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…
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The reader gets a strong sense of the 2 protagonists from the very beginning. Ana is very much like Hermoine - following all the rules, leading her peers in academic pursuits, and stuck in a rut as far as personal development until she decides to break some of her own rules. Zak Duquette, or "Duke" as everyone fondly calls him, is the ultimate slacker who lives for the annual science fiction and fantasy convention in Seattle. Zak makes a deal with the Quiz Team teacher advisor to join them in a tournament in order to pass his health class, meaning he must miss out on his beloved convention. When Ana's little brother, the Quiz Team prodigy Clayton, sneaks out of the hotel to attend the convention, Ana and Zak are off on a hilarious and dangerous quest to recover the missing 13 year-old boy.
What I loved: While the character development was somewhat predictable, I still really enjoyed it. Ana become less of a stickler for the rules and embraced her strong side, standing up for herself and her needs. Zak realized that while he'll probably always be a slacker, he should be nicer to people and learn to embrace the changes happening to his family instead of letting them always get him down. Even Clayton undergoes a lot of changes, and his is the most honest and heartwarming character development.
While some aspects of the convention shenanigans, such as a drug dealer with a gun and a grudge-holding barbarian, got a little out of control and unbelievable, I think that teen geeks the world over will have no problem suspending their disbelief.
Highly recommended for otaku, geeks, and convention-goers of any age. ANA & ZAK will enthrall the nerdiest of quiz bowl captains and the most obsessive of video game players.
This book was a lot of fun to read. There were a lot of references I caught and some that I know I missed since they were from games or movies or shows I don’t watch, but they were still fun. It was a pretty fast-paced book and took place mostly within the weekend of Washingcon so it was an easy and fast read, though I could probably re-read it at a slower pace to make sure I catch all the references.
It was told in alternating POVs from the two main characters, Ana and Zak. I liked how different from each other they appeared to be at first. Zak seemed like a typical laid-back slacker with no real plans for the future. Ana was all about being perfect so she could have the future she wanted. It made for some instant clashing between the two and it was fun to see those negative thoughts turn into respect, friendship, and maybe something a little more. The later into the night and the more time they spent together, the more was revealed about both of their home lives and it showed why they acted the way they were. The interactions between them, both the more sassy ones and the more heartfelt ones, were part of my favourite things about this book.
The plot kept getting more and more over the top, but in a fun way. I found myself wanting to know just how far it go would while still staying within the realm of possibility. Everything that happened to Ana and Zak that night, the whole sequence of events, could seem a bit ridiculous but it was never impossible. Just highly improbable, which fit perfectly with the title. It made for a lot of entertaining laughter.
Overall, a fast but fun read that might have to be read more than once to catch all the geek-related references.
2. Geek-related references