“An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green

By Emily Elott

In typical John Green style, readers are pulled into An Abundance of Katherines by the engrossing, nuanced, and often hilarious characters. Within the first chapter, readers meet Colin, a child prodigy who has dated 19 girls named Katherine. From the beginning Colin’s strange appetite for “Katherines” piqued my interest and encouraged me to keep reading. As I delved further into Green’s latest novel, I experienced both subtle pity for Colin as he attempts to fit in with the world, even though he is so very different, but also hilarity at the situations Colin, and his Lebanese friend, Hassan, who often delivers punchlines in each situation, encounter.

One observation I have noticed about John Green’s novels is that they are formulaic. There is a specific formula Green uses to create effective prose that both delivers deeper meaning and encourages laugh-out-loud moments. After reading several of his other books as well, I have no complaint against this formula, but actually enjoy the stories it creates. Green is an author I keep returning to because, as he does with Colin and Hassan in An Abundance of Katherines, Green has a phenomenal ability to make characters “real.” I relate to Colin on a fundamental level in that I understand his struggles to fit in with society. His decision to go on a road trip resounds with me because, sometimes, the best solution to frustration with high school drama is to gain distance, either literally or figuratively. Colin is  character that seems real to me, which is a quality I have found in many other characters in Green’s other novels.

It is not only that Green’s characters in An Abundance of Katherines are so utterly believable, but it is also the decisions these characters make and the comments they say that have rendered me enamored with this novel. When Colin creates a math equation that he believes solves the confusion and complexity of love, he graphs the curve. What character before Colin has “graphed the curve of love?” Though I may laugh at the silly, innocent mistakes Colin and Hassan make in this first quarter of the novel, at the same time, I want to protect them, two nerds whose intelligence interferes with social adequacy. I want to teach them how to fit in, but if I do this, then all the originality and power this novel conveys so far will evaporate. It is the sheer obliviousness that Colin and Hassan have towards the social expectations around them, but also that they try their hardest to fit in, that pushed me to keep reading, and is what will drive me to continue reading as the novel progresses.

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13 responses to ““An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green

  1. sarahwallin12

    I agree with Emily when she says that John Green has the remarkable gift of making novels edible for young adult, simply by toning down the language and the characters, while still managing to keep them sophisticated and interesting. He uses the most subtle way possible to introduce characters and show their true personalities. For example, when Colin and Hassan meet Lindsay in Tennessee, she is immediately characterized as someone who reads Celebrity Living, which offers hints at what she’s like, and despite the falseness of these stereotypes, it is a unique way to show how both Colin and Hassan view her at first.

    Green also uses a similar literary technique when trying to get his readers to truly understand the main character of Colin. Colin has dated nineteen Katherines throughout his life, and has been dumped by all of them. He has even come to the conclusion that he likes being dumped, or at least by girls by Katherine. This strange fact about Colin, implies that he is a one sided person, who’s perseverance often does more to harm him than to harm him.

    By using such subtle hints at character traits, John Green is able to make a
    story that is real and relatable. Because in life, there isn’t going to be a long paragraph describing what someone likes or doesn’t or how they behave. So Green is able to mimic the extraordinary human ability to infer and make judgements through simply the black text on the page throughout the novel An Abundance of Katherines.
    -Sarah Wallin, A2

  2. Mckenna M.

    “An Abundance of Katherines” By John Green

    By Mckenna Murray

    “An Abundance of Katherines”, by John Green, is a fun and intriguing read that allows readers to connect easily with the characters as well as invest themself into the plot. While following Colin and Hassan in their road trip, that is supposedly going to help Colin get over Katherine XIX and teach Hassan hard work, readers experience great moments of laughter. Though the characters are incredibly real and relatable, I find some flaws in how believable the plot is.

    Unlike how Emily relates to Colin based on his struggles to fit in to society, I connect to him since he feels that he has no significance in this world and that he has passed his “peak”. This dilemma sounds familiar to me since in high school, no one really knows their life plan and the impact they will leave on this world, but feels that they are equal to everyone else in the sense that most people have reached the same learning level now. Colin has a need to feel special, which he openly admits. This need is part of what, I believe, drives him to leave on a road trip that has no final destination or time limit; to find what his missing piece, which he is continually looking for.

