I read An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green, on advice from a reader (Katie, to be exact) and from the first page was immediately enthralled. It follows former child prodigy (now that he’s graduated high school) Colin Singleton as he and his friend Hassan—who is not a terrorist—embark on a roadtrip in the wake of Colin’s dumping by the nineteenth Katherine that he has dated. They only make it from Chicago to Gutshot, Tennessee, but emotionally Colin’s journey wraps around the known world.
Colin is plagued by constant insecurity brought on from the fact that up until now he has been a child prodigy, spending his days anagramming and learning languages (he knows nine), and dating—then being dumped by—girls named Katherine. But in the wake of being crushingly dumped by Katherine XIX and no Eureka moment to show for his child prodigy buildup, he falls into depression, which basically consists of lying face down on his bedroom floor.
When flagrantly irreverent Hassan drags him off on a roadtrip, neither boy expects to hit the brakes in Gutshot, but a sign advertising the grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a smart girl, and a big-hearted woman lasso them into a huge (pink) mansion. Colin spends his days there trying to perfect a mathematical formula to predict the relationship arc for any two people given a few variables like popularity, attractiveness, and age. But Gutshot slowly entices him out into adventures—hunting a wild hog, getting in fights, and spending hours listening to stories from the 864 residents of the town. Despite himself, he might actually find life worth living beyond his previous boundaries.
Dripping with humor and snarky footnotes (though all the technical math to the Katherine Formula is contained in the Appendix–yes, the formula works) An Abundance of Katherines is a great book for upper level readers, and maybe some advanced middle-grade. Colin’s morose self-absorption easily walks the line between pitiful and satiric, and his genuine surprise in slowly discovering what real life is like, makes it a quick and pleasurable read.
Despite his fanatic obsession with the Katherines (particular Katherine XIX) this isn’t the boy-version of chick-lit. This is a story about a kid who knows the area in mi² of Kansas off the top of his head, but doesn’t know a whole lot about life. A kid who has been told for the last eighteen years that he is one thing, only find he’s got nothing to show for it, and no idea what to do. Colin makes the LHI4BW lineup because of his journey, which reminded me a lot of (500) Days of Summer—particularly with all the non-chronological jumping around and flashbacks—but also in its clear vision on the end of relationships.
It’s ironic that as Colin struggles to force human connection to conform to a graphable mathematical equation, he is surrounded by a web of complicated relationships in all stages: a former uber-geek now hott and dating her former tormentor, a big-hearted woman driving her business into the ground to save her town, a best friend who establishes a safety word for when they veer too close to an uncomfortable truth. Everything around him proves that you can’t predict humanity, but he just clings closer to his formula as a way to anchor himself and his identity.
Green also wrote some other fabulous books, including Looking for Alaska, and Paper Towns. There are rumors of several movies in the works, but so far we’ve seen nothing concrete.