Hi, just a little disclaimer. This is my first published book review, so I’m sorry if it’s a little messy. I hope to improve with time and practice. Still, please enjoy 🙂
An abundance of Katherines by John Green – Book Review
an abundance of Katherines is a fictional young adult novel written by author John Green. It was published September 2006, making it his second published novel. It reached #9 on the New York Times bestseller list. Some of the rave reviews listed in the book are:
«Funny, sweet an unpredictable»
– Minneapolis Star Tribune
«Enjoyable, witty, and even charming»
«Green follows his Printz-winning Looking for Alaska with another sharp, intelligent story. The laugh out loud humor ranges from delightfully sophomoric to subtly intellectual»
I viewed the book as a bit comedic, a bit romantic and a bit dramatic. It’s written in third person point of view, making it a narrative story. It took some time getting used to this point of view in the beginning considering my other most recent books have been written in first person point of view, but it was quite easy after 20 or so pages. The book has 213 pages altogether (including the epilogue).
The storys main characters are child prodigy Colin Singleton, a teen only driven by dating Katherines and the wanting to be a genius rather than a washed up child prodigy. He’s still looking for his Eureka moment and for a way to become someone who matters.
His best, and only, friend Hassan. An overweight unemployed and uneducated teen, who`s obsessed with Judge Judy.
And the mysterious and beloved Lindsey lee wells, located in Tennessee with her mother Hollis, boyfriend «TOC» and a variety of friends, «JATT», «SOCT» and Katrina.
There’s also a few mentions of some Katherines, if that wasn’t already obvious.
The book starts off with Colin being recently dumped by Katherine 19. He’s lying face down on the carpet on his bedroom floor, only wanting to be alone in his misery. Then a day or so later his friend Hassan comes over to try and talk some sense into him, this results in them deciding to do a roadtrip. It took them some time to convince their parents, but suddenly they were on the road. Early during their ride this obscure sign «Worlds largest wooden crucifix – next exit» pops up and Hassan keeps suggesting to stop and look at it but Colin keeps saying no. After awhile they drive past a new sign «Grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand – The corps that started world ward 1». And when Colin proceeded to say no to the first one, Hassan had to remind him that a road trip isn’t about a destination, it’s about the adventure on the road. Colin then thinks about that and suggests they go to the Archdukes grave, a suggestion which obviously pleases Hassan. Further their adventure goes to Gutshot Tennessee, where the grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is located. If you haven’t already guessed it this is where they meet Lindsey too. She works at a small store in Gutshot and is the tour guide. And even though she says they shouldn’t the tour, they choose to do it. On this little tour they get know Lindsey a bit, and meets her friends. When they get back from the tour they meet Hollis, Lindseys mom, and she insists that they have dinner with them. Which they obviously thanks yes to.
It’s during their visit in Tennessee the whole story starts to unfold. First Hollis asks them to stay over, then she offers them a job, then Colin starts working on a theorem about breakups which he believes might be his eureka moment, and everything escalates from there on out.
The beginning of the book is quite slow, which sadly shines trough in my little summary, but I liked the book better than I thought I would. After 40 or so pages I started to like it more and more, and that was because I started to relate to certain parts of the story. There were situations and quotes I felt like I could relate to and I also thought those parts were the most interesting and important, so I wanted to focus more on those rather than to write a detailed summary of the whole story. I also didn’t want to spoil too much.
Early in the book we learn that Colin is not the happiest boy in the world. And I don’t blame him, he’s been dumped 19 times and doesn’t feel like he matters at all.
