When I'm looking for a book to read I have two major faults. One, I tend to stick with on or two particular genres (historical fiction, fantasy/sci-fi--even better if I can find a book that covers both!). Two, I have a big problem with rereading the same book over and over. I can't stand to watch the same movie or T.V. shows more than once or twice (there are a few exceptions), but I can read the same freaking book a hundred times (just ask my copies of Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials Trilogy). Anyway, during this semester, when I've been asked to sort of reach beyond what I usually read and tackle some YA lit I might have otherwise ignored, I figured John Green would be a good place to start.
I was familiar with who John Green was as a person rather than as an author, having been introduced to the Nerdfighters this semester (Google this now if you do not know about Nerdfighters--awesomeness), and I've liked what he has to say. And while he's definitely not a sci-fi/fantasy OR historical fiction kind of writer, I figured if I like him, I might like what he has to say.
So, An Abundance of Katherines is all about a guy named Colin who gets dumped, for the nineteenth time, by the nineteenth girl he's dated name Katherine. Interesting premise, right? Colin is also something of a child progidy (not a genius, there's a difference apparently) and in search of finding a way to make his mark on the world. Anyway, in hopes of working himself out of his latest dumping, he and his friend go a road trip that lands them in a sort of back-woods town in the South, where the two friends find themselves entrenched with a rich factory owner and her daughter, Lindsey, who, unlike Colin, is looking to make as little of a difference as possible, wanting to keep her small home town the same cozy place it's always been. Anyhow, hijinx ensue along with a lot of self-discovery, generally funny-ness, and much use of the word "fug" (the book provides an explanation).
Well, I ended up liking this book quite a lot. I didn't find it quite as griping as I had hoped, but it was certainly more than readable and was a nice alternative to my usual literary fare. I thought the characters were engaging (and this, if you haven't caught on yet, is important to me), their emotions real, and there was so much good use of language and wit, which is sometimes lacking in novels directed at teens. John Green talks to teenagers through a voice that isn't trying too hard to sound teenish, but it's not wicked adult like, either. Actually, if you watch any of his vlog brothers videos on YouTube, the narration in "Katherines" sounds very similar.
Here is my one complaint. The road trip. Colin's parents just let him go. He basically says, "Mom, Dad, I'm leaving. Don't know when I'll be back, but don't worry, I'm make sure it's in time for college." His friend, Hassan, who seems to come from protective and fairly religious parents, also has a very easy time getting permission. And the family that the two friends stay with--totally fine with just taking two complete strangers in! It just seemed too convenient for me. My parents were pretty relaxed after I graduated from high school, but they weren't THAT relaxed. It didn't feel believable, and if I'm going to read "realistic" fiction, then I kind of want there to be a higher level of plausibility.
Comparable Reads: I can't really think of anything I've read (at least not anything I can remember well enough) to compare this, too. I mean, the road trip factor and the teenager angsty stuff is similar to any book you might find directed at teens, but the writing, in my opinion, is so different, that I can't think of anything to do a worthy comparison to.
Who this book is for: While the audience is teen readers, I would argue adults (particularly those in their twenties) could really get into this. Like I said, the characters are engaging, and they're also not stereotyped teens. They're like real people with real issues, and I sometimes feel like writers try very hard to write a teenager rather than an actual person.