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A Book Review of “An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green

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Rose is an enthusiastic writer and reader who publishes articles every Thursday. She enjoys all book genres, especially drama and fantasy.

What’s the Big Deal?

You’ve probably heard of the book (or movie) The Fault in Our Stars. If not, maybe Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, or Turtles All the Way Down ring a bell. If you aren’t familiar with any of these (although you must have been living under a rock not to be), maybe you recognize the name from the educational YouTube series Crash Course.

What name, exactly? John Green. His name may be ordinary, but his writing is not—and this is proven by the Printz Medal, Printz Honor, and Edgar Award he’s been given. He’s also had three movie adaptations of his books released over the years. An Abundance of Katherines was only Green’s second novel, but it still shines with the tenacity and humor that the best of his books are known for.

“An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green

“An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green

Plot Summary

Colin Singleton is many things—a son, a best friend, a brilliant child prodigy. But the most important label to him has always been boyfriend, and it’s one that’s been true since the first girl kissed him on the cheek as a kid—the first Katherine—and ever since then, Colin has dated 19 girls, all with the namesake of his first. “Colin Singleton’s type was not physical but linguistic: he liked Katherines. And not Katies or Kats or Kitties or Cathys or Rynns or Trinas or Kays or Kates or, God forbid, Catherines. K-A-T-H-E-R-I-N-E-S.”

This romantic peculiarity works just fine for Colin until the nineteenth Katherine dumps him, and he’s left with an aching hole in his gut where she used to be. As a solution, he and his Muslim friend Hassan decide to go on a road trip. They don’t know where, but they know they’re both searching for something, and so the pair drive aimlessly until they wind up in run-down, middle-of-nowhere Gutshot, Tennessee.

Having been given jobs by resident factory manager Hollis Wells, Colin and Hassan decide to stay in Gutshot until they don’t feel the need to anymore. During their time there, they meet Lindsey, a charismatic tour guide; Hassan gets his first girlfriend (even though Colin points out it’s haram: forbidden by Islamic law); and Colin himself goes to work trying to write a mathematic formula that can represent and predict the outcome of all romantic relationships—past, present, and future—in the hopes that it could win him his beloved Katherine back.

Quick Facts

  • Author: John Green
  • Pages: 256
  • Genre: YA fiction, romance
  • Rating: 3.6/5 Goodreads, 4/5 Common Sense Media
  • Release Date: September 21, 2006
  • Publisher: Penguin Books/Dutton and Speak

To Read or Not to Read?

I recommend this book if:

  • You’ve read and enjoyed authors like David Levithan, Jennifer Niven or Nicola Yoon
  • You’re a knowledge-oriented person and enjoy random trivia, word games, and facts
  • You’re a math nerd (spoiler alert: the book has an appendix in the back filled with the real mathematics behind Colin’s formula and features graphs throughout)
  • Shorter books with bursts of humor and anguish are your style.
  • You’ve been through a breakup (recently or ever) that’s left you feeling like half of a whole

You can never love people as much as you can miss them.

— John Green, “An Abundance of Katherines”

Reviews

  • “There are tender tearful moments of romance and sadness balanced by an ironic tone and esoteric footnotes along with complex math. Fully fun, challengingly complex and entirely entertaining.” —Kirkus Reviews
  • “The novel offers an offbeat, but ultimately wise, perspective on failed romance, even as it explores the challenges, hilarity and occasional moments of beauty on the path to adulthood. Green makes liberal use of footnotes and anagrams which, in the wrong hands, might be distracting. Not here; instead, his sly asides and wordplay-centric plot twists make the story even more fun...” —Bookpage.com
John Green, the book’s author

John Green, the book’s author

The Takeaway

Overall, An Abundance of Katherines is a brief, entertaining read that teens can enjoy whether or not they’re child-prodigy material. The book’s characters are witty, amusing, and well-written, so even though the plot is slightly on the underwhelming side, it’s made up for in the big hearts of Lindsey, Hassan, and, of course, Colin Singleton. The epiphanies the group experiences at the end of the book would well serve anyone looking to fill the hole left by someone else or anyone needing a reminder that every person matters—even if they don’t have a world-famous mathematic formula to prove it.