I doubt that there are many books with a premise as downright bizarre as John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines. John Green, as most readers will be aware, writes these teen angst stories very well in my (limited) experience of him, and I enjoyed Paper Towns when I read it. Yet reading this quirky book, I found myself reminded of another book, similarly quirky, and just as gripping. Was Green just trotting out a book with superficial tweaks to the plot which had worked wonders to him before?
Colin Singleton only dates girls called Katherine (note the ‘k’). He has had 19 relationships with Katherines, and all have ended badly for Colin, he can just about recall each time he got dumped. And so in an attempt to get over his latest dumping (by K-19), Colin goes on a road-trip with his best (and only) friend Hassan (who has his own issues, including a similar one-friend issue). What at first starts out as an attempt to overcome grief at being dumped transforms into a stay in a backwater named Gutshot, where the (limited) action really gets going.
The thing that struck me most about An Abundance of Katherines (as alluded to above) was the plot. The same general formula was used as in Paper Towns-a nerdy guy who somehow has (a limited number of) great friends goes on a roadtrip to try and sort out his problems whilst simultaneously hitting above his weight dating. These aren’t the odd similarity, the whole foundations of the two books are the same. Green does it well once (in Paper Towns), but doing it twice it feels like Green can only do one very limited type of story.
Whilst I’m griping about this, I’m going to go out on a limb and contradict all the blurb reviews-the humour was poorly done and cringeworthy at times. This may have been a result of the main character who was arrogant and irritating, his supposedly endearing quality (that he goes off on a preposterous number of tangents) managed to become tiresome even to me (and I’m always up for a good tangent). And as if that wasn’t enough, the child prodigy has perfect memory except when it matters at a convenient time to move along the plot.
It was not all bad though. Green may only do one type of book, but he does it very well, as with Paper Towns, this was gripping despite the absence of a plot either realistic or action packed. The book flew by, and was not nearly as patronising as some teen books are (I get especially annoyed when authors entirely misrepresent and/or stereotype teenagers), yet did stretch plausibility several times.
The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath.
Narrative-the tangents get wearing and the narration style can get immensely irritating-★★½
Character development-the two main characters are almost stereotypes, and once again the nerdy main character does surprisingly well in the dating game- ★★½
Overall-a good book to pass the time with, but if you’ve read other books by John Green it may be best to give this a miss-★★★ (65)