An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

abundance of katherinesBibliographic Information:

Green, J. (2008). An abundance of Katherines. New York: Speak. (9780142412022)

Plot Summary:

Colin Singleton is worried that he is a washed-up child prodigy and will never make genius status. And he was just dumped by his girlfriend, Katherine the 19th. So, he and his friend, Hassan, decide to go on a road trip to Chicago. On the way, they stop at Gutshot Tennessee for a tour of the gravesite of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. While there, they are invited to stay and interview help with a local history project. Colin also meets Lindsey, a girl whose name is not Katherine.

To be a genius, Colin knows he has to create something new so he decides to create a formula to determine how long a relationship will last.

Critical Evaluation:

Abundance of Katherines  is a quirky book with an abundance of unique and complex characters. It can be enjoyed for the humour at this level, but it is a book that will speak to readers at other levels as well.

At one level it is a book about finding meaning in one’s ordinary life. A teacher at my school has a quote above her whiteboard that reads, “What will you do with your one special life?” This is a question that Colin, Hassan, Lindsay, and Hollis are all grappling with; although they would debate the “special”. Indeed, it is the reason why Hollis (Lindsay’s mother) hired the boys. Colin and Hassan spend a lot of time interviewing people as part of the local history project because the town is dying and there is a desire to create a living record of their time and space.

Colin also obsesses about leaving a mark. The idea that he is washed up and will never be anything more than a child prodigy is abhorrent to him. He has worked very hard to be special. Not only did he study all the time in high school but in his free time he still anagram and studies languages and codes. In short, Colin does not easily fit into society. He does not pick up on social cues or react to people as expected.

Hassan is another character who is having difficulty finding where he fits in the world. Since he cannot decide what to do he chooses to do nothing. He has chosen Judge Judy over attending college.

In other words, Colin and Hassan are not feeling connected with other people. They hover at the edges of other people’s social lives. Green emphasizes this separation by using a third person narrative structure. He limits the point of view to Colin but does not allow Colin to tell the story thus separating him for the readers.

Colin’s back story is very important for the plot development in the present. He needs to go back and analyze his past relationships so that he can look for patterns. And that is another interesting theme of the book. The patterns in math, of which there are many demonstrated in the novel, are understandable. Colin’s difficulties with relationships are partially due to the fact that they are not explainable with a pattern.

Reader’s Annotation:

When Colin is dumped the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine he realizes that this is not a good pattern. So, he decides to create formula to determine how long a relationship will last. When Lindsay is introduced as a factor in the formula it becomes clear that she may be too random to fit.

Information About the Author:

An award winning author, John Green has written Looking for Alaska (2006 Michael L. Printz Award), Paper Towns (2009 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery) and The Fault in Our Stars (2013 Odyssey Award Audiobook)

John Green was born August 4th, 1977 in Orlando, Florida. Green stays connected with his readers through his video blog, Brotherhood 2.0, that he operates with his brother (John Green).

Genre:

  • Realistic fiction
  • Interpersonal relations — Juvenile fiction.
  • Self-perception — Juvenile fiction.
  • Mathematics — Juvenile fiction.

Curriculum Ties:

  • English
    • Character development
    • Coming-of-age
    • identity

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read a passage from the book where Hassan finds Colin on the floor.
  • Book list – Road Trips

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

 My daughter received a copy of An Abundance of Katherines for her birthday and strongly recommended I read. I have a policy of reading the novels teenagers recommend to me and decided to add it to this collection. It is realistic and humourous, which will appeal to my teen readers.

Reviews:

  • Pattee, A. S. (2006). An Abundance of Katherines. School Library Journal, 52(9), 206.

“As usual, Green’s primary and secondary characters are given descriptive attention and are fully and humorously realized. While enjoyable, witty, and even charming, a book with an appendix that describes how the mathematical functions in the novel can be created and graphed is not for everybody. The readers who do embrace this book, however, will do so wholeheartedly.”

  • Dobrez, C. (2006). An Abundance of Katherines. Booklist, 102(22), 75.

“The idea behind the book is that everyone’s story counts, and what Colin’s contributes to the world, no matter how small it may seem to him, will, indeed, matter.”

Awards:

  • 2007 Michael L. Printz Honor Book
  • Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

References:

An abundance of Katherines. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2013 from http://johngreenbooks.com/abundance-of-katherines/

John Green (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2013 from http://johngreenbooks.com/bio-contact/

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