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An Abundance of Katherines
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on July 31, 2016
Let me start this review by saying I'm a pretty big John Green fan. I started with Paper Towns, which I got as a gift, reading it in one sitting. I liked it so much that I went out and bought Looking for Alaska and read that in an all-nighter session, too. I loved Alaska. It covers the meaning of life while introducing three unforgettable characters: Pudge, The Colonel, and Alaska. And no, I didn't have to Google the names.
Everyone always talks about A Fault in our Stars, but I was more curious about Green's sophomore effort, An Abundance of Katherines. Unlike Paper Towns and Alaska, I didn't read this in one sitting. It took several sessions for me to get through this.
At first, I liked it well enough. We've got Colin, a depressed wannabe protege who has just been dumped for the umpteenth time by a Katherine, who is being pushed to get out and live by his lazy, underachieving friend, the comic relief character, Hassan. Hassan doesn't have a job and he has taken a year off before going to college. The two decide to take a road trip. Of course?
I'm not going to go through the plot, but let's just say it's very forgettable in comparison to Alaska. Will Colin learn that there is more to life than getting dumped by girls with the same name and find a cool new girl (perhaps with a different name)? Will Hassan learn the meaning of hard work?
Throughout the book we get a bunch of flashbacks to Colin's past relationships, but I can't say I was enthralled by these sections. They feel a bit pointless, and while some flashbacks are funny (like Colin getting dumped immediately by Katherine 1), most scenes just tend to drag because I found myself not caring.
Let me explain, the reason I loved Alaska and Paper Towns was because the characters were so lovable, but here, meh, I just didn't connect. Sure, Hassan is funny, but he feels one-dimensional. His shtick wore thin relatively quickly. Colin, well, I just found him to be a whiny s***, to be honest. He's a loser, like Pudge, but without the charm and mannerisms that made me connect with that character.
I think the main problem is that John Green wrote this in third-person, as opposed to first-person. The writing feels more distant. I just didn't buy what I was reading. Whereas, even the scenes in Alaska that felt made-up at least had a lovable humor or character developing aspect to them. Here, everything kind of feels forced.
That's not to say I hated this book or anything, but in comparison to Green's other work, it feels clunky. And the ending, while nice, doesn't have the same moral impact or twist as his other works had. Overall, I'd skip this unless you're a Green Completist.
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on November 23, 2015
[copied from my Goodreads review)

Was on the fence between 3* and 4* and I think the disappointing appendix caused it to drop down to 3*.

I'm a huge fan of John Green having already read The Fault in Our Stars (5*) and Paper Towns (4*) before this one. I follow him on Twitter, listen to the podcast he does with his brother, and even enjoy watching his 15-minute long AFC Wimbly Wombly YouTube videos where he just talks while playing FIFA 14. But An Abundance of Katherines feels like a lesser novel than the previous two I've read, and that may be simply because it was his second novel and I'm reading them all in reverse order.

AAoK tells the story of Colin Singleton, a child prodigy who, as he is approaching adulthood, comes to the realization that there's no such thing as adult prodigy. His ability to anagram any phrase instantly, his voracity for reading and learning, even his polyglotism will all be less and less impressive as he grows up. And so he begins to worry about what his lasting mark on society will be.

On top of all that, he's dated (and been dumped by) 19 different Katherines. No Kates or Kathryns or Catherines; for some reason, he's gone out with 19 Katherines and has always been dumped by them. He eventually has a "Eureka moment" and realizes he may be able to be remembered if he can mathematically show why these relationships didn't work out. He starts off with some simple equations and eventually works on something only math geniuses could comprehend or plot in an attempt to show how long a relationship will last and who will dump whom. If he could only make this equation work, maybe he can see a future where he and Katherine XIX would get back together.

All of this math occurs away from home (it wouldn't be a John Green novel without teenagers going on a road trip away from their parents). He and his best friend, Hassan (an overweight, Muslim slacker one year older than Colin, who'd rather sit at home and watch Judge Judy than apply to college) drive off and eventually come across Gutshot, TN—home of the final burial place of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (you know the guy whose assassination prompted WWI?). Here, the two meet Lindsey Lee Wells (it wouldn't be a John Green novel without a young girl with three names)—convenience store worker extraordinaire & Ferdinand grave tour guide. She figures mattering (or ever leaving Gutshot) is overrated and is more than happy to grow old and die in her little town, a nice foil to Colin.

Lindsey's mother, Hollis, runs a factory that basically only produces tampon strings and also employs basically the whole town. She hires the boys to join her daughter in a new mission—interviewing people who work or have worked at the factory to create an oral history of Gutshot. The boys agree and the three of them have some wacky adventures. Colin continues to work on his Theorem, Hollis meets a hot chubby chaser who makes him second guess his Muslim beliefs, and Lindsey acts all manic pixie dream girly, all while dating TOC (The Other Colin), your standard captain of the football team popular guy.

