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John Green – An Abundance of Katherines

April 25, 2008

57. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (2006)

Length: 229 pages

Genre: Young Adult

Started: 25 April 2008
Finished: 25 April 2008

Summary: Colin Singleton, former child prodigy and habitual anagrammer, has just graduated high school and been dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine. More specifically, he’s just been dumped by the the nineteenth Katherine he’s dated. To distract him from his depression, his best friend Hassan (“Not a terrorist.”) takes him on a road trip. They wind up in in Gutshot, Tennessee, where they meet Lindsey Lee (“Not a Katherine.”) and wind up staying with her and her mother, the owner of a local tampon string factory. Their ostensible job is collecting local oral history, but Colin’s main obsession is his Theorem – a mathematical equation that will explain the trajectories of his relationships with Katherines I – XIX, and will predict the path of future relationships. But, of course, the future has a few surprises in store for Colin that don’t fit so neatly into his model…

Review: I knew this after reading Looking for Alaska, but: John Green is damn good at writing about teenagers. Particularly smart, slightly unpopular, awkward teenage boys. Colin is pretty similar to Pudge, the narrator of Looking for Alaska, but has enough quirks to make him memorable on his own. But what’s really impressive is how well Green captures teenage life, the rhythms of teenage speak, and the feelings of being the smart kid. I don’t think I was ever described as a prodigy, but I was certainly described as gifted, and some descriptions in this book were so real and so true-to-life that they just socked me in the gut – particularly the part about Colin’s mother wanting him to get into trouble so he’d be more like a “normal kid”, and Colin feeling like he’d disappointed his parents because he only memorized 23 Latin conjugations out of his goal of 25 – make Colin a girl and those scenes could have been straight out of my own life (although I never learned Latin). As expected, the writing is good, and clever, and funny, and the characters, even supporting characters, are vivid and memorable. Even the one thing that annoyed me – the persistent use of “fug” instead of The Other F-Word – was explained and made perfect sense in context. The only reason that I’m not rating this book five stars is that its trajectory was a little more predictable than Looking for Alaska, and as such it didn’t punch quite the same emotional heft. Still, it’s a more-than-worthwhile read. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Clever and real, this is an ideal book for the current (or recovering former) unpopular nerd, or for anyone who enjoys well-crafted coming-of-age books.

Also, just a note, this book features one of the best dedications I’ve ever read – a poem to his wife, composed entirely of anagrams of her name. Pretty cool.

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First Line: The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath.

Nope. Plenty of unfamiliar words used, but they’re all defined in the text or in footnotes. I should probably have noted them down so I’d remember them longer, but I didn’t, so too bad. :)

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