An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Current Mood: thoughtful
Current Song: Children Will Listen from Into the Woods
Three months before it was published, I got a surprise in my mailbox. Thank you, book gods and goddesses, for granting me early access to An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. This was a title I had been looking forward to ever since it was first announced, and I had no idea that it would make its way to me so early. The book was officially released on September 21st.
If you know me personally, you know how much I enjoyed the writing style employed by Green in his debut novel, Looking for Alaska. Because of that, I had high hopes for An Abundance of Katherines. That's dangerous. The higher the hopes, the harder to reach. However, this book was as good as I expected - in a different way than I expected.
Book review ahead:
An Abundance of Katherines is about many things: Heartbreak. Friends. Family. Math. Most importantly, it is about a young man who takes a road trip to find himself. The literal journey works well for the metaphorical one, of course, and is a familiar storytelling device. Author John Green has made it his own - or rather, Colin's own.
Colin Singleton used to be a prodigy. Used to be, because now he's a recent high school graduate, and what means "gifted prodigy" at age 2 means simply "smart" at age 18. Not only that, but his girlfriend Katherine just dumped him. In his lifetime, Colin has dated 19 girls named Katherine - never Kathy, never Catherine, always Katherine - and been dumped by every single one.
Stuck in that between-time, between boy and man, between high school and college, and positively heartbroken, he goes on a road trip with his best (and only) friend, the blunt and unabashed Hassan. They end up in Carver County, Tennessee, in a little place called Gutshot. There, they meet a kind girl named Lindsey Lee Wells, and her mother, who opens her home to the two boys.
Colin wants to have a Eureka moment, to make an amazing discovery. He also wants something more personal: to matter. When he vocalizes this, things change for him. He changes. This means that when his Eureka moment does occur, it signifies something other than what he predicted. And that's a good thing.
The same can be said for this book. The book jacket summary and title may make readers initially assume that the story will detail each of Colin's relationships in turn. Instead, they are anecdotes that he shares, stories that he tells, memories that he has. They don't fuel the story; they fuel the character. In other words, this book moves beyond what readers expect to find, and impresses them and surprises them in new ways.
This is not unlike Lindsey Lee, the girl in Gutshot, the self-proclaimed chameleon who changes how she sounds and how she acts depending on who she is talking to at the time. She never wants to leave her small town, yet she seems more worldly than Colin. She acts tough and thinks she's the opposite of Colin, but the characters learn that they have more in common than either of them could have imagined.
Fans of John Green's Printz Award-winning novel Looking for Alaska will not be disappointed by his sophomore effort. Though the stories themselves are vastly different, with Abundance being much lighter in tone than Alaska, both novels boast intelligent writing and memorable characters.
An Abundance of Katherines is more than heartache and theorems. Colin asks if love is graphable, and he finds out that life is unpredictable. What really matters? How can a person matter? Whether or not your name is Katherine, pick up this book, and Colin will share his discoveries with you.
Now for the most personal part:
I refuse to mark up my books in any way, shape, or form. No underlining, no highlighting, no folding the pages. No bending nor breaking of the spine or the cover. Typically, if a book is really well-written, I will slip in little pieces of paper to note favorite passages, but that's it.
Shortly after starting this book, I discovered Post-it flags, little sticky notes, basically glorified tape with a colorful tag at the end. I began to gently stick them to my favorite pages of An Abundance of Katherines. By the time I was done with this book, I was nearly out of flags and felt the urge to go purchase more.
Furthermore, I enjoyed the character of Colin. I related to his need to matter, to be significant, to prove his worth after being such a bright kid. I also am intrigued by the displacement theory. This book was written in third person, and it needed to be. The book also employs footnotes that are humorous and well-placed.
This review was cited by the author himself at his blog. He called my review "long and thoughtful and nicely written, I think, although obviously I am biased because the review made me happy." I am extremely flattered. Thanks, John!
Related Booklist: After Graduation