Pages: 229 Copyright: 2006
Colin Singleton has been two things all his life: a child prodigy, and a dater of Katherines. He has been romantically involved with nineteen girls over the course of his existence thus far, and all of them have been named Katherine– there just seems to be a correlation between the name and his compatibility with them. But now he’s been dumped by K-19, devastatingly ending the longest and most serious Katherine situation yet, and with his high school diploma in hand, his prodigy status is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Seeing his emotional deterioration, Colin’s best (and only) friend Hassan, an overweight wise-cracking Muslim with a slacker attitude, peels him off his bedroom floor and takes him on a road trip. They have no idea at the start that they’ll end up in Gutshot, Tennessee, living in a pink mansion, working on an amateur oral history project, and in Colin’s case, attempting to formulate a Theorum of Underlying Katherine Predictability that will explain why he’s a perennial Dumpee, and might finally transform him from has-been prodigy to legitimate genius.
This is it, folks. The John Green book that I can unconditionally love. No death or destruction. Just pure unadulterated writing prowess, loveable characters, and quirky, unforgettable plot. I love premises that make you go “wow, I’ve never heard that before!”, and a guy dating only Katherines fits that bill; even better, the rest of the story lives up to the premise and matches it in originality. It doesn’t rest on those laurels like some flashy-premise books do, but keeps on bringing it, with Colin’s prodigy-hood and his fun footnotes1, Hassan and his constant jokes about his religion, the people of Gutshot, etc. Also, I think one of my favorite things about John Green is how he writes male friendships. Hassan and Colin has excellent friend-chemistry.
I’ve been reading complaints that people thought Colin was whiny and unlikeable, but I disagree. Whiny, yes, but that’s the point. He has enough good qualities and supporting characters (and people calling him on it) to balance it out. I thought he seemed like a good guy at the core, and I was rooting for him. I also really enjoyed the Katherine stories that were smattered throughout the book– it was artful of John Green to do it that way, rather than just info-dumping the full Katherine lineup in the beginning. It was a good framework to keep things moving.
If I have one big criticism for the book, it’s this: if I was a girl named Katherine, and a guy asked me out only to later admit that he’s dated as many as eighteen other Katherines before me, I would run. I don’t believe that those girls would hear that and not assume he was some creep who ONLY liked them for their name. I could be talked into it with the magic of suspension of disbelief, I guess, but the book never addressed the issue even once. Maybe it was an issue of an adult man not being able to entirely sense the viewpoint of a teenage girl. But ah well.
An Abundance of Katherines was short and sweet, and it’s definitely my favorite of the John Green books I’ve read. I hope he does more like this in the future and steers away from Depressingville. But that’s just me.
1Incidentally, I’m currently reading ANOTHER novel that uses footnotes (I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella). How strange is that? I like them; they really add whimsy.