by John Green
Dutton Books, 2006.
An Abundance of Katherines is John Green's second book; it is considerably more mellow than his first, Looking for Alaska, although it is another young adult novel focusing on the ever-popular themes of nerds and unrequited love.
Colin Singleton is a rather odd duck. In fact, although it is never stated, it really looks like he has Asperger's Syndrome. He is (well, was) a child prodigy, and has something approximating an eidetic memory. He loves to create anagrams, to find odd connections, and to fall in love with girls named Katherine. The book starts just after Katherine number 19 breaks up with him (they always dump him; he would never voluntarily give up a Katherine), and also just after he graduates from high school. After a bit of moping around (fulsome, broken-hearted moping), he decides that the best thing for him would be to take a road trip. Well, no, that's not true. His best friend Hassan decides that the best thing for him would be to take a road trip.
Colin is mostly wrapped up in missing Katherine #19, but he does come up with an interesting side project; constructing a mathematical model to predict how and when a romantic relationship will end (hence the rather funky formatting with the title). Thankfully for the story, Hassan is insistent that they do something other than moaning and math, and they happen across an interesting tourist attraction (the grave site of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand) in the interesting town of Gutshot, Tennessee, which happens to be the home of an interesting girl who is not named Katherine.
Collin and Hassan decide to stay in town for the summer after being offered a job interviewing old folk in order to compile a history of the town... And naturally at least one of them falls in love (or whatever). Epiphanies are had. Adventures are, reluctantly, had. And math is done.
Well, the mathematical formula for love is a bit hokey, and quite frankly, some of the other bits are a little hokey too, but the overall story is quite entertaining. While it is a bit more mild in tone many of Green's books, the overall plot is very familiar, and while the characters are new, they are also very familiar in their general outlines. In other words, this is pretty much like John Green's other books. Which I think is a good thing, although he's shown that he can do other plots and do them well.
This is essentially a coming of age story, although it takes place at the end of highschool and with rather odd characters, putting it a little outside the range of most YA stories of this type. I found it to be a little slow moving, at least in comparison to Green's other books, but still well-worth reading. I'm not certain that it makes to jump to appealing to general readership; it really is a YA novel. Albeit an amusing one.
I think that I would recommend reading Paper Towns or Looking for Alaska before An Abundance of Katherines, and get the full angsty John Green experience; Katherines is a good book for getting your Green fix once you're addicted, but the characters are just a bit odder and the story a little slower pace, which may make it harder to get hooked in the first place. Of course, I am not a teenager, so YMMV.