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An Abundance of Katherines

Review

An Abundance of Katherines

I'll admit. I was thrown by the cover. If I hadn't been familiar with John Green's impressive debut, LOOKING FOR ALASKA, I might have passed AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by, assuming it was a self-help book. But nothing was going to stop me from diving straight into Green's sophomore offering. There is a condition in the book world that goes by many names, most often known as "sophomoritis." This refers to the follow-up work by a debut novelist where said follow-up is often judged to be inferior to the original work that caused a stir.

I am pleased to report: there will be none of that here.

AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES is the story of Colin Singleton who, at the end of his high school career, is unceremoniously dumped by a girl named Katherine. It must be noted that she is, in fact, the 19th girl named Katherine with which Colin has had a relationship, none of which ended very well. Mired in rejection and plagued with the knowledge that his status of "child prodigy" is nearly at an end, Colin sets off on a walkabout with his best friend, Hassan, with the idea of finding a mathematical formula that can predict where any relationship will head (and thus elevate him to the adult status of "genius").

The pair takes a road trip to Gutshot, Tennessee, where they are hired to chronicle the town's oral history and find themselves involved with the locals in ways they never imagined. Yes, there's some math involved but it's nothing that should scare anyone away. (Plus, there's a handy appendix at the back that explains how everything works.)

This novel is gripping in its simplicity and stunning in its originality. Decidedly less dark than LOOKING FOR ALASKA, Green loses none of his bite in exploring the angst of a teen facing familiar coming-of-age problems compounded with the anxieties only a genius can feel. If you've visited the author's blog, you know his penchant for wry humor --- and that's what comes to the forefront and gives AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES its driving tenor. As with LOOKING FOR ALASKA, Green demonstrates his uncanny ability to craft interesting, three-dimensional characters in much the way that Georges Seurat built a masterpiece with a million tiny dots.

Combine the witty writing, the lifelike characters and the ingenuity of the story, and it seems certain that Green has another hit on his hands.>

Reviewed by Brian Farrey on September 21, 2006

An Abundance of Katherines
by John Green

  • Publication Date: August 14, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Speak
  • ISBN-10: 0142412023
  • ISBN-13: 9780142412022