An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I will start in the beginning. The week after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, before last week’s Harry Potter Crash and Burn Fiasco, I was still, “OMG HARRY POTTER,” and I saw, somewhere, a mention of a song called “Accio Deathly Hallows.” I thought that was clever and smart (see, I stole it for my post here) and so I Googled it and found it on YouTube. So funny! Except he pronounced “accio” wrong. But, still, funny!

“Accio Deathly Hallows” is part of the Brotherhood 2.0 project, in which brothers John Green and Hank Green have agreed to forsake all textual communication this year, communicating by video blog (and occasionally by phone, but they claim not to like the phone very much). When I made my way to the Brotherhood 2.0 site, I found that John Green was an author, and I realized I’d heard of him before. Back when I was looking up information about the controversy about The Higher Power of Lucky, I ran across this post on the Authors Support Intellectual Freedom blog. I had not at that point read Looking for Alaska, which won the Printz award (which is a very important prize for YA literature), so, besides checking to make sure my own library had it (we did), I didn’t really have an opinion. Except that I agreed with the post by Brent Hartinger – something can be the best book for young adults without necessarily being appropriate for all young adults, and it’s not up to libraries to decide what is appropriate for individual families. It’s up to libraries to provide choices and let the families make those decisions themselves. The point is, I realized I already knew a little bit about John Green. And so I checked out his books.

The other thing I figured out after perusing the Brotherhood 2.0 site is that I am, without question, a nerd fighter. There are different kinds of nerd fighters, you see, and we nerd fighters use our powers to fight against the popular people. (There are a lot of us. We win!) Each nerd fighter has a song. Here is the original nerd fighter song. Here is mine.

If we don’t have the answer, we know how to find it
Bring your most obscure questions, we don’t even mind it

We fight for freedom of speech and information
We use Melvil Dewey’s system of organization

The stereotype is that we’re boring and dowdy
Have you been to a library; they can get pretty rowdy

Librarian nerd fighters, we assault with our knowledge
We have an action figure and many years of college

[Thanks to Brian for those last two lines. “Action figure” seemed important to the song, but is hard to rhyme.]

But didn’t I promise a book review? Oh, right.

An Abundance of Katherines is about Colin, a child prodigy who has just graduated from high school. He tends to date a lot of girls named Katherine. In fact, he’s dated 19 in a row, and been dumped by each of them in turn. After being dumped by Katherine number 19 (or K-19, if you prefer), Colin and his best friend, Hassan, take a road trip and end up in Gutshot, TN, where they end up staying with a girl named Lindsey and her mom, Hollis. As they work for Hollis, recording the history of Gutshot as told by its oldest residents, Colin also works on a mathematical formula explaining his relationships with the various Katherines, hoping to use it to lure K-19 back and to predict his future with her.

You guys, I loved this book. It’s nerdy and funny and sarcastic. There’s math and Archduke Ferdinand and hunting and anagrams. I loved Colin and Hassan’s relationship, and I loved the way that the story emphasized the importance of telling stories as Colin himself learned how to tell a story. There are a lot of big ideas in the book about meeting our goals and our importance in the world, and I liked how it was handled and resolved.

As a nerd myself, I do have one question: How did Colin, who was funny and sweet but had very few social skills, manage to score all those chicks? That was certainly not my experience as a nerd, and I did wonder about that several times as his relationships were being discussed. Regardless, this was a very fun book that led me straight into John Green’s first book, Looking for Alaska. And my preview is that, though it was much more sad and serious than An Abundance of Katherines, I thought it was really fantastic. Look for that post in the next day or so.

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