Break ups are hard. You become so attached to someone and then suddenly it's over. You spend special moments together, experience each other's 'firsts' and then it becomes something in the past. It takes time to get over a break up but once you do, falling in love again reinvigorates you. You might also notice parts of that new person being like who you were with before, but that's not issue because they aren't them. Their personality may be different, or maybe the way they laugh, the way they see the world. Their similarities shouldn't be too haunting. Well, in An Abundance of Katherines by John Green this is certainly not the case. The main character has a type and that is girls with the name Katherine.
Not Catherine. Not Kat. Not Cathy. Not Katrina, Kathleen or Kath. It can only be Katherine... and he's dated 19 of them (hence why there's an abundance). Meet Colin Singleton (funny name for someone who's dated 19 Katherine's). He's a child prodigy who can speak a bunch of different languages fluently, remember a bunch of facts off the top of his head, has a knack for anagramming, loves to study and won a children's quiz show. He's just been dumped by the Katherine who he truly loved. The one he believed he would spend the rest of his days with. It hurts and he doesn't think he'll be able to get over her this time. Then there is his best friend, Hassan, who is also rather intelligent but better at social situations (and also loves Judge Judy) who tells him to get over it... as good friends do, of course. However, this 'getting over it' has a twist... and that's in the form of a road trip.
After some convincing, both Colin and Hassan's parents agree to the road trip. So in a bid to forget this harsh dumping by Katherine XIX, they head out into the big world. However, everything around Colin eventually makes him think about her. They pull over when they see a sign pointing towards the grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which doesn't seem plausible to Colin. This leads them to Gutshot, Tennessee, the home of said grave and the story's main setting.
They meet Lindsey Lee Wells, their tour leader who ends up with her shirt off tending to Colin's head wound after he falls over. An interesting way to start their friendship but he isn't complaining (he can't see without his glasses, so he didn't see much anyway). After some first aid, they make their way to the grave of the Archduke. It all turns into a bit of a comedy with Colin and Hassan meeting Lindsey's boyfriend and their friends, and before long Colin and Hassan are staying at her house and working for her mum.
Their job is to interview the locals of Gutshot to document the history of the small town. There's no real reason for it but Lindsey's mother wants it and pays good money, so Colin and Hassan happily oblige. When they're not working, Colin works on a theory. You see, although Colin is super intelligent and labels himself a child prodigy, he does not believe himself a genius. A genius to him is someone who can prove something that no one knew, like Einstein and his theory of relativity. Colin's theory is that you can predict how a relationship is going to go by putting it on a graph. He becomes obsessed with it, testing out his formula numerous times on each of his relationships with the Katherines.
After a lot of different work, advice from Lindsey (who turns out to also be quite intelligent), and trial and error, Colin gets his formula to work with all his Katherine relationships... except for one. His graphs determine the dumper and dumpee, and yet for one of the Katherine's the graph predicts that Katherine was dumped by him even though she did not... or at least that's how he remembers it. And how could he be wrong? He has built his whole life around being a prodigy with an amazing memory.
Another coming-of-age text, An Abundance of Katherines looks at the difficulties of break up's, moving on and overcoming your fears. It highlights that everyone has flaws and that love can sometimes be found in the most unlikely places.
What I thought
I thought this was a charming book. I liked learning all the fun facts that were dotted in the text, which were complemented by the footnotes. I liked the humour since it was very easy to relate to it. All in all, I thought it was a good story that entertained me enough to keep reading.
However, I did have a few issues with parts of the storyline. I understand being dumped is rough and heartbreaking and you go through a 'no one is ever going to truly love me' phase, but this combined with a character who is apparently not good at talking to people combined with the fact he has been in a relationship 19 times irked me. It's not a combination I could take seriously and I found it hard to like Colin for this. Having this distaste for the main character always makes it difficult for me to continue reading a book.
However, everything else in this book saved it. Again, I loved the humour and I really liked all the cool facts that were dotted within. Also, having the mathematical formulas and anagrams made the story really unique.
As a Young Adult novel, I would recommend this for people in high school and up. I'd also recommend this to anyone who's interested in some intelligent and well-crafted teenage humour. It's an easy read with a chilled out tone, so if you want a book that you can sit down on a comfy chair all day with and have it done before bed, I'd give this book a go.
Let me know what you thought of this book! Did it reignite the fire to read in you?
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.