The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak

by Brian Katcher
First sentence: “Zak!”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some swearing, and one (brief) naked scene (which was alluded to), as well as passing references to drug use and drinking. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

I can sum up this book in one sentence: Hermione and Michael Cera spend a crazy action-filled night at Seattle ComicCon and fall strongly in like.

It sounds simplistic, and like I didn’t care for the book, neither of which is true. The book may not be tackling the deepest subjects ever, but it’s not all fluff. And I found myself — in spite of the improbable situations that Ana and Zak found themselves in — thoroughly enjoying their adventure.

Ana is the daughter of super strict parents. Seriously: she believes that she makes one mistake — like her older sister, Nicole, did — and she’s kicked out of the house. So, she does everything right, from following her parents’ (insane) rules to letting them choose her college for her.

Zak’s father died a few years back and his mother recently remarried a guy Zak — uber geek extraordinaire — has nothing in common with. So, he spends his time being the slacker, failing health (by turning in a paper copied from Wikepedia, hyperlinks and everything. Who does that?), and having no desire to even go to college when he graduates in the spring.

They come together one fateful night, when the health teacher (who also happens to be the quiz bowl coach), um, encourages Zak to come to a tournament (by telling him she’ll waive his plagiarized paper and allow him to pass the class) instead of going to his favorite con, Washingcon, that happens to be in Seattle the same weekend as the tournament. Ana is loathe to have him on her team, especially since her first impression of him was terrible. Zak is loathe to be on the team, mostly because he finds Ana rigid and cold and because he’d much rather be AT the con rather than just near it. So, of course, they spend the entire night together at the con, looking for Ana’s younger brother who snuck out to attend.

The con itself was my favorite part (good thing it was most of the book); having never been to one before (shock! It’s on my bucket list, if only to people watch), I thoroughly enjoyed the con atmosphere Katcher painted. I don’t know if it was realistic; there were bullies and gay weddings and gaming tournaments and singing and Zak being some sort of geek god, but I ate it up. If that’s what a con is, then heck yeah, I want to go.

No, it wasn’t perfect: the ending took a turn for the weird when they ran into trouble with a drug runner, and the confrontation with Ana’s mom (when it came out that they were lying about where they were) was pretty unsatisfying (especially since I has just spent the whole book hating her). But, for the most part, it was a thoroughly enjoyable geeky adventure.

And you really can’t ask for much more than that.

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