The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Bryan Katcher
Published: May 19th, 2015 (Katherine Tegen Books)
Source: ARC via Edelweiss
Buy the book: Bookdepository
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…
The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak quite possibly has the most improbable storyline I could've come up with, but somehow, it works. It's geeky, silly, and at time makes no sense, but I enjoyed every moment of it.
Both Ana and Zak are a bit of an outcast, both geeky in their own way. Ana is always top of her class, has a bazillion extracurricular activities and is pushed by her parents to be as perfect as possible. Meanwhile Zak is somewhat of a slacker, failing his health class and trying to dodge his mom's new husband who is trying to make him into something he's not. Ana has no free time -- Zak has too much free time and loves everything geeky. Strategy games, costumes, nerdy cons: he loves it all. But he especially loves Washingcon, the annual sci-fi convention in Seattle. But when his health class teacher tells him he is failing his health class and only joining the quiz bowl team will help him pass his class, all his plans fall apart. Because the quiz bowl team semifinals are the same weekend as Washingcon, and there is no way out of the quiz bowl activities for Zak. His Washingcon plans straight down the drain.
But Zak loves Washingcon so much, he talks about the event non stop, motivating Ana's brother, Clayton (who is also on the quiz bowl team), to sneak out and find out about the con himself. What ensues is a hilarious Clayton hunt across the entire con. Turns out Zak is some kind of legend at Washingcon -- who knew? Along the way, Ana and Zak get to know eachother and it turns out they aren't so different after all. They both struggle with pain, loss, and trying to fit in.
Both Ana and Zak go through a motion of development in this book, even though the biggest portion of the story is set during the first day of Washingcon. Ana learns to let her hair down. It's okay to be different, to have fun, to get out there. It's not the end of the world if you break a few rules. Meanwhile Zak learns to reign it in a bit. They kind of balance eachother out because they understand eachother.
By far my favourite thing in this book is the geekiness. I loved all the cosplay, the nerdy references (even if I didn't understand where half of them came from), the silly dialogue and the hilarious plotline. In any other book, it would have made no sense, but it works in this one. The setting combined with some of the wacky characters passing by is fantastic and I really enjoyed reading about all these characters who were so different but also so alike. There's one particular scene near the end of the book where Ana teams up with Strawberry to distract a cleaning guy that had me snorting up my drink through my nose -- something I don't intend to repeat. The silliness was hilarious and I found myself laughing out loud several times while reading.
While I would have loved to have felt some more chemistry between Ana and Zak, I think their story is really well done. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak: quirky, goofy goodness. Like!