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This is your last warning! There are spoilers below for A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor. Lots of them. Proceed with caution.
A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green Summary
Who has the right to change the world forever?
How will we live online?
How do we find comfort in an increasingly isolated world?
The Carls disappeared the same way they appeared, in an instant. While the robots were on Earth, they caused confusion and destruction with only their presence. Part of their maelstrom was the sudden viral fame and untimely death of April May: a young woman who stumbled into Carl’s path, giving them their name, becoming their advocate, and putting herself in the middle of an avalanche of conspiracy theories.
Months later, April’s friends are trying to find their footing in a post-Carl world. Andy has picked up April’s mantle of fame, speaking at conferences and online; Maya, ravaged by grief, begins to follow a string of mysteries that she is convinced will lead her to April; and Miranda is contemplating defying her friends’ advice and pursuing a new scientific operation…one that might have repercussions beyond anyone’s comprehension.
Just as it is starting to seem like the gang may never learn the real story behind the events that changed their lives forever, a series of clues arrive–mysterious books that seem to predict the future and control the actions of their readers–all of which seems to suggest that April could be very much alive.
In the midst of the search for the truth and the search for April is a growing force, something that wants to capture our consciousness and even control our reality.
predictions i had for A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor
- April will return. You can’t tell a first person perspective of death if you really died. (At least not without getting super meta.)
- This doesn’t really count as I’m sneaking it in halfway through the book, but wouldn’t it have been wild if Bex was a baddy? Like for Altus? From page 296 onward, that’s where I put my money. Still disappointed, honestly. She just kinda felt like a vessel to me throughout the whole thing, and from how little we got to know her, I could have done without.
things i loved About A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor
- From the first few pages, I quickly realized that I had forgotten how vivid Hank Green is. His characters really feel like they are speaking to you in a room across the table, and I know that’s such a common compliment for good writers but he truly stands out. The best way I can think to describe it is that he didn’t learn to write from your typical creative writing class. His style is his, but well-honed. I typically don’t like novels that have “casual” language, but Green definitely bridged the gap between being realistic and sophisticated.
- He writes women well. Or at least worked very hard on getting it right, which I appreciate.
- The use of alternative media like podcasts, transcripts, etc. so readers get the full impact of how information moves — just like it does in real life. Pretty much anyone reading A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor would be familiar with these modes of communication. Plus, it simply got things done and conveyed information through an “unbiased” lens. I just hope this doesn’t date the novel in the coming years.
- How Carl uses “they/them” pronouns. Like, thank you for trying to normalize this and also proving that yeah, language is constantly evolving and we totally can use “they/them” in the singular. And it makes sense. Yay for literary progression!
- The smallest of asides, but I won’t lie, I found the fact that Carl was also a monkey most of the time didn’t exactly pair well for me. Unsure if that is worth unpacking, or if there is anything to unpack in the first place. At least they aren’t a literal monkey and it’s just a chosen form. But yeah. Thoughts still evolving.
- As always, Green makes some points in A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor that make me wanna stand up and clap. The social commentary is just flawless. From the more subtle associations to the straight-forward admonishment on guns (page 90), he nails it. Especially valuable was the discourse on power, which is brought up throughout the novel.
- Even though I found myself quite annoyed with Andy, the topic of his Twitter fame was especially interesting. Addressing how public figures deal with controversy and blowback as having basically two choices — victimhood or giving up power — is the simplification I needed.
- “The most impactful thing you can do with power is almost always to give it away.” (page 440)
things i disliked
Before I get into this, I want to acknowledge that I was really reaching for things to put into this category. They didn’t diminish my view of A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor.
- So, Carl has a brother! This was a vibe change! I suppose everyone has family issues (lmao) but I think in this case it brought in some emotional implications that just weren’t there? I don’t think it did anything for the story besides making the task of describing them easier. I also found the use of “brother” odd, as it’s somewhat of a gendered term?
