The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak
By Brian Katcher
Published 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books
Zak Duquette is about to fail health (I know, right?!). In order to save his skin, he is forced to miss Washingcon, the one convention he looks forward to every year, and instead participate in Quiz Bowl. At least he can try to get to know Ana Watson this way. But when Ana's little brother sneaks out to Washingcon (Zak may have made it sound a little TOO epic), all bets are off. Now Ana and Zak must work together to find Clayton - before both of them are in serious trouble.
I'll admit that my primary interest in this book was because of the author. Katcher's Almost Perfect was one of my favorite books in grad school, so seeing his name attached to something new caught my attention immediately.
This book is similar in that it's mostly a romance between two quite dissimilar characters, but it's different by being a bit more conventional than his previous award-winning title. Unfortunately, I thought this one was not as good. I really wanted to like it, because, as I said, I adored the previous title by Katcher and couldn't wait to read another of his titles.
I feel like conventional is actually a pretty good descriptor for this book. It's not terrible - I enjoyed it while I was reading it and I think Katcher still has a way with words - but it's not really anything new or different either. Nerd culture is very in right now (at least, I would argue that) and I think Katcher capitalizes on that a bit with the character of Zak and the majority of events taking place at Washingcon - a big convention of all things nerd. Additionally, it's very much a conventional romance - a boy and a girl who don't think they have much in common at first discover their similarities and end up falling for each other (sorry if you think that's a spoiler, but I thought it was pretty obvious). Don't get me wrong - there are other things going on in this book, but if you're looking for a bare-bones plot, it's a star-crossed romance. Finally, the plot twist that the book takes toward the end was completely out of left field and didn't really work for me. It felt way too tacked on and ill-placed.
Where I think the book most succeeds is in the less conventional things - when Zak and Ana discover each other's loss and begin to wonder how that has shaped their present day selves. These parts of the story felt the most realistic and interesting, so I wish Katcher had focused a bit more on this instead of hijinks at the Con. Overall, the book was fun and entertaining, but not what I hoped for.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.