Friday, 20 July 2012

Review: An Abundance of Katherines

Title: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Publisher: Speak
Publication Date: September 21st, 2006
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

Former child prodigy Colin Singleton has just graduated from high school and been dumped for the 19th time by a girl named Katherine. Colin has fallen into a cycle: dating girls named Katherine and then being dumped by them. Katherine XIX and Colin dated for a nearly a year before she broke up with him, just like every other Katherine before her. Colin remembers everything and is especially good with languages and anagrams. But the fact is that Colin is a former prodigy, not a genius. While prodigies are especially good at learning things, it’s geniuses that create things and do the things that prodigies learn about. In Colin’s mind, his quest to do something important with his life and his love for girls named Katherine are intertwined; he wants to know that he matters. Colin is looking for what’s missing in his life and being dumped by Katherine has made the missing piece inside of him feel bigger than ever. With his best friend Hassan, Colin goes on a road trip to help him forget about everything that’s bothering him. An impromptu stop in Tennessee to see the grave of Archduke Ferdinand leads Hassan and Colin to find a job working in a town called Gutshot, where they meet Lindsey Lee Wells. When Colin has the revelation that relationships can be broken down into a science, he begins working on a theorem that will predict the outcome of any relationship. Colin has never done anything original in his life and his only hope is his theorem. But does he really need to do something important in life to feel whole?

This was my second time reading An Abundance of Katherines, John Green’s second novel. It also happens to be the least popular of his books; it isn’t as life changing as The Fault In Our Stars, as funny as Will Grayson, Will Grayson, as thought provoking and fast paced as Paper Towns or as poignant as Looking For Alaska. I think one of the main reasons people dislike this book is because of Colin. I mean, no one really likes to hang out with the kid who just got his heart broken and is a pathetic mess, you just do it because you feel obligated. In all honesty, Colin was an unlikable character but I found him very realistic. And who says that characters in books always have to be likeable; people in reality certainly aren’t. Katherine the Best tells Colin that he is both “too smart and too dumb” for her, and he writes this off as a “ridiculous, idiotic and oxymoronic” reason for breaking up with him. But the fact is, she’s spot on. Colin is ridiculously good at replaying information, but he is just plain dumb when it comes to being in relationships, whether romantic or not. People say that girls who are very beautiful and are constantly being told so become insecure because their self worth is tied to their physical appearance. Colin is exactly like that, except with his intelligence. That’s why he needs to feel like he matters and while this need is what tore apart his relationship with most of the Katherines, he still thinks it’s the answer to his problems and how he’s going to win back Katherine XIX. Despite all of this, I still liked reading about Colin, even with all the obsessing and selfishness. I suppose in a way so many people are like Colin in wanting to know that they matter. The most popular quotation from this book is “What is the point of being alive if you don't at least try to do something remarkable?” I see this quote all the time on the Internet, presumably because people can relate to it. Of course, the whole point of this book is that Colin was wrong: you don’t have to do something remarkable with your life.

Another reasons this book isn’t as popular is because some people find the whole concept original, but rather unlikely. A nerdy boy has happened to date nineteen different girls named Katherine? I actually found it unlikely that a guy like Colin could find that many girlfriends at all, let alone only ones named Katherine. If you can get past this, then I think you can enjoy An Abundance of Katherines. It’s very insightful and I liked how Colin’s back-story played out. I’ve heard people call this book boring, but I never felt that way about it. Back in December I had this book on a list of great books for nerds, and I still stand by that. The only thing more abundant than Katherines in this book is facts. There’s even footnotes, and personally I loved all the information given, even if Hassan doesn’t think it’s interesting. The math in this book is also what earned An Abundance of Katherines a place on my list, but you don’t have to know anything about math to enjoy this book (although it does go further into depth about it in the appendix.) Rereading this book, so many things stood out to me. As in any John Green book, there were plenty of perceptive observations and I also enjoyed the novel’s themes. The secondary characters were as great as usual in John’s books; Lindsey Lee Wells who is basically a chameleon, and Hassan, a lazy, Judge Judy loving, overweight, Muslim boy. Just like he does in every one of his books, John Green has a written a smart novel about being a teen. While well written, I do agree with the majority people about this book being my least favourite of his novels. Of course, they’re all so good that that doesn’t mean much. While I wouldn’t recommend this as your first introduction to John’s writing, a lot of fans of his books just pass on reading An Abundance of Katherines like it’s the first series of the new Doctor Who. I would recommend giving both a shot if you’re a fan. Unique and intelligent, An Abundance of Katherines exemplifies so many of the reasons I read YA fiction.


“How do you just stop being terrified of getting left behind and ending up by yourself forever and not meaning anything to the world?”


  1. I've read about this book before, but this is the first one that's really made me want to read it. It helps that I'm a math person, so hearing that's there a fair amount of math involved here, only makes me want to read it more.

  2. I've never read a single John Green book, although I've had The Fault in Our Stars on my wishlist for a while. I thought I'd see how I got on with that one before I added another one, but this one sounds great. I've heard it mentioned before but never really knew what it was about.

    Ah well, guess it can't hurt to add it to the list! :)

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I just finished John Green's "An Abundance of Katherines," and I have to say... it's a fantastic book that thoroughly deserves that pretty silver award on the cover. Folks looking for good YA books or good literature in general should look no further than this book. It's clever, insightful, emotional, and simply well done.

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