Title: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: Penguin Books
DOP: 2013 (originally published in 2006 by Dutton Books)
An Abundance of Katherines tells the story of Colin Singleton, a child prodigy who is desperate to find the one thing that will set him apart from others now that he’s turned into an adult. He’s so engrossed into finding that one special thing when the nineteenth Katherine dumps him. Hassan, his best friend, decides it’s time for a road trip and as they leave, both Colin and Hassan are in for an adventure as they figure out who they are and want to become.
With The Fault in Our Stars having been adapted into a film last year, and Paper Towns coming to our screens in July, John Green has become an international phenomenon and an author you don’t want to ignore in YA. His books have been talked about and loved, which isn’t surprising as Green knows how to capture his audience with heart-breaking plots that turn your tears into smiles and laughs. Nevertheless, An Abundance of Katherines didn’t tick all the boxes I expected from a book written by the talented John Green.
The difference between Green’s other books and An Abundance of Katherines is that they deal with more approachable characters, which makes it more relatable for his readers. This story has a protagonist that’s very intelligent but with intelligence also comes a different style of telling. Prodigies have a different way of thinking and Green jumps from one thing into the other, throwing a few mathematical terms in between that often make you lose sight of what’s being told (unless math is a subject you understand). Thankfully, most things mathematical are explained in a footnote so don’t let this fact alone keep you away from reading the book.
Although Colin is not my most favourite character in book world, his personal drama is more relevant. Obsessed with finding that one thing that will make him unique (aren’t we all?), he neglects the Katherines he’s dating. Each one of them dumps him until the nineteenth Katherine is the final straw. Seeing his best friend wallow in unhappiness, Hassan decides a road trip will help to lift Colin’s spirits. They meet Lindsey, who’s the first person that seems to understand Colin but she is at the same time the opposite of him. While Colin wants to be different, Lindsey changes her behaviour depending on whom she’s speaking to and with this, Green creates strong and diverse characters.
Green isn’t only famous for his heart-breaking stories but his writing style is important too. In An Abundance of Katherines, he uses a mixture of techniques. While Colin reminisces on his past relationships in cleverly intertwined flashbacks, the flashbacks itself are addressed in a nonlinear narrative, demanding its readers to be attentive in order to understand the meaning behind all the Katherines and how they shaped Colin into obsessing about his theorem.
Despite of the writing style and interesting use of vocabulary, the story never captivated me like the others I’ve read before. It didn’t enrich me; it didn’t feel as special. A lot has to do with the mathematics, even though I’ve studied it myself (yeah…I did. Honestly.). It felt distracting and boring and slowed down the reading pace significantly. At some parts I experienced a hard time to pick up the reading from where I had left it and found myself skimming the pages to determine how long it would take me to the end.
John Green is amazing, of that I am sure, but this book is one of those that just didn’t make it to my high standards. It doesn’t mean I won’t read the rest of his books though. He is, like I’ve mentioned before, an author you shouldn’t miss out on and perhaps you like reading about child prodigies, graphics and theorems, who knows?
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