Is there actually a formula for romantic relationships? Colin Singleton, protagonist of John Green’s second book, An Abundance of Katherines, thinks hIs there actually a formula for romantic relationships? Colin Singleton, protagonist of John Green’s second book, An Abundance of Katherines, thinks he can make one.
Colin Singleton: washed-up child prodigy, anagram-crazy, and has been dumped by nineteen girls named Katherine. He wallows in the Katherines-induced depression, until his overweight Judge Judy-loving Muslim friend, Hassan, drags him into a road trip to give a solution to his love problem. Colin works on his Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationships. As they arrive in Gutshot, Tennessee, they encounter the factors that may drastically affect the variables in Colin’s Theorem. Strewn of anagrams, graphs, and quirky characters with an equally quirky plot, An Abundance of Katherines is a funny, intelligent, and a poignant read.
This novel is more than what it seems. It’s not just a story of Dumpers and Dumpees; it’s also a story of mattering in the world, being unique in the simplest ways, and being the real you no matter what other people will say about you. The droll dialogues and plot turns did not make the novel trivial, nor did it slacken the importance of all the morals.
What convinced me that John Green is a really amazing author is that he can deftly weave characters that you’ll love, even if they’re unlikable from the very start. Colin is such a character—egotistical, hungry for attention, and almost always sulking about his failed romances. Overlooking the fact that he is a classic John Green protagonist (nerd or always smart to a fault), I have to admit that it was hard to like someone like this character. But the author brought the better side of Colin through other characters and events that molded him into what he really is. Definitely showing, not telling.
I have to admit that there are times when the plot is so sluggish that I’m tempted to skip some pages, but I think that it’s necessary for the characters to develop. I particularly liked Hassan, the funnypants sidekick. Things tend to get more interesting when he’s around, especially that he is one of the most powerful influences on Colin’s character development—and vice versa. As for the other characters, well, they’re quite ordinary. Lindsey Lee Wells didn’t quite stand out, I think, although her relationship with the protagonists is really interesting. She felt a little cardboard-y, if you know what I mean.
All in all, this is a good read. I laughed out loud a lot, and that’s saying something because I don’t really laugh out loud while reading and it’s the second time I ever sat with this book. I don’t love math, but because of this novel I learned that you can have fun with the subject if you want to. :) The hilarious footnotes sort of remind me of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s collab work, Good Omens (which is awesome by the way, go read it). Next reread: Paper Towns....more
We’ve already heard that hackeneyed maxim about the journey being the destination. I have encountered a lot of novels attempting to embed this sayingWe’ve already heard that hackeneyed maxim about the journey being the destination. I have encountered a lot of novels attempting to embed this saying to the roots of their very plotlines, but nothing really stands out in exemplifying its deep meaning in a new level…save John Green’s books.
Here’s the thing about Green’s novels: if you’ll zoom out, you can see the obviously formulaic patterns that serve as the backbone storylines. Geeky, quirky protagonists? Check. Funny, interesting sidekicks? Check. Attractive, enigmatic girl that our dweebish hero is so enamored with? Check. There are even road trips in almost all his books, and the main characters seem to be always looking for something/someone. Despite these dead ringers of story foundations, what still made me a Green fan (and further gave birth to my inner nerdfighter-ness) is that if you zoom in and zero in on the story carefully, you’ll realize that the novels are all different at the core. An Abundance of Katherine’s real ‘road trip’ isn’t the literal one, but the trip that Colin takes where he reaches at the end a realization that relationships cannot be mathematically predicted, and that he matters, maybe not to the whole world but always to the person who can be the whole world to him. The ‘trip’ in Looking for Alaska is Pudge’s pivotal turn in his coming-of-age journey, one that pops out in the middle of the book with an emotional and moral blow that rippled throughout the second half of the book. Paper Towns is a different beast entirely, and here’s why…
Quentin ‘Q’ Jacobsen has always been smitten by his childhood friend and classmate, the spunky and adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman. He has always loved her from afar until one night when she—dressed like a ninja—barges into his room to summon him to a revenge campaign. Just as Q thinks he is already seeing the real Margo up close, she disappears. Q thinks that Margo leaves clues for him, urging him down a disconnected path that may lead to where—or WHO—the real Margo is. I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again: Green is adroit in juggling hilarity and poignancy. I’m already familiar with Green’s style, but the way he pulls off the ‘moving’ parts in this book is different. It has a similar feel to Looking for Alaska—only raised to the tenth power. At the surface, the story is telling you to find where Margo is when in fact the real mystery is finding her identity. It almost feels like a metaphorical, hardboiled crime fiction. Green leads the main character into a journey he will never forget, tagging along the readers with him. Through the labyrinthine set of clues ranging from paper metaphors and fragments of Whitman poetry to carefully selected music, Q unwittingly creates his own map to a destination he never planned—finding not Margo but finding himself instead. In many ways as pointed out by the book, Q is very similar to the hero of Moby Dick.
Paper Towns is divided in three parts (The Strings, The Grass, and The Vessel), all of which are accounts of journeys that reveal something about the characters. Aside from being driven by the characters, the story is also strongly propelled by the building blocks of deep thoughts and ideas that propped up the cliché-ish plot. A story of obsession, friendship, romance, and life as a whole, Paper Towns is one of the most memorable bildungsroman for me. It’s my fourth time reading this, and still never ceases to move me.