Book Review: The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak

The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak
Published By: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Page Count: 336
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary

I'm a sucker for setting and there was no way I could leave this ARC unread. Not only does is it set in my favorite city, Seattle, but is also takes place at a Con. I'm not one who attends a vast array of cons throughout the year, but there is one that I feel is beautiful and brighter than some of the others that I look forward to every August. It's the gem in my end of the summer plans. I have so many memories of costumes, sessions, games, and people watching from my Con experiences. I wanted to see if those same experiences could be found with Ana and Zak.

Ana is the antithesis of a con goer. She is uptight, driven, and focused on her goals. In many ways Ana is too focused. She worries constantly about getting in trouble or letting her parents down. She doesn't understand how to loosen up and have fun. Relax is not a word in Ana's vocabulary. She is constantly on the go, constantly trying to prove herself. I related to Ana on many levels. I often struggle with pushing myself too hard to achieve unrealistic standards I place upon myself. I also was a lot like Ana at my first Con, but my husband helped me to find the joy and fun in the experience. It was great fun to watch Ana morph from wallpaper to badass. Besides, we frizzy haired girls gotta stick together.

Zak, on the other hand, is Ana's polar opposite. He relaxes a bit too much and seems to lack direction. He would rather spend time playing games than worrying about something as trivial as graduating high school. A poor decision in health class lands him smack in the middle of a quiz bowl competition on the same weekend as his beloved Washingcon. Zak can't believe that he has to miss the Con in order to attend something as lame as a trivia game on steroids, but he will fail Health otherwise. Failing Health means Zak won't graduate and more time in the hallowed high school halls is not on his agenda. It also doesn't hurt that Zak might have the tiniest crush on Ana. If he can't be with his gaming buddies at least he can watch her out of the corner of his eye.

Everything is going according to plan until Ana's younger brother, Clayton, absconds. He's shaking the academic dust loose from his loafers and heading into the great land of the nerds, Washingcon. Ana is frantic and talks Zak into helping her navigate the land of the Con to locate her brother before the faculty chaperone or her parents realize that things are amiss. A night full of adventure and reckless abandon ensues. Along the way Ana and Zak learn important life lessons like don't anger a ginormous Viking and slurpies are the weapon of choice for disgruntled Katniss wannabes. 

The true beauty of this novel lies in Ana and Zak. The dual narration allows the reader to step into the minds of both characters. While I related more to Ana, I loved Zak's turns driving the narration. Zak is hilarious! Humor is certainly another strength of this novel. I also found it interesting that there was a serious undercurrent in this one as well. Ana and Zak are both dealing with issues at home that they open up about as the night passes.

I also couldn't help thinking of the 80's movie, Adventures in Babysitting, while reading this one. Like with the film, a group of teens is in the city having a crazy night without the knowledge of any adults who are in charge. Misunderstanding, money issues, diversions, and the criminal element all make appearances as the night drags on while Ana and Zak search for Clayton. Again, the film and the novel don't share a ton of commonalities, but I liked that I compared the two in my mind. It was like seeing an old friend in a totally new context.

I like that this novel will appeal to both male and female readers. There is a good balance between Ana and Zak. In addition, the gaming elements and humor will be enough to keep readers of both genders hooked. I highly recommend this one if you're looking for a contemporary with a different feel to it. It's not a sappy romance (don't get me wrong, I often love reading those) but it does have some romance elements from time to time. Ultimately, I see this one as the story of two people who find their strengths over the course of an evening and learn to trust someone vastly different from themselves. It's amazing to think of the possibilities that await us when we are willing to step outside of our comfort zone.

One Last Gripe: There were some moments I found more interesting than others. 

My Favorite Thing About This Book: The humor - it's laugh out loud funny and I adored all the nerd culture references

First Sentence: "Zak!"

Favorite Character: Zak

Least Favorite Character: Cyrax

The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak is Stonewall Book Award-winning author Brian Katcher’s hilarious he said/she said romance about two teens recovering from heartbreak and discovering themselves on an out-of-this-world accidental first date.

It all begins when Ana Watson's little brother, Clayton, secretly ditches the quiz bowl semifinals to go to the Washingcon sci-fi convention on what should have been a normal, résumé-building school trip.

If slacker Zak Duquette hadn't talked up the geek fan fest so much, maybe Clayton wouldn't have broken nearly every school rule or jeopardized Ana’s last shot at freedom from her uptight parents.

Now, teaming up with Duquette is the only way for Ana to chase down Clayton in the sea of orcs, zombies, bikini-clad princesses, Trekkies, and Smurfs. After all, one does not simply walk into Washingcon.

But in spite of Zak's devil-may-care attitude, he has his own reasons for being as lost as Ana-and Ana may have more in common with him than she thinks. Ana and Zak certainly don’t expect the long crazy night, which begins as a nerdfighter manhunt, to transform into so much more…