    The plot in this novel, seems believable when the reader considers Colin and Hassan’s need to, as Emily says, leave the high school drama behind. But leaving on a road trip with a high school graduate who has decided to not go to college and not knowing where you are going is not a plan most parents would approve of, especially Colin’s. Who would let their child prodigy son, who has just gotten dumped for the nineteenth time, leave for the whole summer with a very unreliable person as his only company? Though the plot is rather enjoyable to read due to the many twists and turns, when readers step back from the novel, they can easily see that in real life, it is unlikely to actually happen.

  3. John Green’s “An Abundance of Katherines”
    Mary Barnett
    Although “An Abundance of Katherines” is told in the third-person point of view, the narration by John Green suggests the thinking patterns of the main character, Colin. Green frequently uses footnotes to reveal the, often random, thoughts that enter Colin’s (exceptionally complex) mind. After being dumped by his nineteenth girlfriend by the name of Katherine, Colin attempts to formulaically solve his relationship problems, believing that there must be an equation for everything. Like Emily, I feel pity for Colin, who lacks social skills, confidence, common sense, and the ability to connect on an emotional level. He cannot see the world past its scientific composition. He is incapable of accepting the more complex, intangibleness of love. Although I sympathize with Colin, I also find myself irritated with his flaws. He is utterly oblivious of his self-absorption and instead of facing the truth that he is always dumped due to his self-doubt and clinginess; he tries to find a more mathematically accurate answer.
    Through the realistic, engrossing characters and the believable plot, I found myself reading three quarters of the novel in one sitting. The characters are quite relatable and often reveal flaws that all people have but few are willing to admit. Many people experience a clutter of emotions in their teenage years as they struggle to identify themselves. Colin wants to matter in the world, because although he is extremely gifted, he does not know how to use his talents to better himself or society. Colin uses girls in attempts to cope with his other problems, which he cannot quite identify. His attempts only make matters worse, and although Colin is determined to date a girl Katherine without her breaking up with him, it is inevitable that that will be the end result, because Colin goes into the relationship with a fear that she will break up with him.
    It is interesting how stereotypes play a role in the novel. Like Sarah, I noticed that Colin and Hassan falsely labeled Lindsey due to her magazine and appearance. Colin’s harsh and inaccurate first impression of Lindsey displays his judgmental personality. His narcissism renders him oblivious to the fact that he judges others so harshly (that is when their name isn’t Katherine).
    I agree with Mckenna that people often feel the need to matter, especially in high school when teenagers are trying to find their place in society. What makes Colin different is that he has been told all of his life that he is special, and he has been told that he should and will matter more than most people. However, once he became a teenager, his unrecognizable emotions diverted him from his path to pursuing his dreams. Like Mckenna mentioned, people often feel that like they have already reached their peak, but this feeling will continue throughout a person’s life. In order for one to succeed and learn, they must have made mistakes and gone though hardship. It also depends on how a person defines and measures success. One person may value wisdom and believe that he is most successful by the end of his life when he reminisces on his past experiences. Another person, like Colin, may measure success by importance in the world. Although Colin believes that his “missing piece” is significance, he will hopefully learn that his missing piece is emotional connection.

  4. I agree with Mary, as I continue reading the novel, that Colin’s narcissism hinders his development of relationships with other people. He is more interested in becoming a genius, and perfecting his “theorem.” This self-centered world view is something that Colin is characterized by. Some would claim that this is because of his prodigy status, that people have maintained for him since he was a child that he is “better” and “superior” to others becasue of his intelligence. At the same time some of his selfishness is derived from human nature itself. It is inherent in humans to watch out for ourselves and do what is best for us, often disregarding how it affects the other people around us. After Katherine breaks up with him, he decides to go on a road trip, which conveys that he would rather ignore his problems than focus on the personal relationships he still has in his life.
    Katherines have, throughout Colin’s whole life, been the factor that brings him out of his self-centered bubble and into the world of caring about others. There is usually a factor like the Katherines, though maybe not so extreme, that causes humans to see the world from other’s perspectives, care about other people, and eventually shed innate selfishness. Colin uses Katherines to reach out into the world he is so afraid of. Then, when so many Katherines have dumped him, he realizes that part of the system needs to change. This is when he goes on the road trip.
    The introduction of Lindsay to the plot provides a twist. Lindsay begins to teach Colin that life can be continued with people other than Katherines, that he can grow to care about other people besides himself and the Katherines. Though he does not expressly acknowledge it, readers can infer that Colin is beginning to like Lindsay, or at least care about her. This is a big step for Colin, because it demonstrates that he is finally begin to escape his one-dimensional, restrictive love for Katherines. Even a prodigy, set in his ways, can grow and experience change when meeting someone new.

