The Improbable Theory of Ana & Zak

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Fun cover, fun premise, fun execution. A laugh out loud, quirky, fluffy contemporary with an improbable (!) plot that actually does work, and the fabulous over-arching theme that everyone has more sides that you might see on the first impression. Don’t judge a book by its cover. (Even though you can in this case.)

Ana Watson is driven to succeed, afraid of failure, always looking for the next event or activity or test result to put on her application for college. She wants to leave. She has to leave. Her suffocating, over-controlling parents make it impossible to stay. So this weekend trip to the Quiz Bowl in Washington should have been a slam-dunk. Until her genius little brother, Clayton, takes off from the hotel to attend the huge Washingcon sci-fi convention. By himself.

And now she is stuck with the uber-geek himself, Zak “Duke” Duquette, whom she blames for Clayton’s disappearance. But if Ana hopes to find her brother in the nerd herd of Trekkies and Chewies and zombies and Strawberry Shortcakes and elves and trolls and orcs and Katnisses before her parents or teacher chaperone do, she needs Zak.

Brian Katcher creates great chemistry between Ana and Zak, who are wonderful and likeable main characters. Although not at first. Told in dual POV by Ana and Zak, the format showcases their very distinct personalities. Ana starts as a self-centred and study-obsessed girl while Zak is big-headed and smug; forced to spend time together, the two find it difficult to maintain their usual facades and begin to learn about each other and themselves.

The secondary characters are just as diverse and fun as the two main, although I would have killed my brother if he put me through that crap. Slowly and painfully. With great enjoyment on my part. But Warren and Strawberry and Ana’s parents and Roger (love him) and Mrs. Brinkham and the rest of the Quiz Team crew and all the various and sundry characters at Washingcon are awesome additions to the cast.

The plot is engaging and fast moving, with twists and turns that the reader just doesn’t see coming. Taking place over 24 hours and full of pop culture references (“Hey, Asshole!” is probably my favourite and sadly, thanks to their dad my kids can quote the whole movie it comes from…), and witty banter that isn’t forced or unbelievable, this book is pure  entertainment.

Of course, there are a few weak spots, but not enough to wipe out the enjoyment. The storyline with Nichole doesn’t make much sense the way it unfolds, and there is a big scene near the end of the story that seems out of place in the novel. But overall, this is a light, fluffy book good for the entire YA age range, although those with pop-culture addictions may find it the most fun. It won’t challenge you or reduce you to tears, but you will have a good escape and more than a few laughs.

The Improbable Theory of Ana & Zak was published May 19th, 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books.
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