Saturday, May 7, 2011

Summer Re-Reads: An Abundance of Katherines

Is there actually a formula for romantic relationships? Colin Singleton, protagonist of John Green’s second book, An Abundance of Katherines, thinks he can make one.

Colin Singleton: washed-up child prodigy, anagram-crazy, and has been dumped by nineteen girls named Katherine. He wallows in the Katherines-induced depression, until his overweight Judge Judy-loving Muslim friend, Hassan, drags him into a road trip to give a solution to his love problem. Colin works on his Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationships. As they arrive in Gutshot, Tennessee, they encounter the factors that may drastically affect the variables in Colin’s Theorem. Strewn with anagrams, graphs, and quirky characters with an equally quirky plot, An Abundance of Katherines is a funny, intelligent, and a poignant read.

This novel is more than what it seems. It’s not just a story of Dumpers and Dumpees; it’s also a story of mattering in the world, being unique in the simplest ways, and being the real you no matter what other people will say about you. The droll dialogues and plot turns did not make the novel trivial, nor did it slacken the importance of all the morals.

What convinced me that John Green is a really amazing author is that he can deftly weave characters that you’ll love, even if they’re unlikable from the very start. Colin is such a character—egotistical, hungry for attention, and almost always sulking about his failed romances. Overlooking the fact that he is a classic John Green protagonist (nerd or always smart to a fault), I have to admit that it was hard to like someone like this character. But the author brought the better side of Colin through other characters and events that molded him into what he really is. Definitely showing, not telling.

I have to admit that there are times when the plot is so sluggish that I’m tempted to skip some pages, but I think that it's necessary for the characters to develop. I particularly liked Hassan, the funnypants sidekick. Things tend to get more interesting when he’s around, especially that he is one of the most powerful influences on Colin’s character development—and vice versa. As for the other characters, well, they’re quite ordinary. Lindsey Lee Wells didn’t quite stand out, I think, although her relationship with the protagonists is really interesting. She felt a little cardboard-y, if you know what I mean.

All in all, this is a good read. I laughed out loud a lot, and that’s saying something because I don’t really laugh out loud while reading and it’s the second time I ever sat with this book. I don’t love math, but because of this novel I learned that you can have fun with the subject if you want to. :) The hilarious footnotes sort of remind me of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s collab work, Good Omens (which is awesome by the way, go read it).

Next reread: Paper Towns.

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