“When you’ve read one John Green book, you’ve read them all.” Someone said this to me a while back after reading my second Green book, and now, after reading my fourth, An Abundance of Katherines, I still think it’s untrue.
Yes, John Green books are heavy on the philosophy and metaphors and symbolism and all that jazz, but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same. It’s important to read a book as a singular entity rather than reading it as a part of a whole (unless it’s part of a series, which An Abundance of Katherines is not). It makes the experience more fulfilling.
The plot? Child prodigy and recent high school graduate, Colin Singleton, goes on a road trip to Gutshot, TN with his best friend, Hassan Harbish, after a recent break up with Katherine XIX, while also trying to upgrade from prodigy status to genius status by creating a theorem that can predict the outcome of relationships. It’s a very specific plot.
But then again, Colin is a very specific person. He’s quirky and nerdy and needs help now and then knowing which things are interesting to “normal” people and which things are not (like the state of Nikola Tesla’s hair in 1887). He remembers anything and everything that interests him, which is totally awesome. Even with all of his eccentricities and insecurities, Colin remains a completely believable character—something that doesn’t seem possible knowing he’s dated only girls named Katherine (in that exact spelling), and nineteen of them, at that.
Aside from Colin, though, Green does a fantastic job at developing all of the main characters in this work—they all have their own unique quirks. Hassan is in love with Judge Judy (and who isn’t, btw?). Lindsey Lee Wells, a girl the two friends meet in Gutshot and end up living with while working for her mother, Hollis Wells, on making an oral history of the town, is a chameleon of sorts and is basically the “oldsters” favorite person in the history of human beings. Hollis is a tampon-string making factory owner workaholic that lives in a pink mansion. They’re all so unrealistically realistic that it makes it hard not to read on and learn more about their quirks.
And actually, now that I think about it, this whole book is quirky. Riddled throughout the novel are footnotes. I can’t remember the last time I read a novel with footnotes, if ever. They’re used for explanation when that dreaded thing called math is thrown into the narrative, or used for explanation of an interesting fact that Colin touches on in the text above, or used for snide little comments about different characters and plot points, or used for just about anything. They make the details in the book seem real, even when they might not be (cough cough the Archduke Franz Ferdinand is not buried in a rural town in Tennessee cough). The footnotes and academic tone of the book’s format gives the story’s voice a sense of authority on any subject it decides to touch upon. Without that authority, some of the more unrealistic details (like dating nineteen girls exclusively named K-A-T-H-E-R-I-N-E) would have been rendered “cheesy” or “trying too hard”.
This is probably my favorite book of John Green’s (that I’ve read). Even though it didn’t make me cry like a lunatic (The Fault in Our Stars) or pretend to be a detective trying to find a missing person (Paper Towns) or wish I could meet someone the same name as mine in an sex shop (Will Grayson, Will Grayson), it was a fun read. After you read it, I’m sure it’ll be your favorite too.