Whereas Green's previous (to me but later in, you know, real time) novels TFiOS and PT both have some deeper characters and better stories, AAoK was lacking. Sure it made me chuckle but Colin was overly annoying, Lindsey overly MPDG, and Hassan overly funny about his weight. Everything felt just a little too unrealistic (19 Katherines?! Unintentionally?!?) and parts of it were kind of boring. The will-they-or-won't-they between Colin and Lindsey was cute but predictable. The main thing this book had going for it were the footnotes used throughout (reminded me of all the great footnotes in A Selective History of Max Werner) and one of the footnotes promised an appendix that would explain the math behind Colin's Theorem.

Well, I guess the appendix was written for people like John Green who aren't good at math. It describes what an equation is and how you'd graph one but doesn't get into the actual math behind this:


There's no talk about if this equation is graphing in radians or degrees. There's no talk about what the rightmost part (the one with the absolute value) is doing there. I was a math major and I'm trying to "see" what this is doing and I cannot grasp parts of it and when I try to graph it, I get errors with certain values of H. I was hoping the appendix would be an actual mathematical paper going into how the mathematician behind this equation came up with it. Sure it produces a few nice graphs, but I was hoping to see all 19 graphed out. We got the stories of all 19 Katherines, but I wanted to see the math of all 19 Katherines!

The appendix was a HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT (which anagrams to UNHAPPIEST DEMOTING which is what happened with my 3.5* falling to a 3*)!

I'm sure I'll still get around to reading Looking for Alaska someday (probably closer to when that movie is coming out, but I'm in no real hurry any longer. Maybe this book was just a sophomore slump..
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on December 5, 2016
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green is a decent choice for young adults. It describes how a relationship can change a person and can help with understanding what is meaningful and not. This is a pretty easy read but also can be difficult. The first few chapters are kind of boring due to explaining the story. It was hard for me to get into the book because of those first few chapters. If you can handle the main character whining, this will be a good choice for you. It can get annoying because I felt that was all the author knew how to write about. It took me 3 weeks to read the book because I had school and other activities going on, but anyone could get through this book within a week. I don’t suggest this book because the story line is not an attention grabber. John Green usually writes really interesting stories but An Abundance of Katherines is slow. If you enjoy slow story lines that you can follow and understand, this would be a decent choice. He does include going on a road trip to figure out who the character is but it was still just whining. I would rate this book lower than his other books.
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on October 16, 2017
Let me begin by saying I am a fan of John Green's writing and, honestly of John Green, himself. I've seen him speak to teachers at a conference, follow his Twitter, and occasionally watch videos posted by him and his brother. I purchased this book at the same time as others 3+ years ago- reading The Fault in our Stars first, then Paper Towns and then, Looking for Alaska. As sometimes happens with buying too many Kindle books at one time, I assumed I had read An Abundance of Katherines, but actually hadn't. Maybe because it is the most recently read and it's the story I want to tell myself but I've decided this one is the one I like the best of the works I have read of John Green. All of his books involve characters uncovering their "truth with a capital t" - about connecting with the human condition in touching, funny, memorable, and deeply meaningful ways. Each of his stories involves the character connecting with life through an odd, adorable nerd/dork fascination with an attention to detail that is remarkable and leaves me more knowledgeable even if I didn't think I needed to know so much about maps/mathematical theorems/a particular novel's author/famous last words. An Abundance of Katherines did not disappoint and proved/helped me re-remember that John Green is a magician with words, connects to the insecure teenager still within all of us, and can make us laugh while crying at the same time. I am really looking forward to reading Turtles All the Way Down - hoping it will become my new favorite.
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on October 8, 2015
I think I made the mistake of becoming a John Green fan by reading The Fault in Our Stars first. After that, I knew I would read anything that came from his mind, including tweets that are limited to 140 characters. He's brilliant, no question.

An Abundnce of Katherines was one of his earlier books, and after reading his most recent first, it shows. He's grown a lot as a writer. The book reads well, it does pull you in as you hope any book you begin will, but it's also predictable. The predictably is clever, and all things John Green, but I felt like I've read the idea of this story before, only by different authors and maybe not as intelligently written.

Some of that may have to do with the mathematical thereoms that are thrown into the story. Although it made it interesting, it was distracting as I've never been much of a math person.

It was easy to see that in true John Green fashion, he went to great extents in writing this book. He did his homework and enlisted those who had knowledge of things he didn't.

