An Abundance of Katherines (by John Green)

21 01 2011

Mathematics is cool. There, I said it! And I totally understood what John Green’s friend explained in the appendix of An Abundance of Katherines. It’s not that I was ever bad at maths or anything – I’m a cat who can read after all, so why would adding things up be hard for me? And as an A-student all around, I am not oblivious to the concept of geekiness (I actually liked going to school for the learning). I guess I just never saw the sexiness in squaring things or substituting alfas for betas or whatever.

Also, it’s cruelly unfair. John Green can take 10 random English words, shakes them around a little bit in some (undoubtedly calculated) way and comes out with seemingly the most effortless of sentences. In the Q&A on his website, Green talks about the writing process of his novels.  And despite the fact that this is probably a very painstaking process to him (he spends “ a few short years” on one book!), the effortlessness of his writing is what I envy the most.  Oh, how I wish I had it in me to be such a language acrobat too!

Anyway, this is not just a love serenade to John Green’s skills as a novelist in general, but also a bit of a review of An Abundance of Katherines, Green’s second solo novel. At the age of 18, Colin Singleton (no kidding), former child prodigy, feels hopelessly passé. He’s 18, has an IQ higher than Mount Kilimanjaro and hasn’t had a Eureka moment yet. Add to that he’s been dumped 19 times by a girl named Katherine, and it’s obvious that the boy is in serious need of a change of scenery. Enter Hassan, his best friend, who suggests going on a road trip. They end up in Gutshot, Tennessee (again, not kidding!) and meet a bunch of interesting people that make them decide to stay for a while. Gutshot proves the ideal spot for Colin to work out his “Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability”, basically a nerd’s (mathematical) approach to love and relationships.

Despite the slightly euphoric way this review started, I have to be honest too and say that Katherines isn’t the best of Green’s novels – then again, it’s not that it’s worse or anything, just not the best in Green-Land. Granted, there’s a couple neat gimmicks such as the anagrams (basically just language maths).  He’s created yet another band of enjoyable and deliciously quirky characters. I *love* Hassan! And Lindsey as social chameleon is clearly a foreshadowing of Margo Spiegelman in Paper Towns. An Abundance of Katherines is also just a fun story from beginning to end. What’s more, there are plenty of memorable scenes throughout. Some are trademark-Green laugh-out-loud funny (the Hassan boob scene, for instance). And the quotability[1] again knows no bounds here.  Other scenes are painfully sad: the Alpo story Lindsey told was so incredibly touching that it’s hard not to hate TOC (The Other Colin) with a vengeance so bad it would make Carrie look like a huggable pussycat.

However, somehow some of the natural flow of Paper Towns (also an account of a road trip) and the innocence of Alaska is missing here. Maybe this is due to the fact that the book is in part made up of flashbacks (the tales of the various Katherines), or because of the numerous footnotes, which make you halt midway through scenes. Still, An Abundance of Katherines is great stuff, four-star stuff.

My love affair with John Green’s novels started with Looking for Alaska, and if John Green manages to keep up with the level of language wit, character depth & just the ability to tell a good story,  I’m afraid the terms ‘infatuation’ and ‘obsession’ won’t cut it anymore and I’ll probably have to start asking the Twi-hards for advice. Team Green all the way!

[1] About girls:  “They’re an impenetrable fortress of unknowability, really.”

Colin about the Dumper-Dumpee relationship: Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.”

Hassan about being fat: “We fatties have a bond, dude. It’s like a Secret Society. We’ve got all kinds of shit you don’t know about. Handshakes, special fat people dances–we got these secret fugging lairs in the center of the earth and we go down there in the middle of the night when all the skinny kids are sleeping and eat cake and friend chicken and shit. Why d’you think Hollis is still sleeping, kafir? Because we were up all night in the secret lair injecting butter frosting into our veins. She’s given us jobs because a fatty always trusts another fatty.”



3 responses

24 01 2011


15 10 2012
American Born Chinese (by Gene Luen Yang) « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] merit.  The same year, not only Zusak’s The Book Thief was an Honor Book, but also this book and this book (and also Sonya Hartnett’s Surrender, but the cat hasn’t read that one)! So anything that […]

26 02 2014
memory loss

Thanks for finally writing about >An Abundance of Katherines (by
John Green) | Ringo the Cat’s Blog <Loved it!

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