An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

 

Alright. Where do I even begin with this one? I suppose I’ll begin with my sister Lizzy, who is amazing by the way. I have been thinking of her a lot recently, realizing how much I took advantage of being her next door neighbor and sharing a bathroom with her for six years and a few summers. Liz introduced me to John Green by owning all (or nearly all) of his books.  That wouldn’t be such a big deal, except it’s Liz we are talking about. You know there has to be something special and worth celebrating about this guy and his art of writing because Lizzy is special and worth celebrating. She is the smartest human being I know- stretching her intellect to many different subject areas and also her compassion for many people. I love her.

Okay, so back to the book. I started realizing that John Green is quite popular to more students and people than just Lizzy. He is clever, funny, ridiculous, and one of a kind: a combination of brilliant and strange.  Or at least, this is one of the conclusions I made about him from his authoring of this book. I have, however, been told that I should have started with The Fault in Our Stars, so I will be sure to read that one next. In fact, it’s already on my bookshelf! Reading more of his work will probably widen my perception of him.

I’ll be honest: I really do not think I have ever read a book like An Abundance of Katherines before. We are talking about a cross of coming of age mixed with something different, I’m not even quite sure what to call it. Some phrases popping into my head are ideas like “nerdy, but oddly likeable, “honestly ridiculous quest for mattering that is hilarious opposed to the sad reality that most of us will not in fact be remembered for our accomplishments”, or “smarter than average main character who is consistent in displaying less than average social skills.”  Basically, this book makes me stop and think about coming of age stories. When I think COA, I think of Holden Caulfield. Whiny, mopey, excessively bold and often stupid, searching for meaning all alone in this big world, and struggling in the process. But here, we have Colin Singleton. Child prodigy, motivated, supported by his parents in efforts to matter academically, somehow ends up dating 19 Katherines, searching for meaning still, but in a uniquely hilarious way. And, Colin includes some friends in his quest for success, which makes his whining a bit more tolerable. I mean with both types of stories, we still have 18 year olds, and along with that comes the sometimes obligatory sexually charged plot points, but they are pretty easy to overlook in this one.

The truth is this was not my favorite book, but I’m glad I read it. I marked a few quotes I really enjoyed and wanted to share in this review. In order for these to make any sense, I’ll just tell you that it is Colin’s goal in the novel to master a theorem that graphs the length and failures/successes of all of his 19 relationships with Katherines, and then goes so far to even master predicting future relationships based on variables like being a Dumper or a Dumpee, how popular you are, your age, attractiveness, and other noticeable things about your personality. Uniquely hilarious quest—- I told you. Okay, some quotes:

“Without Katherine and without the Theorem and without his hopes of mattering, he had very little. But he always had books. 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.” -p.110, ch.11

“But of course the universe does not conspire to put you in one place rather than another, Colin knew. He thought of Democritus: ‘Everywhere man blames nature and fate, yet his fate is mostly but the echo of his character and passions, his mistakes and weaknesses.'” -p.29, ch. 5

“That’s what I was thinking about before you came. I was thinking about your mattering business. I feel like, like, how you matter is defined by the things that matter to you. You matter as much as the things that matter to you do. And so I got it backwards, trying to make myself matter to him. All this time, there were real things to care about: real, good people who care about me, and this place. It’s so easy to get stuck. You just get caught in being something, being special or cool or whatever, to the point where you don’t even know why you need it; you just think you do.” -p.201, ch. 19

“And the moral of the story is that you don’t remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened.”                 -pp.207-208, ch. 19

“And Colin thought: Because like say I tell someone about my feral hog hunt. Even if it’s a dumb story, telling it changes other people just the slightest little bit, just as living the story changes me. An infinitesimal change. And that infinitesimal change ripples outward- ever smaller but everlasting. I will get forgotten, but the stories will last. And so we all matter- maybe less than a lot, but always more than none.” -p.213, epilogue

 

 

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