Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Posted October 18, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines

by John Green

Publisher: Penguin Books on September 21, 2006
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: Jewish, Muslim
Content Warnings: Alcohol, Fatphobia, Infidelity, Injury, Islamophobia, Sexual Content

Rating: ★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads or buy the book at Bookshop.org

When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washedup child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun–but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl.


This is the part where I’m supposed to talk about how much I didn’t like An Abundance of Katherines. How I think it’s John Green’s worst book, how it’s completely unrealistic and the characters are unreliable and the romance(s) are ridiculous and the Muslim representation is a mess. I’ve been in the book community and I’ve been reading John Green long enough to know the community’s opinions on An Abundance of Katherines.

The thing is… I don’t feel that way at all. In fact, An Abundance of Katherine’s is my favorite John Green novel. It’s a highly controversial opinion and I won’t go so far as to say the book is perfect, because it’s not. There are a lot of things to address in this book, a lot of things that could have been done better, and I definitely wouldn’t go so far as to say the characters are likable, but I also think… this is a really interesting book. My favorite things about John Green’s novels are not the characters or the relationships or the surface plot. It’s the conversations within the book, the profound observations. I know that’s a bit snotty, but… I do like these things.

Let’s talk about Hassan first, because from his first introduction to the very end of the book, I found Hassan problematic. The way he speaks, the language he uses, all of it raised flags for me. He uses an Arabic word consistently that is offensive, and with such casualness it’s like saying “dude”. I also take issue with his pride over his weight, not because I think he should be self-conscious of it but because his sense of humor is so self-depreciating that it feels a bit fat phobic. Just me? … … … All this said, I have read An Abundance of Katherines multiple times assuming Green write this character without research, and in 2006, sensitivity readers were very uncommon. This time, I read the acknowledgements, and Green didn’t do this on his own. Hassan’s character was designed by collaboration with Green’s friend Hassan al-Rawas, who is Muslim himself and provided the Arabic words. I am not excusing the sketchy bits of Hassan’s character, but for years I didn’t realize Green had help with this character and I think it complicates the argument a little.

Colin Singleton, our protagonist, is incredibly self-centered but on the other hand, I feel a bit like Colin may be on the autism scale. On his website, Green says he had no intention to put Colin on the spectrum, so he’s not claiming to have written an autistic character. Colin is generally unlikable but his struggling for significance, to make a difference in the world… that is relatable and I like that part of the story. We also have Lindsey’s struggle to find who she wants to be, who she wants to be with, and how to be happy. Both Colin and Lindsey’s stories over the summer were relatable to me when I first read An Abundance of Katherines in 2008 and to some extent are still relatable because as humans we are constantly redefining ourselves.

I see why so many people are bored reading this book and don’t like Colin, Hassan, and Lindsey. Really, I do. I guess I just find Gutshot interesting, although incredibly idyllic in my experience of small towns. I want to know what happens with Hollis and the town. An Abundance of Katherines focuses on Colin’s venture to re-enchant/get over Katherine XIX but that is the least interesting part of the book. The interesting parts are what happens while Colin is distracted by his Theorem. As such, it’s a book written in layers but seems overly simple (because that’s what folks expect from Green) and it’s not going to appeal to many, many readers. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend An Abundance of Katherines to most readers – if they’re looking for a John Green book, I’ll likely recommend fan favorite Looking for Alaska.

But for me, I really enjoy An Abundance of Katherines. It’s a highly flawed book that takes a while to get into, but I am always engrossed and at the end, I’m happy I read it. For me, this is a good book. If you’re a fan of John Green’s other books, you probably will find this one disappointing. If you – like so many others – find the Green brothers pretentious and the definition of privilege, then you really won’t like this book. If you’re looking for an easy-to-read YA contemporary with flawed characters that are outside your normal types… An Abundance of Katherines is pretty good.

Setting

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Pacing

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Plot

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Writing

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Personal Enjoyment

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Code Orange Problematic Author History

John Green has a Problematic History

The author of this book has said problematic things in the past or has been insensitive to marginalized voices. Please take a moment to click on the poisoned apple and learn more so you are fully educated on his history before choosing to pick up this book.

An Abundance of Katherines Stays on the Shelf

Even though I fully confess to its flaws, it stands that I enjoy An Abundance of Katherines every time I read it. I’m sure I’ll read it again.

send me your thoughts

Are you or have you ever known a prodigy?

While I can’t say for certain, I think someone I knew from elementary through high school could have been. What about you?

Share with me in the comments!

stay magical amber

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Also by John Green

5 books found

★★★★

★★★★½

★★★

★★★★½


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