  5. sarahwallin12

    I think Emily is right when she says that the addition of Lindsay leaves Colin slightly unnerved, as he has never allowed himself to open up to another girl besides a Katherine. And now he’s trying to figure out the situation by creating an equation to predict how long exactly a relationship will last. However, he isn’t able to make this formula work for every relationship, and that also throws him off guard.
    All Colin’s life, he has been trying to figure things out, and memorizing things, and retyping things, but he has never really spent any part of his life just doing. He has a tendency to over think things, and to ramble on and never really get to the point, which leads back to the idea that he is just a prodigy, not a genius. He is always just thinking, not creating.
    When Colin brought this up, it reminded me of this other book that I read over the summer called “Matched” which was this dystopian novel with a slightly overused plot, but it carried a similar message. In the novel, the main character’s job was to sort things, but never to create, and that reminded me of how Colin must be feeling.
    I don’t believe that anyone can be truly happy until they learn how to create something truly their own, instead of simply remembering what other people have already created. Colin feels so utterly insignificant by boxing himself into this world made up of purely Katherines, and by crediting all his love lives to a formula, giving himself no feeling of significance in his own life.
    -Sarah, A2

  6. Mckenna M.

    I agree with Mary that Colin’s behavior often frustrates me since he is so one-sided and believes that everything can be expressed in an equation. In part two of “An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green, Colin’s main focus is to figure out the perfect equation that fits every relationship. By forcing himself to work on the equation, he lets opportunities pass by. Instead of living in the moment, readers often find Colin sitting in the corner obsessing over his equation. This quickly changes when Colin believes he cannot find an equation because he is not a “genius” but a mere prodigy. Colin goes from one extreme to another, first being absorbed in the equation to wanting to burn it days later. Colin’s frustration at himself adds to the reader’s frustration because we know that Colin would be happy if he let himself focus on life and stop worrying about proving himself worthy of the title “genius”.

    It is also irritating how Colin sticks to dating only Katherines. When he is introduced to a person named Katrina, Colin thinks, “Close, but no cigar” (52). This shows that Colin is constantly looking for a new Katherine, and is unsatisfied with anyone else. I also agree with Emily that there is definitely a romance brewing between Lindsay and Colin. My only concern is that Colin will be too focused on his equation or on Katherines that he will look past the most important thing.

    I think this lesson of letting go of the past and living in the present, is one that many readers can learn from Green. Many people, once they make a mistake, want to go back and change their actions. Obviously this is impossible, but many still focus on the past, letting more important things go unnoticed in the present. Green teaches readers, through Colin, that they need to be grateful for what is happening now rather than regretful of what happen before.

  7. I must start this blog post by saying I found this section of the book extraordinarily entertaining. John Greene has a knack for bringing crazy, dysfunctional, yet lovable characters to life. In particular, I like the dynamic growth Hassan experiences in this section. Hassan is a stereotypical nerd, but going on this road trip and opening up to new adventures has gotten him a chance at love (albeit with a girl who cheats on him). For once in his life, Hassan is not afraid of stepping outside his comfort zone and being willing to love someone else.
    At the same time, the situation with Lindsay and Colin has become even more precarious. The introduction of Lindsay by John Greene is definitely a thematic device. Lindsay is meant to show Colin that the world can surprise him, that love does not always have to be with a “Katherine” and that perhaps the key to being happy is not searching and striving for the perfect life, but living the one that shows itself. Perhaps, Sarah, you will not find Colin so irritating once he realizes this lesson about life.
    On the other hand, I also think that Lindsay needs Colin. Lindsay has lived her whole life defined by Gutshot, trapped there. She says she is “full of shit” (150). Lindsay needs Colin to show her that she is worth something. The dynamic between Lindsay and Colin is one of give and take, designed to assist both characters in deciding who they want to be. At its core, “An Abundance of Katherines” is about finding one’s identity in a world full of mixed up motives and complications. And Lindsay and Colin are going on a journey together. They are figuring out who they are, regardless of previouse expectations or commitments. This is increasingly prevalent, especially in this section. The focus on identity and finding oneself is what makes this book so relatable. And it is why I am going to read the rest of the book right now.

