When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun-but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove the Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predicability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself by Printz medalist John Green, acclaimed author of Looking for Alaska.
-totally copied down from inside cover
So there I was last week, strolling down the shelves of my school’s library, wondering what to do. In my left hand I had 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, and in my right I had An Abundance of Katherines and I was reading the blurbs for both, trying to decide upon which book to quickly check out before the lunch bell rang. Umm...Johnson or Green? Road trip across Europe or road trip across midwest USA? Er...Envelopes or Katherines?!
And then of course, I ended up picking Green, the road trip across midwest USA, and Katherines because of the line about the Austro-Hungarian Archduke. (If you know how geeky I get with anything that has to do with the WWI era, my decision shouldn’t surprise you so much. :D)
I read the book after school.
And then the next day in class when we had free time.
Then after school again.
Then the next day, I took it out of my backpack in the same class and read it. And I finished it. Then I closed the book and thought about it while sketching stage floor plans for the rest of the hour.
And now I’m finally getting to write this review a couple days later.
I don’t know how John Green does it really. He manages to create the craziest and sometimes unbelievable scenarios for high schoolers and well, makes them believable. I’ve never seen or heard of a girl who runs away and leaves clues for her friends to find her, or of a heartbroken guy leaving on a road trip to discover a mathematical theory about relationships, but hey, his stories work. ;)
I adored Q in Paper Towns. He was smart, funny, nerdy, and oh-so-obsessed with Margo, and Colin’s exactly like him, expect he’s more smarter (in a prodigious type way), (not funnier though), nerdier, and oh my goodness, even more obsessed with his Katherines. For that last reason alone, Colin Singleton, the Chicago prodigy, was um, a bit exasperating? I wanted to knock some sense into him in the beginning. WHY OH WHY was he moping around about the 19th Katherine dumping him so much when he was intelligent and had so much to live for other than a relationship? But then, that was the point, I thought. Colin’s full of himself sometimes, and with him getting so frustrated about being so textbook-y, his insecurities about himself, shine through. If Colin didn't have his insecurities, his character development wouldn’t have been more interesting and thought-provoking.
Hassan, Colin’s jocular, religious-but-not-really best friend, was one of my favorite characters. His dynamic with Colin, how he helps Colin get back on his feet with encouragement and silliness, and how he improves himself in the process is heartwarming. (There’s this scene at the very end with Hassan that left me relieved and grinning like crazy. Seriously, I couldn’t stop grinning like a lunatic for several pages.) I liked Lindsey Wells and thought her relationship with the duo and her personality was interesting. And oh the setting? The story was kind of refreshing, being set in a farmland. I actually thought Gutshot, Tennessee was real for a second in the beginning.
About the actual story itself, there are some parts that dragged, but there would always be a scene so poignant, so touching right after that all the traces of the dull part vanishes. The situations Colin and Hassan get into with wild feral boars, crazy interviews, and the Katherines were funny and silly but always end up moving you in some way or another.
The writing (.....Must...Resist....Gushing...Must...Stay...Calm...), John Green’s style, flows, as I said before when reviewing Paper Towns. It’s never strained and the dialogue is always rhythmic and natural. John Green’s writing style highly impressed me when reading Paper Towns and Katherines reminded me how brilliant I thought it was again.
And...adding to the awesome writing, characters, and story, is the format of the book. I learned several German, Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, and Ancient Greek words because of its footnotes! Green’s hilarious, quirky notes about Colin, the languages he knows, and what’s happening/Colin’s past were always quite informative and also quite hysterical. It feels like the format makes the book sometimes. ;)
An Abundance of Katherines is a coming-of-age tale about being careful with insecurities, finding out what you truly need in life, sticking by your friends through thick and thin, and being okay with yourself, being (and staying) unique by being yourself, and making math interesting. I enjoyed it very much. Even though it’s considered lighter fare than Paper Towns and Looking For Alaska (which I still have to read), the book being about high school grads and all, the language is a bit strong and there’s some stuff being talked about, so I recommend it for people....13+.
If seeing that Archduke Franz Ferdinand makes a cameo here somehow doesn’t excite you like it did me, I hope this review did! An Abundance of Katherines, though not perfect, is a truly lovely story. John Green is SO good with his formula.