Contemporary

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

The problem exactly is that she dumped me. That I’m alone. Oh my God, I’m alone again. And not only that, but I’m a total failure in case you haven’t noticed. I’m washed up. I’m former. Formerly the boyfriend of Katherine XIX. Formerly a prodigy. Formerly full of potential. Currently full of shit. – John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

Colin Singleton used to be a child prodigy, but worries that he would never be known as a genius. He is on a neverending search to understand (& memorise) everything, and his favourite thing to do is anagramming. He also has a thing for Katherines – he has dated and been dumped by nineteen Katherines at the beginning of the novel. To cheer him up, his best friend Hassan decides that the two of them should go on a road trip. Hassan is looking for adventure, and Colin is trying to complete his Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability (which he hopes he would win a Nobel Peace Prize for), but things do not go as planned.The two of them ends up in Gutshot, Tennessee, where they meet Lindsey Lee and Hollis (Lindsey’s mother) and ends up staying with them.

My favourite thing about An Abundance of Katherines, and John’s Green story in the Let It Snow anthology, is the characters. If these stories are anything to go by, John Green excels at writing smart, believable teens. I wasn’t a child prodigy, even though I started reading at the same age as Colin. So I don’t know about being a prodigy. But I do know about being very different from the other kids at school and trying to find connections in everything and finding everything so very interesting and being told by other people, “Not interesting.” And I related to Hassan, because I think I’m a non-doer myself, which is probably one of the reasons I’m so addicted to books. I especially appreciated Hassan’s character because for the first time, I get to read about a Muslim character that I can actually relate to. Amal in Does My Head Look Big In This? (by Randa Abdel-Fattah) was just too much of the “perfect Muslim girl” for me to believe in or relate to, and Pash in Whip It (by Shauna Cross) doesn’t seem to hold to any Islamic values at all. Hassan, on the other hand, seems more believable to me. There’s this quote from him that I wanted to include but I can’t seem to find it now. And I love the way he introduced himself as “not a terrorist.” Haha.

The second thing I love about this book is the math. I love math. I sometimes say that I hate math, but I love it really. I just happen to be very bad at it, so sometimes it annoys me. I love how John Green includes math in the novel in a way that makes it interesting, beautiful, and still pretty easy to understand (the appendix is very helpful). I also love the anagrams and the useless trivia that Colin shares, which are not math, but are equally interesting.

This is the second work of John Green I’ve read (the first was a novella in Let It Snow, which is also really good) and I definitely will be getting more. I’ve already ordered a copy of Looking for Alaska (Kino doesn’t have the version I want), and will be getting a copy of Paper Towns as soon as my budget says it’s okay. (I have a LOT of books on reserve already, so I can’t add more at the moment)

Here are some of my favourite quotes:

“Eventually, he found the bed too comfortable for his state of mind, so he lay down on his back, his legs sprawled across the carpet. He anagrammed “yrs forever” until he found one he liked: sorry fever. And then he lay there in his fever of sorry and repeated the now memorized note in his head and wanted do cry, but instead he only felt this aching behind his solar plexus. Crying adds something: crying is you, plus tears. But the feeling Colin had was some horrible opposite of crying. It was you, minus something. He kept thinking about one word – forever – and felt the burning ache just beneath his rib cage.

It hurt like the worst ass-kicking he’d ever gotten. And he’d gotten plenty.”

“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.”

“What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?”

“Colin did not laugh. Instead he thought, Tampons have strings? Why? Of all the major human mysteries – God, the nature of the universe, etc. – he knew the least about tampons. To Colin, tampons were a little bit like grizzly bears: he was aware of their existence, but he’d never seen one in the wild, and didn’t really care to.”

EDIT: I just realised that really, the first John Green work I’ve read is the short story “Freak the Geek” from the anthology Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd. I loved it, which was why I borrowed ‘s copy of Let It Snowin the first place.

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