  8. sarahwallin12

    Emily, I would also agree that this part of the novel was a refreshing change from the slightly boring, mathematical feel the book was giving off during the first sections. Additionally, I think that Colin is starting to come out of his shell a bit, especially after he discovers that his theorem won”t work on every girl, and he begins to question his total reliance on girls named Katherine. Katherine I/Katherine XIX once told Colin that Pythagoras believed that everything could be broken down to a mere mathematical equation, especially love. Colin latched onto this thought, determined to find an answer as to why he kept dating virtually the same girl over and over again. However, his connection that he is having with Lindsay is throwing him off, and he is finding ways to see past his obsession with everything having a logical explanation to them.
    I would also agree, Emily, that Hassan has begun to develop more of a character, and for that I am glad. At the beginning of the story, he was nothing more than Colin’s side-kick, seeming to serve no purpose in the book other than to provide comic relief. But now it seems that he has found his way, moving past the notion that he will never amount to anything but the fat nerd that he is. And he too found this through love, and through heartbreak as well. Through these conflicts, Hassan has developed more of an identity than ever, and so I believe that Colin might have a chance to see past his heartbreak and confusions about love, and find himself as well.

  9. I agree with both Emily and Sarah that this section was better than the previous though at first it made me more frustrated with Colin. In the beginning of the section he stayed at home working on his theorem while his friends went out. Colin was also mad that Hassan was having such a fun time without him but it was Colin’s fault since he chose to stay in the house. After connecting with Lindsay, Colin is more confused than ever because he wants to follow the path of Katherines but he knows he has a thing with Lindsay too. This was very frustrating because of how one-sided Colin is. I hope that Colin will follow Hassan’s lead and step out of his comfort zone to further connect with Lindsay.
    I think Emily is right in saying that Lindsay would also benefit from Colin. Right now, by dating The Other Colin, she has lost sight of who she really is. Lindsay has stopped visiting the “oldsters”, which she used to do once a week, and she has started to lie to her mom about what she is doing in order to spend more time with The Other Colin. If Colin and Lindsay were to strengthen their relationship and not factor in Katherines or The Other Colin, then they would both discover who they truly are.
    Hassan has already started to find his identity. I was very surprised when he started to open up his feelings to Katrina. Though she ended up cheating on him, the brief connection, helped Hassan to find his identity and to realize that he is more than just Colin’s side kick. Colin and Lindsay both need to learn from Hassan, that in order to find who they really are, they need to break down the barriers separating them.
    -McKenna Murray

  10. mhmurray25

    I agree with both Emily and Sarah that this section was better than the previous though at first it made me more frustrated with Colin. In the beginning of the section he stayed at home working on his theorem while his friends went out. Colin was also mad that Hassan was having such a fun time without him but it was Colin’s fault since he chose to stay in the house. After connecting with Lindsay, Colin is more confused than ever because he wants to follow the path of Katherines but he knows he has a thing with Lindsay too. This was very frustrating because of how one-sided Colin is. I hope that Colin will follow Hassan’s lead and step out of his comfort zone to further connect with Lindsay.
    I think Emily is right in saying that Lindsay would also benefit from Colin. Right now, by dating The Other Colin, she has lost sight of who she really is. Lindsay has stopped visiting the “oldsters”, which she used to do once a week, and she has started to lie to her mom about what she is doing in order to spend more time with The Other Colin. If Colin and Lindsay were to strengthen their relationship and not factor in Katherines or The Other Colin, then they would both discover who they truly are.
    Hassan has already started to find his identity. I was very surprised when he started to open up his feelings to Katrina. Though she ended up cheating on him, the brief connection, helped Hassan to find his identity and to realize that he is more than just Colin’s side kick. Colin and Lindsay both need to learn from Hassan, that in order to find who they really are, they need to break down the barriers separating them.
    -McKenna Murray

  11. Mckenna M.

    I believe that “The Abundance of Katherines” by John Green deserves 8 out of 10 stars. Though the characters are very relatable and the plot is very funny, the ending is easy to guess.

