The Improbable Theory of Ana & Zak

“Zak, what was that all about?” my mouth insists on saying.

“Just a guy,” he says, his voice squeaking nervously. “There was some unpleasantness at Con-viction last year.”

“Go on.” I really need my mouth to shut up soon.

Zak rubs the back of his neck. “Well…it was just one of those things, I guess. It was late, I went out to pick up some supplies, and Cyrax and some of his friends…they jumped me.”

We’ve walked in front of an empty table. I grab Duquette by the arm to stop him. “Are you kidding? Why?”

He shrugs, a hurt, embarrassed look on his face. “It’s hard to say with those guys. I was alone, weak. Took all my money, left me out of commission for a few days.”

I’m utterly horrified, both at the senseless attack and Zak’s blase way of talking about it. “Did you call the police? I can’t believe they even let him into this place!”

He won’t look at me. “What could they do? These things happen. At any rate, he’s never let me forget it. Every time I see him, he reminds me.” He hisses through his teeth. “Frack, just like it was yesterday, lying there on the road, too weak to get up, not even a potion of healing on me…”

I’m reaching out to give him a comforting squeeze of the hand when I realize what I’m hearing. “Duquette? When he beat you up…was it in a video game?”

“No, of course not.” He paused. “Dungeons and Dragons.”

The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher


I hope everyone had a great and safe Halloween! We rocked the day by taking our little Bean to the library district’s Halloween party and parade, walking around a local neighborhood trick or treating, and hitting some church trunk or treats before calling it a night. My three-year old ate entirely too much candy, received even more than last year, and crashed a happy kid. He went as the Flash, my husband went as Indiana Jones, and I went as the Giant Peach from James and the Giant Peach. This is our last pregnancy and my last chance to dress up my rounded belly, so I took it!


Our sister review is over a book we meant to review back in September, but I didn’t get in from the library until the end of October, so we had to push it back several weeks. We are reviewing The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher. This book tickled me pink!

Ana Watson is an Overachiever with a capital O. She takes every advanced class and posh sounding club she can to boost her resume for school. Her parents expect nothing short of perfection from her and if she fails…well, her sister Nichole is a shining example of what happens if she doesn’t live up to her parent’s standards.

improbability of ana and zakZak Duquette is the type of nerd Ana doesn’t have time for. A slacker who plays Dungeons and Dragons in the library and attends sci-fi conventions on the weekends, he barely registers on her radar as anyone of any importance. Little does she know, she registers loud and clear on his.

After an unfortunate Wikipedia plagiarism paper on Zak’s part, he finds himself as the unwilling alternate for the quiz bowl semi-finals that Ana and her brother are attending instead of attending Washingcon, the best sci-fi convention of the year.

So, yeah, maybe he talked it waaay up to Clayton, Ana’s brother. Maybe too much because Clayton decides to secretly ditch the quiz bowl to attend the convention, leaving Ana and Zak to team up to get him back before the sponsor realizes any of them are gone.

Over the course of the night, Zak and Ana learn more about each other than they have their entire high school careers and figure out that they may not be so different after all; they may just have different methods of dealing with their pain.

This book is tagged as an unlikely romance, which I feel is stretching the bill a bit (I was very similar to Ana in high school and my husband was very Zak-esque) but it’s a cute romance story set in a great background. Our family are huge fans of conventions, role-playing games, video games, books, nerdy movies…you name it. It was a really fun read, not particularly heavy and it was quick to get through.

One of my complaints about this novel is very similar to the complaint I had about the last male protagonist that I read from Katcher: when considering a girl attractive or not, all the focus seems to be purely physical. In his book “Everyone Dies in the End”, the character ends up with the “chubby” girl but her weight is referenced several times and never positively. In this, Zak also seems to find it necessary to point out weight. I will be fair and say that Ana does as well with a character, but these details rub me the wrong way. I understand that there are people out there who do think like this, but to have it as a running theme isn’t a good one and I’m more likely to recommend a book to my child that has more body positivity and less focus on whether or not someone’s weight determines their value to another person. I’m all for a healthy body image. Now, these are minor details to the overall story so I can’t focus all of my opinion on this one thing but I do feel like it’s important enough to me to mention.

My complaint aside, I would recommend this book, and have, to my circle of friends and anyone who is nerdy enough to appreciate the multiple pop culture and cult following references made during the duration of the story. There were a few times I actually found myself giggling out loud at different parts and I read several paragraphs aloud to my husband because I knew he’d appreciate them. Age group wise, I think that this is easily a versatile book. I could see my seventh grade self reading this and I obviously enjoyed it at almost thirty years old, so I don’t see any issue with it being geared specifically to any certain age range beyond the general “young adult.”

Happy Reading!









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