An Abundance of Katherines is the story of Colin Singleton, a former prodigy with a passion for anagramming, whose life comes to an earth-shattering halt when Katherine XIX dumps him on the last day of high school. For Colin, this isn’t his first time being dumped by a Katherine; in fact, she is the nineteenth Katherine who has dated and dumped him. Agonized by the realization that his title of “child prodigy” is coming to an end and that the girl he loves no longer loves him back, he finds himself falling into great despair. In determination to expunge Katherine XIX from his heart, his only friend, Hassan, decides to take him on a road trip across the country. With only $10,000; an old, broken down car, and Colin’s new theorem to predict the length and outcome of a relationship, which could change his status to “genius,” the two boys embark on their journey. Their travels ultimately lead to Gutshot, Tennessee where they become intrigued by the advertisement for the burial place of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. While there, they come across a convenience store, where they meet Lindsey Lee Wells. She and her mother, Hollis, both agree to employ them to chronicle the town’s history and house them for the duration of the summer. In complete excitement, they accept the job proposal and begin their wild summer in the South.
Once again, John Green’s novel is enthralling in its originality and beautiful narrations. He cultivates a layout for the novel that gives readers the ability to understand his message, while also leaving room for their own interpretation of the text. He’s able to do this by using simple, realistic descriptions in place of greatly detailed ones. He also uses this tactic for character descriptions as well, making them “…genuine enough to counter the sweetness in this novel,” (Marler, Regina. “Dumped Again,” Rev. of An Abundance of Katherines, The New York Times). Green is able to show the reader the struggles and hardships, particularly the romantic aspect, of a teenage genius through the perspective of Colin. What’s most refreshing in the novel is Colin’s creation of an actual, mathematical formula for romantic relationships. Eventually, through his own formula’s flaw, he’s able to learn the true value of uncertainty in his future with Lindsey. Although John Green had a multitude of great elements for his story, such as quick witted characters, imaginative but simple descriptions, and a feverishly creative storyline, he failed to combine them into a concise, intriguing plot. Much of the story was grossly stretched by unnecessary events, such as the hog hunt, the affair between Katrina and Lindsey’s boyfriend, finding Hillis after she disappeared, or even the ending itself, which was anticlimactic. It seemed that Green stuffed these chapters in just to make the book longer, rather than using quality material with any relevance. This made the remainder of the book grow increasingly dull and boring, in great contrast to its gripping opening. John Green had an appreciable variety of strong, diverse ideas that he applied to the novel well, such as learning that love can’t always be predicted or the importance of friendship, but he failed to elucidate them through the cluster of many scenarios. It’s because of these successes and flaws of the book, that I rate it 3.8/5 gravestones.
(Copyright 2016 Janice Negvesky)