Rating - 4: worth reading multiple times (buy it)
How does one follow up winning the Printz Award on his first novel? How about writing another one that could win it the next year?
After graduating from high school and being dumped by a girl named Katherine for the nineteenth time in a row, former child prodigy Colin Singleton takes a road trip with his friend Hassan. Pursuit of a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke leads to further pursuit of a formula that would explain why relationships end.
Part of me wondered how many people want to read about a very intelligent but socially awkward teenager who has a great fear of rejection. Oh wait, every teen who likes to read sympathizes with that character. Fond of trivia and tangents but frequently dumped, filled with sour grapes distaste for the pretty and the popular? Yes, this is your book.
So many things in this book are fair, right, and accurate. Everything comes back around to the girl who just dumped him, by some train of thought. We nerds really are interested in those details, and we remember them because of just those kinds of connections between them. Teenagers talk like that, from the decorative cursing to Lindsey's noticeable-but-not-ridiculously-overused "like."
We have three main characters, and they are all good characters. With respect to Hassan, does John Green know what makes people likable? It seems that Hassan is universally liked by fiat, that this is some alchemy unknown to people like us but we needed a character in the story like that. This is nothing against John Green or the book, perhaps just an oddity of the third person limited perspective, but the why is missing as much as the internal life of Austen's men. As a character, he is very likable, but I am not sure why he is likable as a person in the story, other than being a funny guy.
Trivia-loving nerds really could use someone to tell us, "not interesting." I like that the history of salt was on that list, since I walked past someone promoting a book on the history of salt to get An Abundance of Katherines. And, like Colin, I thought that might be interesting.
Hollis's situation could use more consideration. This is neither the time nor the place for those microeconomics, but what happens to those pensions in five years?
The ending is weak. That last chapter or two is not as good as the rest of the book, and our concluding epiphany does not fit. I wanted to hear more about the relationship with Katherine XIX, the impetus for our story that is sketched tantalizingly.
Otherwise, the story starts good and gets better. Colin is good. Hassan is good. Lindsey is good. Their interaction is good. The gradual retelling of Colin's romantic history is good. The footnotes are good. Humorous footnotes are a classic of nerd literature. So it is good.
John Green's web site, including his noticing that I exist, wow.
Expected publication: September 2006
[/edit] A few things I have been thinking about An Abundance of Katherines:
First, we need to start filming the movie version about ten years ago, starring David Krumholtz. I don't care if he is too short, I do not see Shia LeBeouf carrying this role.
[It has been noted that this next bit is kind of spoilery. The text is there, in white, so highlight it if your soul is ready for such things.]
Second, how far can we run with the symbolism of Lindsey's cave? "I've never had anyone else in here, but I would like you to go in. I normally come here alone when I need some 'me time.' Yeah, I must have overlooked that opening a hundred times, but around eighth grade, I noticed something special there. It's a bit tight, but don't worry, I'll guide you." Come on, we can find more ways to play with this.
Third, John Green and I are the same age. He has two great books and I have two ill-read blogs. I am a failure.