[Contains Spolers] While it is never pleasant to be dumped, high school student Colin Singleton has a relationship history to rival even the nastiest of breakups. Beginning with his first girlfriend in the fourth grade, Colin has dated a total of 19 girls named Katherine—and unfortunately been dumped by every single one. When Katherine VIV (also known as K-19) breaks his heart, Colin sets out on a road trip of self-reflection to escape his sheltered town, analyze his relationship history, and just maybe figure out why “the Katherines” are ruling his life. Written from Colin’s perspective and alternating between his past and present experiences, John Green’s “An Abundance of Katherines” is a hilarious and light-hearted read guaranteed to appeal to the heart of any math and science nerd.
Katherines drink black coffee, are slightly bossy, and never go by any nicknames, yet Colin keeps falling for them over and over again. Green’s characterization of Colin’s girlfriends is hilarious albeit extremely unrealistic. As the story progresses, readers can just picture Katherine I’s fourth grade assertiveness and Katherine V’s announcement that she and Colin should just be friends. Impressively, Green’s characterization of the Katherines manages to reveal more about Colin than the girls themselves. Colin is a self-described “washed-up child prodigy” and enjoys reading, reciting random facts, and anagramming words and phrases. However, Colin is also deeply insecure and this is reflected in his relationships with the Katherines. As a protagonist, Colin is interesting because he views the world yearning to understand it with math and science, yet sometimes overlooks the obvious. Hassan, Colin’s best friend and his chosen companion for the road trip, is well developed as a contrast to Colin, but Lindsay, a girl that Colin and Hassan meet on the road trip, is a disappointingly two-dimensional character.
Beneath the quirky humor and easy-to-read prose, the novel highlights several deep themes, including the search for life purpose among young adults, the frail nature of high school relationships, and the complexity of love. As an almost genius, Colin is searching to develop a mathematical formula to predict the length of his relationships. The formula includes popularity, attractiveness, dumper/dumpee tendencies, and introvert/extrovert differentials, along with a scary number of trigonometric functions. While Colin is able to get the formula to work for his past relationships with the Katherines, it fails when applied to his current relationship with Lindsay, illuminating the theme that relationships are in a category that falls far outside the realm of logic and mathematics.
All in all, John Green’s “An Abundance of Katherines” is a creative and unique masterpiece, bringing variety to a genre often criticized for being entirely too predictable. The book is a stark contrast to Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars”, but it lacks none of the deep emotion and compelling storyline that made this sad novel about terminal cancer such a nationwide phenomena. Colin’s adventures will also challenge readers to think about how they can define themselves through relationships with others while still having a separate identity. As Colin fears “How do you just stop being terrified of getting left behind and ending up by yourself forever and not meaning anything to the world?” Open this wonderful novel and find out for yourself.