Yesterday I finished reading my first book of the summer, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. A lot of people know John Green only from his widely popular novel, The Fault in Our Stars and by the movie adaptation of the same name. But I’ve become quite familiar with Green, from watching his YouTube videos with his brother, Hank, to favoriting his tweets about his two adorable kids, to reading almost all of his books. His book, Paper Towns, which comes out in theaters July 24th (I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!!), is one of my favorites that I’ve ever read, and I enjoyed it actually a lot more than The Fault in Our Stars or his debut novel, Looking for Alaska. I think that I enjoyed An Abundance of Katherines more than TFiOS and Looking for Alaska, but not as much as Paper Towns. So here’s what I thought about it:
Okay, quick synopsis (I promise no spoilers– yet!): So there’s this guy–a former child prodigy– (accurately) named Colin Singleton, who, over the course of his life, has dated a total of 19 girls named Katherine. And he was dumped by every. single. one. At least that’s what he remembers.
So to get over his most recent Katherine-dumping, he goes on an unplanned roadtrip with his goofy best friend, Hassan. They stumble upon a small town called Gutshot, Tennessee, and meet a girl named Lindsey Lee Wells, her friends, and her mom, Hollis. While trying to get over Katherine XIX, Colin interviews the citizens of Gutshot with Hassan as a job from Hollis, all the while anagramming everything and trying to created a mathematical formula based on his 19 dumpings to predict the eventual breakup of any relationship (including who dumps whom.)
The whole time Colin is in Gutshot, he’s trying to figure out how to matter; he knows that just because he was a child prodigy does not mean that he will become a genius (and actually, he has less of a chance of being one). He thinks that he has to create this formula in order to prove something to the world, to prove that he is a worthwhile human being and that he matters.
OKAY HERE COME THE SPOILERS SO IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT AND WANT TO READ IT JUST SKIP THIS PART UNTIL YOU SEE THE PICTURE OF THE QUOTE
Okay, I won’t spoil everything because, you know, that’s not cool, but I think it’s important to say what I’ve learned from this book, which has to deal with the ending.
Colin does finish the formula; all 19 Katherine relationships work perfectly in the equation. What he doesn’t realize at first is that you can analyze the past, but you can’t predict the future. He realizes this when he pursues his first relationship with a non-Katherine and disproves the formula after staying together for four whole days. (The formula predicts that she would dump him by then.)
He also learns that his idea of “mattering” was a selfish one. Toward the end of the book, Lindsey–who realizes that not growing attached to people may make them like you, but it won’t make you happy in the end–says to Colin, “You matter as much as the things that matter to you do” (200). That’s a weighty sentence, and one that means a lot to me at this point in my life.
What you put effort into, what you feel passionate about, who you care about– those things make up who you are. If you waste your life not caring about anyone just because you’re afraid of people not caring enough in return, then you don’t really become whole. This book has reassured me of the importance of caring; empathy, passion, and enthusiasm are what make you unlike anyone else. Because no person cares about the same people and the same activities and the same books and movies and ice cream flavors in the same way that you do. Each person cares differently and about different things. And the summation of all of those things that matter to you are what make you matter.
OKAY YOU CAN READ AGAIN NOW IF YOU SKIPPED THAT PART
Even though I found some of An Abundance of Katherines a little slow-paced and the characters not entirely engaging at times, the story expresses some very important themes (as described above) and reveals the plot web in a very clever turn-of-events. Everything comes together, but by the end, you don’t really know where it’s going. And that’s kind of the point.
John Green’s witty dialogue and sharp turns never cease to inspire me in my own writing, and I hope to create voices as honest and real as his. When people say that John Green’s just some YA writer who feeds off of the vulnerable emotions of teenage girls, I can’t help but disagree because of lessons like these. He doesn’t just tell a story; he shares important insights about life, love, and happiness. I don’t think that there are enough YA books out there that give teenagers enough credit to understand such deep meanings, and that’s what makes me want to write YA in the future.
Have any of you read An Abundance of Katherines? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!