Friday, March 30, 2012

Teen/YA Review: An Abundance of Katherines

I have been meaning to read a John Green novel for a very long time; I keep hearing people rave about what a wonderful writer he is and how he is one of the best YA authors out there.  So, even though I have stacks and stacks of teen/YA books here at my house, waiting to be read, I detoured to the Teen section of our library last week to search for John Green.  None of his better-known award-winners were on the shelf (I have a feeling they rarely are!), but I found one book, An Abundance of Katherines, that I brought home and read.  I enjoyed this heartfelt, humorous novel very much.

Colin Singleton has just graduated from high school, but he is not celebrating.  He has just been dumped by his girlfriend, Katherine, one in a long string of break-ups with Katherines – nineteen to be exact.  Colin is a child prodigy who started to read at age two.  The problem is that he feels like everyone else has caught up to him now, and what is a child prodigy who is no longer a child?  He fears he is no longer special and will never do anything that really matters in life.

To cheer him up – and amuse himself – Colin’s best friend, Hassan, suggests a road trip to get Colin’s mind off the latest Katherine.  Hassan is an overweight Muslim who was as much of an outcast as Colin when the two met in middle school and became each other’s first – and only – best friend.  So, the two set off in Satan’s Hearse, their name for Colin’s enormous Oldsmobile, and leave Chicago.

They encounter new friends, a town in the middle of nowhere Tennessee, a dead archduke’s grave, and a feral hog, but Colin is still obsessing over the break-up and his long, bleak history with Katherines.  He decides to approach the problem mathematically, coming up with a Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability that he hopes will allow anyone to predict the course (and eventual demise) of any relationship.  Then, maybe, he will have done something that matters.

This novel has a great sense of humor, and the witty repartee between Colin and Hassan is endlessly amusing.  But there are also plenty of solid, real-life emotions here, as both boys grapple with their insecurities and grow emotionally during the summer.  The issues here are those that every young person deals with – the meaning of friendship, the quest for love, and battles with self-doubt.  Overall, it was a very entertaining and satisfying novel.  I look forward to reading more John Green books!

215 pages, Dutton Books


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