An Abundance of Katherines
By John Green
Published by Dutton Juvenile, September 21, 2006
Reality Fiction, Mathematics, Relationships
215 pages plus appendix
Grades 9 and up
Freshly heartbroken from getting dumped by the nineteenth Katherine in a row, former child-prodigy Colin (“not a prodigy, not yet a genius”) Singleton and his best friend Hassan decide to take a road trip. Without a clear destination in mind, they drive off in Colin’s hearse in hopes of finding something, anything, to distract themselves. Colin compulsively makes anagrams of words and finds connections between seemingly random things, and Hassan makes jokes out of everything. The two boys -- Colin a fresh high school graduate and Hassan a little more than a year into his “taking a year off before college” phase -- find themselves in Gutshot, Tennessee, the final resting place of Franz Ferdinand, the former Archduke of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Also in this town lives an intriguing girl who is not, for once, named Katherine. Through a series of incidents, Colin is inspired to derive a mathematical formula that can model and predict all romantic relationships, which, if successful, can finally mark Colin’s passage from prodigy to genius.
John Green has created an assembly of characters likeable, believable, and identifiable. Their interactions with each other feel real, with creative, funny, and sometimes completely unexpected dialog. Although Colin is filled with facts, languages, and anagram talents, he can’t quite seem to figure out human relationships or himself. Hassan, filled with humor and likeability, can’t seem to motivate himself to get on with his life or take anything seriously. The road trip and the town they land in serve to knock some sense into both of them, and hopefully bring some to the reader as well. With its humor and clever feel, this book would appeal to teens and adults, but some swearing and sexual scenes might keep this from being ideal for younger teens.
Finally, it should be noted that the math used throughout the book does not have to be understood to enjoy the story, but it is real math and those with some math skills should enjoy the way it augments the plot. (For those who need some math touch up, there is an appendix at the end which further explains the math used in the book.)