John Green has been getting renewed attention as a Young Adult author since his latest work, The Fault in our Stars, hit the bestseller list. On June 6th of this year the movie will be released, and in the mean time more people than ever are rushing to their favorite bookstores to pick up copies of Green's books. I thought I'd take advantage of reader interest in The Fault in our Stars to bring attention to another one of his fantastic novels, An Abundance of Katherines.
This is not a new release. In fact, it first came out in 2006. I recently re-read it, and wanted to share it with you. Like Green's other novels, An Abundance of Katherines follows an awkward but lovable teenage boy with a lot to learn about himself and where he fits into the world. Colin was a child prodigy, but now that he's finishing high school, can he somehow achieve his full potential to become a true genius? Someone who makes breakthroughs instead of just memorizing and applying the revelations of others? His track record with girls doesn't help, either: all nineteen relationships he's had have been with girls named Katherine, and they've all dumped him.
Trying to alleviate the pain of his breakup with K19, Colin and his best friend Hassan take a road trip and wind up in Gutshot, TN, while following the trail of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. While there they stumble into Lindsey, a smart girl with no plans to leave her hometown, and somehow find themselves with summer jobs recording the stories of the small town's factory workers. In a desperate attempt to make his mark on the world, Colin decides to come up with the Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, by which the arc of a relationship can be predicted, by using data from his own experiences.
Green always writes a certain type of main character: awkward, smart but confused, endearingly dorky teenage boys. But while they all follow this same basic outline, the personality quirks that each has are unique to the book. For example, Colin only dates girls named Katherine, can't tell a story without going on a billion brainy tangents, and compulsively anagrams words and phrases. Hassan is his perfect counterpart, with a very different worldview, religious affiliation, and a social adeptness that has always eluded Colin. These issues lead to a few fights, yes, but it's obvious to the reader (and to both of them, really) that they do need one another, despite the issues that sometimes get in the way of their friendship.
Another signature of Green's work is the inclusion of some situations that are just so hilariously improbable, they become totally believable with the help of his great writing. (If you ever read his book Paper Towns, which you should, look for the scene with the cow and the minivan.) In An Abundance of Katherines, I particularly enjoyed the scenes where Colin and Hassan are pretending to be French exchange students, and where they go on a feral pig hunt with some of their new acquaintances in Gutshot. I quite literally laughed until my stomach hurt, couldn't read more than a line at a time because it was just too funny. The situational humor that Green uses, combined with his memorable and relatable characters, is really a potent combination.
Colin's bit existential revelation at the end of the book wasn't much of a surprise to me. But then again, it wasn't much of a surprise to Hassan or Lindsey either. It would have seemed a little too corny for me if I as a reader was supposed to gasp and have this mind-blowing realization with Colin, because let's face it, I figured that one out on my own crazy teenage adventures. But the fact that Green made it a big deal to Colin, and emphasized that it was just Colin's "eureka moment" (even excluding the other two characters present) helped to avoid feelings of disappointment for me. Sometimes participating in someone else's journey toward revelation, even if it's just by reading a book about them, can be just as rewarding as being there for the real thing.
In addition to An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and The Fault in our Stars, Green has also written Looking for Alaska (which won a Printz Award) and co-wrote Will Grayson, Will Grayson with David Levithan. You should read all of them. No joke. And your local, independent bookstore can help you with that. You should also check out the Vlogbrothers, a YouTube channel of wit an hilarity, run by John Green and his brother Hank. One of John's videos even features the time that he came to visit my workplace in Bellingham. Watch, read, and enjoy!
This review originally appeared on Jenny's blog.