There’s this part one page 94 that I really liked where Colin describes how it feels to be a dumpee (someone who gets dumped, and don’t dump others):
«That’s why people grow weary of listening to dumpees obsess over their troubles: getting dumped is predictable, repetitive, and boring. They want to stay friends; they feel smothered; it’s always them and it’s never you; and afterward, you’re devastated and they’re relieved; it’s over for them and just starting for you. And to Colin’s mind, at least, there was a deeper repetition: each time, Katherines dumped him because they just didn’t like him. They each came to precisely the same conclusion about him. He wasn’t cool enough or good-looking enough or as smart as they’d hoped- in short, he didn’t matter enough. And so it happened to him again and again, until it was boring. But monotony doesn’t make for painlessness. In the first century CE, Roman authorities punished St. Apollania by crushing her teeth one by one with pliers. Colin often thought about this in relationship to the monotony of dumping: we have thirty-two teeth. After a while, having each tooth individually destroyed probably gets repetitive, even dull. But it never stops hurting»
This is one out of two parts of the book I really think shapes the understanding of Colins character. The other is a couple pages further in, where Colin talks about how smart his younger self was and how his father always encouraged and worked on Colin to get him from child prodigy to genius:
«As a sociologist, Colin’s dad studied people, and he had a theory on how to transform a prodigy into a grown-up genius. He believed Colin’s development ought to involve a delicate interplay between what he called «active, results-oriented parenting» and Colin’s natural predisposition to studying. That basically meant letting Colin study and setting «markers», which were exactly like goals except they were were called markers. Colin’s father believed that this kind of prodigy- born and then made smarter by the right environment and education. Could become a considerable genius, remembered forever. He told Colin this sometimes, when Colin would come home from school sullen, tired of the Abdominal Snowman, tired of pretending his friendlessness didn’t bother him.
«But you’ll win», his dad would say. «You have to imagine that, Colin, that one day they will all look back on their lives and wish they’d been you. You’ll have that everyone else wants in the end»
And as I mentioned I feel like these two really helps shaping the understanding of Colin and his characteristics. They make the ground for his personal problems which is the reason this adventure starts in the beginning. All of this might not be the most obvious part of the story, but it’s what struck med the most. Colin is so obsessed with working out how to become a genius and he feels like he’s letting everyone down but not figuring it out. But when in Tennessee Colin learns a lot by creating a friendship with Lindsey and by watching Hassan grow when he creates friendships with the people they meet. I think Colin had a realization when he and Hassan gets into a heated argument. I feel like the story and how we view Colin kind of twists around at this point in the story. The argument starts with Colin being hurt for something Hassan did, which he later apologies for. But when Colin says Hassan has changed and that he’s tired of Hassan only hanging out with him to make fun of him, Hassan completely lost it and started rambling on why they really were friends and that it annoyed him selfish and ungrateful Colin could be. And this particular conversation got them both thinking, especially Colin. He then starts including himself in activities he normally wouldn’t and grows to be a more emphatic person. This also results in him making more friends and this actually helps him with his theorem about breakups too. He might me able to tell how a relationship worked out and why he got dumped by using a mathematical formula, but not even a genius can predict the future, luckily for Colin.
What I didn’t like that much about this book was that I found it a bit challenging to read at times. It had a few complicated words and was a bit more mathematical than I’m used to. This book did however have foot notes at the end of the pages. And I don’t think this is a bad thing, it’s a fun way to learn and you don’t have to use google if there is something you don’t understand. But personally I prefer books without foot notes because I find it unpleasant to stop in the middle of a sentence to read the explanation or to search through a text I’ve already read just to try and find where the explanation belongs.
But I’d still recommend the book. Every reader will view the story differently and learn different lessons, but I’d recommend this book to young readers who might struggle a bit with self worth or self image, or young people struggling with love and relationships. This book really got me thinking, in a good way, about how our brain makes us the victim a lot of times and how that might not work out in our favor,and also how hard it is to feel important when someone you love don’t love you back. The book does have a sweet and romantic ending, which I almost always appreciate.
I’d probably give the book a 4 out of 5 because it had it’s moments of fun and being original, but it was a bit to slow and dull to be a favorite of mine. However, my two favorite quotes from the book are probably «The missing piece in his stomach hurt so much – he eventually stopped thinking about the theorem and wondered only how something that isn’t there can hurt you» and «Books are the ultimate dumpee: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they will always love you back».
Thank you so much for the taking the time to read this, I really hope you enjoyed it 🙂
Feedback and suggestions are greatly appreciated.