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An Abundance of Katherines

by Victoria Brown 3 months ago in literature
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Read #30 of 2022

An Abundance of Katherines
Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

Being a YA reader in the early 2010s meant you devoured anything and everything John Green wrote.

I am guilty of that phenomenon. Even in 2022. I still enjoy his books, albeit they’re a little cringey – but it’s hard to differentiate between what was cringey: the writing itself of the glamorization and obsession with it.

His early work though, specifically his two first novels, I think are Green’s strongest.

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Green’s second novel, An Abundance of Katherines, is a quirky tale of a former child prodigy, his best friend, and a road trip to the middle of nowhere; because it is so different from his other works – including point of view, dialogue, formatting, an excess of trivia facts, etc. – it is one of Green’s lesser known works, unfortunately. I happen to think it is one of his better ones.

Colin Singleton has had nineteen relationships, all with girls named Katherine. It’s absurd, but this is a John Green novel we’re talking about here. It’s a classic summer after high school road trip YA novel. And it’s kinda great. Maybe in a nostalgic way? It’s the black sheep of the Green collection, the forgotten sheep. And totally mid ‘00s. The slang, the attitude, the taking-your-flip-phone-to-the-middle-of-a-field-to-try-to-find-signal. It probably hasn’t stood the test of time – I would love to see a chronically online TikToker find this novel – but it’s funny.

Nowadays people like to point out that, essentially, the trifecta of John Green’s books – Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars – are all kinda the same. But An Abundance of Katherines isn’t. It’s different. And I love it for that. Don’t get me wrong, the “pick me boy” character (our main character, Colin Singleton) is still annoying, and there’s still a sense of pretentiousness that’s there (I think it just comes with every John Green novel), but it’s good. And at least Green knows that Colin is annoying – he said so himself in the Q & A found in the back of my edition.

An Abundance of Katherines isn’t as popular as Green’s other novels, and I think that’s due to the differences that he took writing Katherines. I don’t know the thought process or writing process John Green has when plotting and writing his novels, but it’s clear it was different with this one. The POV is different (third person rather than his typical first person), footnotes throughout the novel, a math oriented appendix. It’s pretentious and has a lot of interesting facts and trivia – it’s clear the novel was well researched – and has a ton of anagrams. It’s different. It’s fun. The plot isn’t the strongest, but it isn’t any less believable than Green’s other works. He writes about the manic pixie dream girl and the puppy dog boy who loves her from afar. It’s classic John Green, save for maybe The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down (I don’t know much about that one).

John Green changed the landscape of YA literature. He was king for years, still might be. It is a right of passage to discover John Green, and I smile a little every time a young teen checks out of his books from the library. They’re classics, relics of the year 2014 when everything was simple, chevron, and mint green. And when John Green ruled YA lit.

Rereading these books brings me back to that time, when I was thirteen and endlessly reading, thinking this was the best it was gonna get and nothing could ever compare.

It’s funny how life changes but the pages of a book can transport you anywhere despite never changing.


About the author

Victoria Brown

twenty-one & longing.

lover of words, tea, & antiques.

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