    The characters are high school age and above which allows us teenagers to easily relate to the different emotions each one is experiencing. I doubt that any actual high school students would take a road trip during summer by themselves, but it is the feeling of escaping and being free that attracts us to this storyline. Everyone has experienced a time in their life when they are so frustrated with their life that they just want to leave for a little bit and Colin actually does. Many, including myself, will find themselves living their dreams through Colin as he goes off on an exciting adventure.

    Along with the characters, each page in the book is filled with funny moments. This includes, Hassan and Colin’s random nicknames for other characters or even the strange notes that Colin writes on the bottom of the page explaining certain events. Even when the chapter is one where Colin is reliving his past break-ups and the feeling is sad, there is always a sentence that allows the reader to laugh. One of the reasons this book is so magnetizing for us teenagers is because it is not one of those books you have to read for English, with tiny font and no humor at all. It is exciting and truly different than any other book I have read.

    The only flaw that this book has is its ending. From the beginning, it is obvious to the reader that Hassan is going to change his views of college from, “I am never going,” to “ I am taking some classes next fall.” And like every other romance novel, both of the main characters, though it seems unlikely at first, do fall in love in the end. I am pretty sure that I did not even need to read the last section of the book to know how it ended. Of course, there were some bumps in the road that I did not see coming, but if I had looked closer at the first sections of the book, I am sure that I could have seen the foreshadowing.

    “The Abundance of Katherines” is a book that I will remember reading for a long time since it had unusual humor and amazing characters. The only part that needed more work was the ending.

    Mckenna Murray

  12. I give “An Abundance of Katherines” 7 out of 10 stars. Mckenna, I understand why you gave the book 8 stars, but this simply isn’t a book I will remember forever, especially in juxtaposition to some of Green’s other material like “Looking for Alaska” and “The Fault in Our Stars.” The material in it was not powerful enough, but I enjoyed it while reading it for its captivating humor, entangled characters, and the usual John Green novel heroics.
    Again, on the ending. I did not find it as disappointing as Mckenna did because, well, most novel endings can be predicted. I would have appreciated a slightly more original ending though. Perhaps Hassan ends up with Lindsay anyone??
    “An Abundance of Katherines” is the type of book one reads while relaxing on the beach, sipping lemonade and watching the waves crash against the shore. It is a beach book, which is by no means a bad comment. I enjoyed its light-heartedness and the teenage relatibility, wallowing in pity for Colin while at the same time laughing at the comical situations. I would reccomend it to people looking not for a book that will change their life, but for people looking for a book to entertain them, and entertain it does.
    Going on this jounrey with Colin and Hassan was a privilege. They taught me that the unpredictability of life is where most of the beauty is as well. And in this message, I reveled in the growth Colin experienced, satisfied and ready for Green’s next book by the end.

  13. sarahwallin12

    After the reading the novel “An Abundance of Katherines” I was left with a sense of fulfillment, but there was still something to be desired. From the start, I was engaged by Greens humor and profound character development skills. However, as the novel wore on, I began to feel tired with all the characters and little subplots, and felt as though this novel was written just to be written, and served no really purpose, had no overall point. I agree with Emily when she compares it to “The Fault in Our Stars” and says it wasn’t powerful enough to stand up next to this book. Because, yes, I do feel like, with “TFIOS” that it had a real emotional connection to the audience, and that it kept them laughing and crying at the same time, whereas with this book, I felt as though I was just reading it, and not really becoming attached to it at all.
    Additionally, I was reading some reviews of this book while in the midst of reading it, and someone was talking about how all of John Green’s novels are fairly the same, like the nerdy kid who overcomes all odds to get the girl. And though I’ve only read one of his other books, I really have to agree with that, and that made me begin to be slightly more critical towards the plot as I carried on with my reading.
    And so, although this book was interesting, and well written, I feel it was slightly formulaic and didn’t contain the emotional connection I was hoping for. I give it a 7.5 out of 10 (so the average is easy to find, haha).

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