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Saturday, February 10, 2007

An Abundance of Katherines - John Green

John Green won the Printz for his previous book Looking For Alaska which I liked a lot but which is pretty much a downer all the way. He has done a bit of an about face in many respects with this next novel, and I loved it. This one won a Printz Honor. Pretty impressive for such a young author to have won the award AND an Honor! It's one of the kind of books I kept reading parts out loud to my husband and one I was often laughing out loud while reading. This book is hilarious and if you are into math, even just a little, this book is even better. This book is definitely a book for more intellectual readers, though.

Child prodigy Colin Singleton (perhaps better named SingleONE) has had nineteen girlfriends, and ALL of them have been named Katherine. How weird is that? Colin is bereft after the last one, Katherine XIX, dumps him and his best friend Hassan decides that the only way to cure it is to take a road trip. Since he has no better ideas, Colin goes, and when he sees a sign saying that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand is buried in Gutshot, TN, he HAS to go there. See Colin has a LOT of information in his brain, and things he thinks other people will see as interesting, frankly, to most people, just aren't. Which Hassan is repeatedly telling him. Which Hassan tells him in this case, but Colin insists. In Gutshot, they're hired by the wacky Hollis, mother of the beautiful Lindsey, girlfriend of TOC, the other Colin, to do an oral history project. Got all that?

While he's there, Colin decides that he's going to find the mathematical formula that underlies all these relationships with Katherines. He figures there has to be a logical answer. Because logic defines pretty much everything for Colin. This happens to really smart people I guess. I wouldn't know. I'm plenty smart, but I was no child prodigy. And get this, one of the other things this child prodigy can do is anagram pretty much anything. Anagramming means to mix up the letters in a word or phrase to make other words/phrases. Like for example, Erin Fitzpatrick Bjorn can be anagrammed to A BRR INJECT FORK TIN ZIP (and, surprisingly, a WHOLE bunch of other anagrams - try wordsmith.org/anagram to see what your name can be made into). As I write this, this book sounds kind of kooky, but it really works!

Anyway, what Colin wants most in life is to matter, and this book takes him on a journey of self-exploration to try and figure out how he can do that, why he wants it so badly, what does it even mean, and, in the end, is that really what he wants? The trip to Gutshot takes Hassan on a similar journey, and Lindsey, who they meet there, ends up on one as well.

This is an incredibly tightly written novel which I adored, but I don't think most readers will appreciate it until they're at least in high school if not later.

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