Washed-up child prodigy Colin has just been dumped by his nineteenth Katherine — on graduation night. His best friend Hassan convinces Colin (and their parents) to go on a summer road trip so Colin can get over his heartbreak and figure out a way to matter to the universe. They end up in Gutshot, Tennessee where they meet Lindsey Lee Wells (along with her boyfriend The Other Colin, his friends Jeans Are Too Tight and Short One Chewing Tobacco and a girl named Katrina) and figure out all kinds of truths, of which some can be graphed mathematically. Oh, and Lindsey’s mom owns a factory that makes tampon strings. !!
BFF Charm: Yay!
Colin is adorable. he’s totally nerdy — he was a child prodigy, so he learns things really fast and is good at making obscure connections among his vast library of trivia. Hassan has to help him be more “normal” by telling him when his trivial tangents aren’t interesting, but I actually thought most of them were interesting (oh, also, this book has FOOTNOTES. Hello? I LOVE footnotes!). Colin DEFINITELY could benefit from Jenny’s advice column for teenage boys, But Lindsey makes a pretty good stand-in (so does Hassan). I’d actually invite all three of them to be my BFFs.
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
There’s some definite kissy-kissy in this book, but since the book is about Colin the dumpee getting over his massive heartbreak, most of the chemistry is either in backstory about the various Katherines (whom he labels K1 through K19) and a little later with Lindsey, and it’s not a big part of the book. I mean, it IS a big part of the story and stuff (like, the whole point of the book), but at the same time, it’s not really what the book’s about.
Talky Talk: Right On
Ok, so don’t get annoyed at first with the fact that the characters use every swear word ever, all the time, EXCEPT they say “fug” instead of “fuck” because apparently that’s something to do with Norman Mailer and it gets explained in the book. And don’t feel dumb if you didn’t know that, because I didn’t (I felt dumb, although I’ve never read Norman Mailer and haven’t really thought about reading Norman Mailer for the really superficial reason that his name’s “Norman” and it makes me think of nonfiction, even though i know it’s not). But totally feel superior if you read the first “fug” and think, “Ooh, like Norman Mailer changed all the f-words in Naked and the Dead to because his editor complained”. Because that would make you smarter than Colin. Or at least as smart.
So, yeah, John Green’s writing style is really clear and straightforward, and the teenagers totally talk like real teenagers (at least the way my friends and I talked). Plus, I got inspired by Jenny’s review of Almost Perfect and really REALLY enjoyed reading a book by a guy about a guy. It’s been a long time (since I read Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, in fact) since I’ve done that, and John Green is totally someone I’d recommend if you’re interested in reading books by guys about guys.
Bonus Factor: Math
So Colin is obsessed with mattering. He has this issue with being a child prodigy — he’s totally not a child, and no longer a prodigy, but definitely not a genius. He’s constantly chasing his Archimedian eureka moment, and hits on the idea of writing a formula that expresses all relationships and can possibly predict the future of a relationship — plug in the two parties’ popularity, relative attractiveness, age and other factors, and you can see the curve of the relationship’s success and determine who will dump whom and when. Or possibly. Anyway, it’s actually explained in some detail in the book, which I could totally handle since there were pictures, and then in lots of detail (like a calculus textbook) in an appendix, which I started to read but got too confusing when it started talking about functions and I realized I haven’t thought about functions and integrals in 10 years and don’t really plan to start anytime soon, so I skipped the rest of the appendix. But if you like math, it’s pretty cool, and even if you don’t, it definitely adds nerd cred to the book.
Bonus Factor: Road Trip!
Um, that’s the archtypical coming-of-age structure — a road trip has an unknown destination designed to help the character discover something about himself through the places visited or the eventual destination. And it totally works and isn’t trite and it’s actually kinda cool how they end up in Gutshot (it has to do with the assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which was interesting to this history nerd, but not interesting to Hassan).
Adam Brody as Colin
Samaire Armstrong as Lindsey
Ok, I just.couldn’t.help.myself. I KNOW they’re like the geek king and queen (at least for the first season), but I really couldn’t see anyone else but Seth Cohen and Anna Stern as Colin and Lindsey.
Jack Black (like 20 years ago) as Hassan
I know Jack Black is like twice too old, but pretend he’s 19 and Lebanese and quasi-jokingly evangelical Muslim (but not jokingly Muslim — make sense?) and decides out of the blue to refer to himself only as “Daddy” and takes a year off after high school to sit around his parents’ house watching Judge Judy all day. Then he’s totally Hassan.
ACTUALLY. I just got this, but this book is TOTALLY a teenage version of High Fidelity (almost), with Colin as Rob and Hassan as Barry (and Jack Black NAILED Barry in the film version) (There’s no Dick, which is too bad because I really liked him, but Colin’s not cool enough to have 2 friends) and Katherine and Lindsey are BOTH Laura (pre-breakup Laura and end-of-the-book Laura). And since High Fidelity is one of my favorite books, that is high praise for An Abundance of Katherines. High praise indeed.
Relationship Status: Best Guy Friend
This book is totally that guy you’ve been best friends with since 2nd grade, and you love him desperately as a friend, and you’re starting to have feelings for him as more than that, but while you’re sharing a couch and popcorn bowl with him after school you simultaneously fantasize about holding hands AND worry about totally weirding him out, so you don’t act on it. He’s the guy you went to last year after you got dumped for advice, but you hate it when he talks to you about HIS crushes. You want to take things to the next level, but you don’t want to lose him forever, so you stay friends and hope every time you hang out for him to make a move.