and dialogues I’m a sucker for. Basically, it’s now added to the list of my favorite teen fiction novels.
The book was exciting and fun. And since I read this in one sitting and during the late hours of the night up to the wee hours of the morning, it felt like I watched an extended version of a movie and the best part is that I read it during the hours where Ana & Zak are still on their escapade/manhunt for Clayton at a comic convention. So it most definitely felt like I was in comic book convention adventure with them.
The way Brian Katcher described Washingcon from the beginning brought nostalgia. Told through Ana’s point of view, when they both entered the center, it was exactly how I looked like when I attended my first comic con. I love the detailed description he provided about the cosplayers and the overall ambiance of comic conventions. He took the readers with the characters through his close to reality description of what happens during these kinds of events. Though some were a little bit exaggerated, it still felt like I was in WashingCon with the two protagonists.
Another aspect I adored about this novel is the various pop culture references thrown in every single page, starting from Zak describing his friend’s outfit, I mean come on, a few pages in and three references thrown all at once just describing one guy? Cyclops’s sunglasses, Punisher’s black shirt and Archie Andrew’s checkered pants. Fangirl galore.
When it comes to the two protagonists of the book (I have A LOT to share), I can relate to both characters actually, with Ana being a straight-A student with nothing in mind but academics and Zak who finds solace in a comic book convention. I can feel the pressure Ana is carrying because that’s exactly how I felt during high school. I had this mindset that I should get perfect scores in every test, join as many curricular activities and win as many awards and recognition as I can in order to get into a good college. In exchange for all the hardwork I exerted during my four years in high school, (gods especially during senior year) was my sanity. But it was a good thing I didn’t have uber controlling parents (they’re kind of strict but not that strict…you get me?). Ana Watson is one tough girl to handle all those shit.
Zakory Duquette. Well, I know better than to copy paste a whole Wikipedia page and submit it for a school paper. I probably became a pro in writing school papers complete with APA citation and bibliography since last year. And if there’s a subject I am going to fail, it’s most definitely not Health class. Moving on, the one thing that connects me to this character is the enthusiasm and excitement for conventions. I went to my first comic convention back in 2016 and it’s one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in my life. And now, I’m hungry for more adventures in comic cons and right on my bucket list is attending the biggest comic convention of all time, San Diego Comic Con. My fandoms are my family. That’s how I always put it. Whenever reality gets tough, I turn to my fandoms for support, well mostly it’s just me binge watching, having a movie marathon or going through a specific tag on tumblr during the early hours of the day. Attending comic cons is like entering a place where I really belong, just like how Zak feels, so to both of us, comic conventions = sanctuary.
“At the con there is one hundred percent acceptance, no ifs, ands, or buts. This is the one place where anyone can go and not be judged.
Brian Katcher did not shy away from writing characters who have undergone rapid character developments. Of course he has to do it quickly, the story is set in just a span of 24 hours. And I’m glad Ana & Zak had to go through that development together and most of those developments were caused by the other, either because of what the other said or did. I know this book happened in a span of a few hours but it never really felt rushed, especially when it comes to Ana & Zak’s relationship, it still had a hint of slow burn.
While I enjoyed the novel, it still has its own flaws though. In my opinion, the whole encounter with the drug dealer would have been better if it was scrapped. It looked forced into the plot. The events after that was just painful to read, from Ana receiving the phone call up to the whole heroic scenario she pulled at the parking lot where it turns out the gun pointed at Zak a few times wasn’t even real. And then just like that, the man just vanished because of a photo Clayton took. It looks like the author was halfway into writing that plot and immediately regret it afterward but felt guilty of scrapping away all the words he wrote leading to the climax then decided to continue even though it already sounded like crap. Katcher took the easy way out.
Overall, this novel was fun, wild and exciting. I would have given it a perfect 5 but some scenes were just exaggerated especially the near to death battlefield in the parking lot and the whole run in with the drug dealer fiasco. Plus I kind of agree with a review I read from goodreads about how Ana’s problem with her parents was dealt and resolved with hug. Really? Just that? A hug? After all those torturous years? But seriously, aside from those flaws, this novel is definitely a must read for pop culture geeks like me or those who enjoy one night adventures between two young people who eventually find a connection after spending a few hours together.