If you're a John Green fan, and if you are reading this I'm sure you are, I would suggest it, but I wouldn't expect it to leave you the way The Fault in Our Stars, Looking For Alaska or Paper Towns did.
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on September 11, 2014
A strange plot, not very likable characters, and many, long, boring passages. Maybe this was supposed to be a complete fable, or a metaphor for something deep. Well, if it was, I completely missed it. Colin is a child prodigy who has been dumped by 19 girlfriends, all named Katherine. Now I knew that coming into the book and shame on me for not casting it aside right then and there but I'm a sucker for road trip stories and this one started out that way.....but not for long. Colin and buddy Hassan wind up in Gutshot, Tennessee, where Colin meets a charming young miss and her rube boyfriend, also Colin. No, the girl's name is not Katherine. Then not much happens for 150 pages or so. Thankfully, this is a very slim book and after another 50 pages give or take, it ends with not much of a climax. Not cute, not charming, not interesting.
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on March 16, 2018
It’s a story about nothing. It really reminded me of the catcher in the rye (which I was not a fan of). One of the Katherines even compares Colin to Holden interestingly enough. I felt like there was no real climb or climax, it was like a calm river canoe ride not an intense mountain climb. I picked up this book and read about 5 pages and had to put it down. Then one day I decided to give it another try and I just really wanted it to end. However, I will say I did laugh a couple of times and I found the footnotes to be both unique and distracting. There is math talk throughout the book, as Colin is working on a theorem about dumpers and dumpees. I admired that the math done was actually researched and checked by a mathematician and not just pulled out of thin air. The ending is not too bad but I wasn’t satisfied. Although it does get a little “philosophical” and deep, which was nice.
As far as characters go Colin was unlikeable at times but he did grow in the end. Hassan was mostly likable and funny I suppose. I felt like Lindsey was the deepest character and I actually liked her the most.
This is one of John Green’s lowest rated novels but I figured I’d give it a try anyway. The Fault in Our Stars was the first novel of his I read and I absolutely loved it. I then read Looking For Alaska and for me it wasn’t all it was hyped up to be so I was slightly disappointed in it. I realized maybe his early novels aren’t too great but he’s improved. However, I’m a little skeptical about reading Turtles All the Way Down.
I’m not crazy about this book but I wouldn’t say no don’t read it. Definitely give it a shot if you’re a die hard John Green fan.
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on July 23, 2014
After being totally excited about The Fault in our Stars and Looking for Alaska, I expected that this book would leave me with a similar reaction. After reading both of those books, I immediately recommended them to teens and could “guarantee” they would love the books. This is not that book. I could easily put it down mid-chapter, I didn’t find myself trying to sneak bits of time to read it, and I wasn’t trying to predict the ending or telling people about it as I was reading it. When I finished it, I basically thought it was an “good” book, but not great. As I started thinking about it more though, I started realizing that in some ways, it was actually a better book than the previous two I mentioned. It was a more challenging book to write that doesn’t rely on cancer or an unexpected tragic death to elicit a response from the reader. The book has a small town setting without being condescending to small towns – either by making them pathetic or quaint. Furthermore, the theme is more layered, more complex. Our protagonist, a child prodigy, is supposedly not living up to his potential and we are presented with two supporting characters who also are not meeting expectations in different ways. The idea of setting expectations and having the courage to change them is an interesting conflict to present young people with – or really anybody. To accomplish the task of conveying this message without any “big” event taking place is certainly a success on the part of John Green. So even though I will give it four stars, I have to admit it’s actually a better book than his most popular books, even though I enjoyed them more!
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on April 12, 2016
I can't help it. I just love John Green's characters and their voices. He has the best way of describing EVERYTHING. And the footnotes are hilarious and awesome.

Narrator's voice is awesome
Characters are well-rounded and funny
Ending has expected and unexpected parts
Excellent last line
Fun to read

I wish he'd resolved one of the issues that arose in the book, but it's realistic that he didn't, so I can't be too upset by it
It's full of weird facts, which don't bother me but might bother some people
Colin thinks way too much....and in weird ways (but normal and expected given his character)
Honestly, I'm struggling to come up with cons...

I really hope my books are as cleverly written as his.
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on July 11, 2015
I really enjoyed two other books by John Green, Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, which I read as paperback editions. Having just purchased a Kindle paperwhite, I bought this book in Kindle format.

This was a good read, but not nearly as enjoyable as the other books mentioned above. I won't summarize the plot here, other reviewers have done a far better job at that than I. The format of the book was interesting, with math formulas, graphs and anagrams interspersed as part of the story. I am a math geek and love anagrams so these certainly piqued my interest. However, on my Kindle the equations and graphs usually were too small to be very legible. Perhaps had I oriented the display in landscape mode they would have been sized a little larger? I do have the font sized larger than the default but it seems like the graphics don't scale up even if there is room. I also didn't realize at first that I could tap a footnote number to display the text (I'm still a bit of a Kindle noob).

At times I found myself just not caring about all of Colin's obsession with girls named Katherine (why can't he just move on?). The humorous situations he and his road trip buddy, Hassan, find themselves in did make up for the somewhat tedious rehashing of girlfriend dramas, particularly Colin's most recent Katherine. I have some disbelief that a kid who was a prodigy (and a loner with an arrogant personality) could possibly ever have had that many girlfriends growing up. But all in all it's a good story, just not great.
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