Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John GreenPosted: March 10, 2014
Having been impressed with John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars I’ve been keen to check out some of his other work and so last month I picked up a copy of this, his second novel.
The story concerns seventeen year old Colin, a 17 year old former child prodigy who is starting to realize that he might never have a “eureka moment”- something that matters. Due to head for college after the summer Colin is in a funk, having been left heartbroken by being dumped, for the nineteenth time, all of which have been done by girls named Katherine.
Colin’s summer seems planned out, with his father keen for him to do extracurricular activities and more learning, but plans change when Colin’s slacker best friend, Hassan, suggests a road trip. The duo convince their parents to allow them to go and hit the road. Winding up in a small Tennessee town named Gutshot.
They land a job documenting the locals’ oral histories for Hollis’ the owner of the local factory, and Colin believes he has found his eureka moment- a mathematical equation that explains why his relationships with the Katherine’s have failed. And which may allow him to predict how any relationship will pan out.
As the summer progresses Colin works on his theory while his boss’ daughter Lindsey tries to teach him how to tell a decent story without getting lost on a pointless tangent, of which Colin’s stories, and the novel itself, are full of. He also has to think about what he wants from life and his friendship with Hassan comes under pressure when Hassan starts dating a girl. Can their friendship change? Will his theory work and could that win the 19th Katherine back?
One of the quirky things about this book is that, unusually for a novel, it has foot notes. These include random facts associated with things characters mention, Venn diagrams and anagrams, which Colin, the socially awkward hero loves. The novel is told, third person, from Colin’s viewpoint, meaning we get all these obscure factoids thrown in, breaking up the flow, the same thing that Lindsey criticizes him for, which I thought was a nice touch.
Green’s writing is brilliant, extremely clever and filled with wit it had me smiling to myself frequently. The story unfolds in a slightly predictable way, but the road to the ending is still worth taking and enjoyable. Green’s writing may not be accurate of real teenage speak, but so what? It’s got real spark and the dialogue features some wonderful moments.
It doesn’t quite match TFIOS because the story doesn’t have the emotional power of that book, but it never tries to, in fact it instead focuses on smaller, more internal problems- insecurity, fear of the future and teenage self pity. Colin could have come off terribly, but Green keeps us on side, even when he exasperates the reader. It’s definitely worth a read, and I gotta admit I’m slightly peeved at today’s young adults for having a writer like Green on the scene (I will be checking out more of his stuff).
Verdict: A well written and entertaining novel that uses it’s narrator to spin off in weird tangents. The plot is at times predictable and it can’t match Green’s third book, but it’s still extremely funny in places and chock full of nice touches. Green manages to take an odd, emotionally stunted protagonist and get the reader to engage with them fully. 7.5/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.