So it’s 6.56 a.m. and I just finished reading “An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green. Yes, I am aware of the fact I should be sleeping or just waking up now. No, I don’t have lessons today. Yes, I do often stay awake all night reading a book, but no, I don’t regret it. At least – to quote Sherlock – not now.
Anyway, let’s talk about this book.
“An Abundance of Katherines” is the second book by John Green (the first is “Looking for Alaska”, my favourite), and it was published in 2006, 8 years ago.
Like watching CSI and after a while understanding who is the killer before they say it, after reading two or more books of certain authors – like Dan Brown, for example – you can sense the patterns behind the stories. Some books separate themself more from the pattern than others, but the essence is the same. Sometimes – especially in non-detective stories, where everything doesn’t have to aim to a specific moment/revelation – knowing the pattern can be a pleasant thing. With John Green is like this.
John Green’s characters are:
- teenagers, usually with social problems – few friends or no friends at all, usually bullied at school -, that are intelligent, witty, funny and sarcastic;
- they usually step into a new world – a new school/university, a new place to live, a new group – where they get acquainted with others that are similar to them in a kind of way;
- they are not exceptionally good-looking (they’re normal, and with no attention to fashion, etc), have strange hobbies, hardly any romantic experience and are usually very sensitive to the world around them (they read and see the world in a more attentive way compared to their peers);
- the protagonists are usually boys… and they desperately love an idealized girl. And they remind you that have been dumped and are heartbroken, or that they love her without any hope, the whole time. Modern Dantes, everybody;
- of course not all these patterns are all present in all the books.
In this case, the protagonist – a guy named Colin, 17 years old, depressed because he’s a prodigy but has not yet become a genius – is dumped (in the summer between high school and college) by his girlfriend Katherine XIX – I specified XIX because he has dated 19 girls in his whole life, all named Katherine – and Hassan, his only friend, decides to go on a road trip to cheer him up. After a while, they finish in a rural town, Gutshot, Tennessee, where they meet Lindsey and her mum, that offers them a job (interviewing the local residents to put together a story of the town). In Gutshot he has also his “Eureka” moment: he wants to create a theorem able to determine the graphic of every relationship based on several factors of the personalities of the two people. Basically it could predict the future of every couple, how long would they last, who would dump who – Do you want it or are you okay like this? – He analizes all his 19 relationships. Here the book is very interesting because it actually shows you all the mathematical process – Yes, I know, I’m a nerd.
I see myself in Colin, in the sense that he knows he’s good, but not good enough, he has studied all his life, he wants to leave a trace of his existence in this world – “What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?” -, he doesn’t know how. You know, the usual crisis we all had had. At least I’m still living it now.
We can follow his process through the entire book, also as friend and individual. This is common in John Green’s books, and in general in all Bildungsromans (“development/formation novels”).
The problem is that this book, even talking about realistic themes and showing an apparent evolution, doesn’t go deep enough. It seems to me that there’s the pattern, there’s an apparent story, but not a real one. Not the sensation that you’re reading something unique. I’m not saying he copied a story, because it’s not true, but I feel like this story follows an already beaten path.
It’s not an impression I can define well.
What I can say is it’s a nice book that I recommend you to borrow at your local library, to clear your mind and enjoy for an afternoon, but don’t expect to be totally amazed.
Hope you liked this review. Let me know in the comments what do you think about this book – have you read it? have you read any John Green’s books?
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Have a lovely day! :)