April 05, 2007
Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Colin Singleton is a self-professed prodigy. He can anagram the heck out of any word combination (except a few un-anagramabble words), and he was once on a show called Kranial Kidz. He's the type of character one would call book smart but not very street smart. Colin's one big bummer in life is that he has been dumped by a procession of 19 Katherines. So he walks around looking for the next Katherine, although he is sure Katherine 19 is THE one.
When we first meet Colin, he has just been dumped by Ms. 19. His best friend, Hassan, decides to hornswaggle Colin into a summer road trip, meant to shake him out of his doldrums. They don't get too far. The boys find their nesting place in Gutshot, Tennessee, home to a factory where tampon strings are created.
They meet the owner of the factory, Hollis, and her daughter, Lindsey. Isn't that just the most beautiful name ever? Why you would want a Katherine when you could have a Lindsey, I'll never understand.
Hollis decides to hire the boys for a unique summer job: to interview the residents of the town/employees of the tampon string factory, for which she will pay them the sum of $500 a week, plus room and board. On top of that, Colin has his own project: to create a mathematical formula that predicts when someone will get dumped, specifically, himself.
This is the first young adult math concept book I have ever seen. There may be other books where math is used, but not to this same extent. In fact, at the end of the book, John Green (the author) has his math buddy explain the formulas.
Green also makes really good use of footnotes. Footnotes are something I remember only seeing in works like Shakespeare, Grendel, and the Canterbury Tales. Maybe this will spawn a whole new generation of footnote readers.
My big thing in books is I have to feel a strong connection with the characters, and I have to cry at least once. (I did shed some tear, by the way). Well, I did like some of the characters. I didn't particularly like Colin. All he seemed to do was whine about getting dumped. I found that boring. Now, his best friend Hassan was infinitely likable. Hassan is an overweight Muslim with a quick wit and a huge heart. I feel like Hassan saved the show on the character plethora.
Coming second to Hassan was the character of Lindsey and the residents of Gutshot. They all seemed to be very down home, lovable people. Everyone knew everyone else and they loved their town. I felt very cozy towards the townsfolk. I just wish I could have liked Colin better. Has anyone ever seen John Cusack in the movie High Fidelity? Now he was a likable/lovable dumpee. Sure, he whined, but he also had clever things to say. His witty banter with Jack Black and Todd Louiso was a highlight for me.
I still think it's worth a read, and a lot of people must, since this book took a Printz Honor.