Sep 30, 2008

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Colin Singleton, a child prodigy who fears he might never become a genius, has just been dumped for the nineteenth time. His most recent ex-girlfriend, like all of her predecessors, is named Katherine. Colin is lying on the floor of his room feeling utterly miserable and sorry for himself when his friend Hassan suggests a simple solution to his problem – they are going on a road trip. They leave the next day, and end up in Gutshot, Tennessee, with a summer job that consists on interviewing the town people to collect an oral history. But Colin’s true work is to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, and thus foresee the future of any relationship. In the meantime, he befriends Lindsey Lee Wells, the daughter of his employer, and for the first time in his life finds himself with more than one friend.

I’m starting to believe that John Green can do no wrong. I absolutely loved this book. It’s a book about smart and lonely kids trying to figure out who they are and what matters the most to them. Which is to say, being teenagers. I loved Colin and Hassan, and as the story advanced I became fonder and fonder of Leslie. Like in Looking for Alaska, the characters in An Abundance of Katherines made me say to myself, "So people like this do exist. Only where have they been all my life?". I wish I could have gone to highschool with these characters and befriended them. I wish I were friends with them still. That’s how much I liked them and how real they felt to me.

The best thing about this book, other than the aforementioned awesome characters, is the humour. It’s really, really funny, and it has some of the best footnotes I’ve ever seen. An author that uses footnotes well, like Terry Pratchett or Susanna Clarke, automatically gains extra cool points in my book. And John Green definitely also uses them well. Here’s an example:
That’s absolutely true, about the eight glasses a day. There’s no reason whatsoever to drink eight glasses of water a day unless you, for whatever reason, particularly like the taste of water. Most experts agree that unless there’s something horribly wrong with you, you should just drink water when you’re—get this—thirsty.
The book is full of random little facts like this, because Colin, as you may have gathered, is a fountain of knowledge. Also, he likes to do anagrams, he’s fluent in twelve languages, and he tries to read at least 400 pages a day. Like Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines is full of references to books: The Catcher in the Rye and Seymour: An Introduction, Byron’s poetry, Charlotte’s Web, Shakespeare, etc.

I loved the conclusion Colin reaches towards the end of the book, a conclusion about stories and mattering and life. There are three paragraphs in one of the last chapters that are absolutely perfect, and I’m dying to share them, but even though they don’t exactly contain spoilers, I’ll refrain. It’s just that it’s so much better to read them in the context of everything that happens in the story. So read the whole book, and when you get there you’ll see.

An Abundance of Katherines is funny, smart, bittersweet, touching and quirky in a way that reminded me a little of a Wes Anderson movie. And now I have to mention the fact that Colin and one of his Katherines watch The Royal Tenenbaums together.

And because I can hear you asking, I’ll say it: Did I enjoy it as much as Looking for Alaska? Well, not quite, but almost. The two books are very different, and I really shouldn’t be comparing them (only it seems that I can’t help myself). Those who have read Looking for Alaska know that the topics it deals with – which can perhaps be summed up as Life, The Universe, and Everything – give it an emotional impact that is hard to surpass. An Abundance of Katherines is lighter, but in its own way it’s just as meaningful. I can’t wait for Paper Towns.

Reviewed at:
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The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Sassymonkey Reads
Biblio File
Firefly's Book Blog
It's All About Books
Becky's Book Reviews
The Bluestocking Society
Book Addiction
Out of the Blue
Bart's Bookshelf
In Search of Giants
A High and Hidden Place
Bookfoolery and Babble
An Adventure in Reading
What Vanessa Reads
1 More Chapter
The Book Pirate
Bookshelves of Doom
3 Evil Cousins
Teen Troves
The Zen Leaf
where troubles melt like lemon drops

(Did I miss yours? Let me know.)


  1. "John Green can do no wrong" - totally agreed. He writes the best, most realistic teenagers I've ever read. I also absolutely love the dedication to An Abundance of Katherines - so nerdy and so sweet!

    My review is here.

  2. I have never read anything by Green (eep!) but this sounds completely fascinating.

  3. I've added both of these books to my wishlist. Great review!

  4. Well Colin sounds like an interesting, albeit odd person!

  5. Firefly: He really does. And yes, I loved it too! Thanks for your link

    bookchronicle: I think you'll like him!

    Lisa, hope you enjoy them :)

    Ladytink: He's very interesting, and really not all that odd once you get to know him!

  6. All right already! It's always particularly dangerous when I read your blog when I'm at the library. I just walked over to the shelf and picked up a copy of Looking for Alaska. Between you and Chris, I swear, I don't stand a chance! Not sure when I'll get to it, but it's on the real book pile now, rather than the figurative one! Then maybe I'll get to this one, which looks equally good (or almost). Thanks. :-)

  7. Great review! I'll have to give John Green a chance.

    BTW, I took the day off of the film festival today and did a bit of catch up on my blog. I nominated you for an award.

  8. Oooh, I really need to get my hands on that one! I can tell already that John Green will be one of those authors that I love every book that he writes. Must. Find. This. Book. :p

  9. Darla, I can't wait to see what you think of it!

    Teddy Rose, thanks again for the award :D You made my day. I hope you enjoy John Green's books.

    Chris: Yes.You.Must! And yes, I have the exact same feeling about him.

  10. I don't generally read YA stuff, but this one sounded so good, I got the audio and loaded it on my IPOD. I still need to listen to it though. Thanks for posting.

  11. I'm not familiar with John Green, but this sounds interesting. Great review too. It's definitely going on my to-read list.

  12. How the heck did I get to thinking Looking for Alaska was a memoir?? :) Anyway, I'll have to look for this author because I have heard really great things about Looking for Alaska--I guess I just didn't read the plot summaries very well. :0

  13. Diane and Holly, I hope you both enjoy it :)

    Trish: I really don't know how you got that idea :P But in any case, read it! It's definitely one of my favourite reads of the year so far.

  14. I, too, love this book and John Green. Can't wait for Paper Towns! Only a couple of weeks away now.

    My review of Katherines:

  15. Thanks for the link, Suey! I normally wait for books to come out in paperback, but Paper Towns is one of those cases that deserve an exception. I REALLY want to read it soon!

  16. I haven't seen a bad review yet of this book, but I bet my local library doesn't stock it :(

  17. I'm halfway done this book, the very day I finished up Looking For Alaska I ran to the bookshop to grab Abundance of Katherines. Simply put - I love John Green!

  18. Michelle: That's too bad :(

    Book Zombie: So do I! Can't wait to read your review.

  19. *sigh* another book for me to get....I've even written it down on my newly-begun list of Books to Get Right Now (as opposed to my list of books to buy sometime, list of books to borrow from the library, list of books to get this year....) that I'm taking with me tomorrow to the bookstore!!! I think you and Chris should just mail me what you have on your shelves, so I can just start buying copies for myself. :-D

  20. lol Susan! You should mail us what you have on your shelves too :P

  21. Okay, Dewey made me add this to my wish list, and now you're going to make me click that "order now" button. Guess I'm going to have to give you each a point for this one, huh? ;)

  22. I can't wait to see how you like it, Debi! This is another one that would be great for the Read-a-thon.

  23. Just scouting for reviews to link to, as I've just finished this book :D and you are quite right, John Green can do no wrong!

  24. LOVED this! Here's my review:

  25. Just read and loved this book! I didn't read your review until after I had written mine and love that you mentioned Susanna Clarke, too. I seriously love (well-written, of course) footnotes. That water one is one of my favorites!

  26. 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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