Review: ‘An Abundance of Katherines’ by John Green


Katherine V thought boys were gross
Katherine X just wanted to be friends
Katherine XVIII dumped him in an e-mail
K-19 broke his heart

When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type happens to be girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact.

On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun — but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself.

Like The Jewel, An Abundance of Katherines was another impulse purchase in a bookstore, and I decided to read it this month because I’m doing a Goodreads challenge where we have to read a mixed bag of genres. (All my choices have been young adult, but this one is contemporary, so that totally counts as different. Right? Right?)

Having only read two John Green books now, I may not be qualified to say Katherines is “typical John Green”. But it kind of is. The three main characters are flawed but very, very bright. In this case, we have Colin, his best friend Hassan, and a girl they meet on their road trip, Lindsey.

Colin is obsessed with making something of his life and, as the book begins when Katherine XIX dumps him, is struggling with heartbreak. Hassan is funny but a lazy slob — he’s also somewhat contemptuous of Colin at times, but it’s clear that Colin largely appreciates his honesty, so that softens the attitude a little. Lindsey is a bit of a chameleon. The thing I liked about Katherines, though, is that all three characters grow over the course of the story, which is just as well, because otherwise Colin’s whining about girls would have worn me down to the point where I wanted to punch him in the nose. 😉

The main thing I was wondering when I went into Katherines was how a very nerdy boy like Colin managed to get no less than 19 girls to date him. It makes more sense when you realise Colin defines even a five-minute relationship in the playground as “dating”! And then overthinks it. No wonder he’s so miserable!

Green makes abundant (seewhatIdidthere) use of footnotes throughout the book, to expand on facts Colin was prevented from relating, outline the basics of his theorum, or to provide translations and explanations, mostly for the Muslim terminology Hassan uses. I sometimes found the footnotes a little irritating, but that was largely in cases where I already knew the thing the footnotes were telling me. If I was reading this at 17, though, I doubt that would’ve been a problem.

The dialogue is clever, and the humour is a bit boyish for me at times but at other times is very funny. There aren’t any real surprises in the plot, and I can see echoes of The Fault in Our Stars in some of the dialogue (mostly the “Okay?” “Okay.” thing) and the road trip device. But since Katherines came first, it’s more like foreshadowing, I guess!

This was a fun read, despite the flashback-inducing maths!

Four-and-a-half stars

4 Comments on “Review: ‘An Abundance of Katherines’ by John Green”

  1. I enjoyed an Abundance of Katherines too! Although I sometimes didn’t need/read the footnotes, I distinctly remember needing them sometimes. I was also wondering about the 19 Katherines he dated as a 17 or 18 (?) year-old. That’d a lot of Katherines… (and a lot of girls in general)

    Great review!

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