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.