- Right, let’s get back to that monkey thing — it feels a lil overused in the “what-a-quirky-book!” kind of way. Buuuuut I was also willing to give Hank a pass because it’s him and he can get away with a lot more. So.
- This is such a small complaint, but on page 354 I was thrown when Maya basically asks why they have to stop the big baddies. This is after she’s amassed an army of 90k followers. You would think she’d make up her mind before taking that step, no? I think Hank’s intention was trying to sum it all up once more for the people in the back. I suppose this could make it more accessible/understandable to the younger readers in his audience, but I think he’s already explained the issues sufficiently enough by this point. Instead it just read as redundant and made Maya look dumb.
leftovers (varying in importance and completion)
- Okay, I know Andy’s qualms over getting rid of Altus was done to further the plot, but boy did I start to hate him. Sure, there’s all that moral ambiguity stuff from a guy who fixates on it constantly, but also there are several times when he openly acknowledges to the reader that he is aware of the bad choice he is about to make, but then does it anyways. I guess what I’m saying is that he was a little too self-aware in those moments and it made it hard to like him. Also he’s just the worst to Jason and Bex. Like please grow up. Put the video game down for one second.
- I loved this allusion to how our present-day political rhetoric works on page 37: “The only thing they want is to destroy the beauty of what we have built.” Doesn’t that sound familiar! I mean, what way to sum up and call out the things we hear on television when one side or another makes progress. (Makes me think of some people I don’t really want to name on this site.)
- On page 235 it is asked, “We’re terrible, why save us?” and I think that entire conversation is something I’m going to go back to and think about a little more.
a few favorite quotes From A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor
- “You’re just as messed up as you should be.” (page 5)
- “The question is whether it is an unhealthy weight that I have to struggle with or an unhealthy fuel that can actually propel me.” (page 38)
- “These men — sorry, but it usually is men — don’t care who gets hurt because they’re telling themselves a story in which they’re the hero. I’ve listened to that story too many times to see anything in it but vanity.” (page 44)
- “The meaning of life is still, as it was, simply other people. When we care for each other, we are always in a place that matters.” (page 56)
- “These are the lies our brains tell us to push happiness out of our reach. What is the evolutionary purpose of that? Is happiness stagnation? Maybe. Maybe life (all life, not just human life) is nothing more than wanting something and being able to go for it. What is life with no want? Satisfaction sounds lovely, but evolutionarily it was apparently selected against.” (page 82)
- “I never stopped feeling like being the first to send a text would be intruding upon the real main characters of the story.”
- “Remarkable things don’t get done by people waiting for the status who to crawl along.” (page 105)
- “Neither of us looks at a tree with red leaves and thinks, I have to examine each one of these leaves. We think, that’s pretty, I love fall.” (page 312)
There were a few other places I marked while reading, but they were more excerpts rather than quotes, so I’m not mentioning them here.
You should read The Carl Saga books if you have the chance — they are thrilling and also make you think. A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor doesn’t shy away from tough topics or controversy, and is honestly a refreshing read. It isn’t classified as YA because of the language and the fact that the characters are in their early twenties, but I still think it would be a fitting read for anyone who likes that genre.
The one thing that disappointed me was that I was secretly hoping “The Carl Saga” would be an actual series. I mean, labeling them #1 and #2 seems to imply a #3, right? Just me? Unfortunately it does feel like this was the story’s conclusion — A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor wrapped it up quite nicely. I know Hank has a lot on his plate, but I’m hoping that he will find some room for another few books in the future.
If you’ve read this one (and I hope you have because this was one big spoiler), let me know what you think! I need to have some conversation!
More Hank Green Books
If you’re looking for my review of the first book in the Carl Saga, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, you can find it here.
Here’s Hank’s personal website, where you can see all of his books — there’s only two at the moment, but I’m hoping we might see a “coming soon” pop up in the future.
P.S. — His brother’s book is also pretty darn good, albeit in a different vein — check out my review for The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green here.