Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"An Abundance of Katherines" by John Green

Getting dumped makes a person look inwards just a little too much.  We wonder what we've done to draw this fate upon our person, we think about whether we really deserved it or not, but mostly we just can't help but wanting the person who dumped us back.  Maybe it's because our emotional investment isn't as easily forgotten as that of the person who dumped us, or maybe we're just fixated with how things work and how they eventually don't.  Colin Singleton is a little bit of both, and throughout his life he's had one major quirk when it comes to his dating life...all 19 of his girlfriends have been named Katherine.

An Abundance of Katherines tells Colin's story of introspection and fixation as he tries to make the leap from "Prodigy" (someone who can learn really fast) to "Genius" (someone who can create unique, intellectual  properties and ideas).  To do this, he's taken his introspective eye and started to plot out the relationships he's had with all 19 Katherines onto graphs that use a mathematical formula he's created to pinpoint where and when a relationship begins and ends.  More importantly, he believes his formula can figure out who will dump whom in the relationship, thus separating people into two flat categories: Dumpers and Dumpees.  None of this would have been possible if it weren't for his best friend Hassan and his decision to drag his best friend on a road trip to the South, but don't tell him that...geniuses are rather sensitive of their capability for independent thought.

I discovered this book, on happy coincidence, through a Barnes and Noble clearance sale not too long ago. Up until that point, I'd never heard of John Green or any of the books that he had written. However, the concepts intrigued me as they centered around similar premises: young man falls for a somewhat quirky girl and goes on a journey to find out more about himself and deal with said romance. The variation on the theme in An Abundance of Katherines: our protagonist is dealing with the absence of romance instead of the pursuit of it.

John Green has honestly and truthfully written a character I can believe exists in real life, particularly because I see shades of myself within Colin.  Ok, so I wasn't a prodigy in anything except reading, but I was considered a "smart kid".  As many "smart kids" know, once High School is over, the rest looks pretty competitive and downhill.  Colin is so ahead of the curve with his contemporaries that he sees what they won't see for a little while longer...High School, if your not careful, is where you peak.  The trick to not peaking is simple in concept, but hard in execution: do something that makes your name stand out.  It is this journey that Colin embarks on, mostly because it keeps his mind off of Katherine (whom we learn more about as the book goes on), that he tries to actually matter to the world.  His heartache, his longing, and eventually his rejuvenation at the prospect of a new love is all extremely human and extremely identifiable.  This book may be written as "Young Adult Fiction", but age the characters a bit and change the setting, and you've still got a story that's at times poignant and at times funny.

I might not have heard of John Green before discovering and reading this book, but I can see why all of his books have consistently high Amazon and Barnes and Noble customer ratings.  Green's characters are real people, with real experiences and journeys, thoughts, and hopes.  They just live in a world parallel to ours where things are slightly different.  For what it's worth, I enjoy that slightly different world quite a bit; where problems are solved with road trips, bravery is found during a hog hunt, and ultimately all of the answers reveal themselves to you through a piece of paper, a phone call, and a moderately adventurous trip down South. 

A read that should never have to be a "Bargain Book" (but is especially worth the effort of procuring should you find it at such a price)  An Abundance of Katherines is one of the highest recommendations I can give, especially for a piece of YA Fiction.  These are characters I can relate to, events I can remember dealing with myself, and happenings I kind of wish I could have had myself as a teenager.  I can't wait to read more of Mr. Green's work, because if it's as captivating as this book was, I won't have a problem buying the whole lot in an instant.

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