3.9 out of 5
First published in 2006, An Abundance of Katherines is the second novel by John Green. It follows seventeen year old Colin Singleton and his friend Hassan as they embark on a road trip after Colin is dumped by his nineteenth Katherine in a row. They wind up in Gutshot, Tennessee where they meet Lindsey Lee Wells and an ansortment of other whacky characters who teach Colin some very important lessons whilst he tries to solve the Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability.
I have to say that this is the first John Green novel that I have been underwhelmed with. After reading The Fault In Our Stars and Looking For Alaska I was looking forward to getting into this story but soon found myself questioning everything. It was okay, but it could certainly do with some serious work.
It is the first JG novel I’ve read that is third person, which was I will admit was a nice change. I enjoyed it simply because everything was still beautifully written in the way that I have come to associate with John Green’s work. Everything flowed poetically, the only problem was that some aspects of the story bored me. I couldn’t really find a plot.
During some scenes, Lindsey makes a point of teaching Colin how to tell the perfect story, going into detail about how a story needs a beginning, a middle and an end. But I felt that this novel lacked that element. I’m not sure if it was done purposely because of Colin, but it felt awkward at times and I questioned why some elements had been left in. If the novel had been in a first-person perspective then it would have been clearer if that was the point, but because it was a third-person perspective it made the story drag out as I tried to make sense of it.
The relationship between Colin and Hassan also felt incredibly similar to Miles and the Colonel in Looking For Alaska. The nerdy, socially awkward kid and his abrupt, overweight and crude best friend. Except where LFA gave some development of their relationship from beginning, Colin and Hassan’s relationship was pre-established with only a couple of flashbacks explaining how they met and became friends. I did like that their friendship did eventually develop and Hassan called Colin out on his horrible behaviour.
That was the biggest factor of the book that really annoyed me. Colin was the biggest whiner. I honestly wanted to slap him and tell him to get over it. Being dumped isn’t the end of the world, yet he was acting as though he was about to die. And his obsession with being smarter than everyone else really got on my nerves – he was such a self-centred character that I found it difficult to root for him. I am all for flawed characters, but they need to have some likeable qualities too – especially when they’re the main focus point of the novel! Saying that, Colin had one redeeming moment when he showed Lindsey the recording of her boyfriend after they caught him cheating on her. Comparing him to some of JG’s other protagonists, Colin felt like a step backwards. Hassan and Lindsey were fine – they had more likeable aspects to their personalities than Colin but even they seemed to lack some depth that Green usually gives his characters. The only notable quirks I can remember are Colin and Lindsey’s joint habit of biting their thumbs when nervous and Hassan’s undying love for Judge Judy…
I did enjoy all the maths aspect despite having no clue what they were going on about. It was interesting and different, and despite the fact that I haven’t got a high enough grade in Mathematics to be able to figure out the problems presented in the novel even with the handy appendix at the back of the book which explains it all, it was a nice touch to a story about a wannabe genius. I also liked the footnotes at certain points which explained what was being said in other languages, general facts about the facts being quoted and stupid little comments that made me laugh a lot more than the actual story did.
Despite the fact that this was still amazingly written, this is the first John Green book that I couldn’t give even four stars to which I hope means that this is the exception that proves the rule – John Green’s books haven’t disappointed me until this one.