Title: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Genre: YA/ Contemporary
Publisher: Puffin Books
Publishing Date: Reprint edition 16 Oct 2008 (First edition: 2006)
Paperback: 272 pages
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Why did I read the book: Quite a few people pointed me towards John Green’s books.
How did I get the book: Bought
Summary: When it comes to relationships, everyone has a type. Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. He has dated–and been dumped by–19 Katherines. In the wake of The K-19 Debacle, Colin–an anagram-obsessed washed-up child prodigy–heads out on a road trip with his overweight, Judge Judy-loving friend Hassan. With 10,000 dollars in his pocket and a feral hog on his trail, Colin is on a mission to prove a mathematical theorem he hopes will predict the future of any relationship (and conceivably win the girl).
It started, as many things seem to start these days, on Twitter. Bored with work, I decided to investigate new YA authors to read and I asked who should I be reading and the overwhelming response was: John Green. When I enquired which of his books, I will admit An Abundance of Katherines was not the most recommended of his reads but being the contrary person that I am, I picked it up anyway because I really liked the title. What can I say? I am a simple person.
And then there was the story: it stars this guy, Colin Singleton, former child prodigy who has recently been dumped by his girlfriend Katherine, the XIX. Depressed that his life seems to be on a descending curve of lameness after nineteen Katherines dumped him (yes, he has dated and has been dumped by nineteen Katherines) and the certainty that being a prodigy is really not all that (for mind you: there is a clear difference between being a prodigy and being a genius; the former merely knows things; the latter do things) he decides to embark on a road trip with his best and only friend Hassan, a fat ,Judge Judy- loving Muslim.
Together, they travel through the country until they decide to stop in a little town called Gutshot, Tenessee, to visit the grave of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand (yes, seriously) and they end up staying and working for a rich woman named Hollis who produces tampon strings (yes, seriously) and end up befriending a girl Lindsey Lee Wells and her group of friends.
Colin is in search of meaning to his life and of a Eureka moment and he thinks he might find it if he is able to finish the Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability: by allocating numerical value to different variables, taking them to a graph, you should be able to predict the outcome to any relationship and how long it will last. But obviously, he forgets to include important variables in the equation and he comes to these realisations as valuable life lessons in this coming of age story.
So, then, the first thing that needs to be said about An Abundance of Katherines is obviously, how quirky it is. But not that kind of quirky that is quirky for quirkiness sake. This is really different and peculiar and to me, unique and I loved it for it. To me, this book was wholly original and I absolutely loved the writing and the characters and above all the relationship between Hassan and Colin. And the details. Oh, those small details that always and forever make a book for me.
Like how the story is intercalated with very short flashbacks to former Katherines and permeated with funny footnotes with anagrams (Colin is Anagram-crazy) and the sort of knowledge that a child-prodigy would have (and some of them are really interesting too!) and that one word that Hassan and Colin had that signalled when a subject should not be brought up or that scene when they went hunting that made me laugh so hard I cried and I gobbled up everything like a starved woman in a buffet.
But I think that what indicates how this good book is and how good of a writer is John Green is the fact that Colin is actually a very unlikeable character that becomes likeable. He is a self-centred and egotistical and it doesn’t surprise me at all that he has been dumped by nineteen Katherines. Heck, I am even surprised that he managed to date that many people what, with his weirdness and all (let’s face it, the boy has serious OCD tendencies) . But he learns. Both Hassan and Lindsey show him mirrors and he sees himself and hey….coming of age right?
Eureka, I say. For I have, finally, found John Green. And I have zero mathematical skills but if I apply The Theorem of Underlying Reading in which I allocate a numerical value to this book (8) take this to a graph and then apply my hope that all books I read this year are as good as this one, then I come to the conclusion that 2010 will be a good reading year indeed.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
Eventutally, he found the bed too comfortable for his state of mind, so he lay down on his back, his legs sprawled across the carpet. He anagrammed “yrs forever” until he found one he liked: sorry fever. And then he lay there in his fever of sorry and repeated the now memorized note in his head and wanted to cry, but instead he only felt this aching behind his solar plexus. Crying adds something: crying is you, plus tears. But the feeling Colin had was some horrible opposite of crying. It was you, minus something. He kept thinking about one word – forever – and felt the burning ache just beneath his rib cage.
It hurt like the worst ass-kicking he’d ever gotten. And he’d gotten plently.
Verdict: An Abundance of Katherines is quirky and very funny but also poignant, even a little bit romantic and highly recommended.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Reading Next: Irredeemable by Mark Waid and Peter Krause