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Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I almost never read works by the same author back-to-back, it just seems to invite unfair comparisons. But I so thoroughly enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars that I decided to start one of his earlier books right away. At 17, Colin Singleton is already kind of washed-up. A child prodigy without much in the way of actual ability, Colin struggles to find a way to make his life matter. Colin's situation becomes unbearable when he is dumped by his girlfriend Katherine just after high school graduation, for the nineteenth time. That's nineteen girls named Katherine, not just the one Katherine nineteen times. It's an admittedly unlikely premise, but it's one that the book managed to wring for everything it's worth without aggravating the reader. It helps that Colin is such an arresting protagonist, obsessive, closed-off, generally good-natured but obviously self-centered. His high aptitude for languages, for anagrams, and for mathematical formulae combine to make him an unusual and interesting character. To get over his break-up Colin and his foul-mouthed best friend Hassan set off on a misguided and calamitous road trip which comes to a sudden stop in Gutshot, Tennessee. There the duo becomes invoved with the daughter of a local factory owner and her meathead boyfriend. The comic misadventures manage to avoid relying on easy stereotypes of rural Southerners for the most part, and also manage to teach Colin some valuable lessons without being too heavy-handed. The chief pleasure in An Abundance of Katherines lies in the inventiveness and playful spirit of John Green. His obvious joy in the use of anagrams, silly puns, and the shenanigans of nerdy teenage boys is infectious.

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