Listen, I have to tell you, I hate math. Math and I have been mortal enemies since grade two. Under any normal circumstances I would tell you a book involving math would not be my cup of tea, but John Green is a magician (see above surety that he can do no wrong), and he managed to make it clever and fun. Of course he's coupled it with a preposterous situation, a prodigy whose only dated Katherine's (and many of them), and his desire to create an equation to predict relationship success so he won't have his heart broken by any more of them. Of course he's also coupled the whole thing with humor and some seriously excellent supporting characters and an excellent road trip adventure.
A teenage prodigy, depressed from having his heart broken, is not a character anyone would want to read about for long, at least not on his own merit. Throw in Colin's best friend Hassan and suddenly it's an endlessly humorous situation.
About two weeks into class, Colin raised his hand and Ms Sorenstein said, " Yes Colin?" Colin was holding his hand underneath his glasses against his left eye, in obvious discomfort.Hassan and Colin have an excellent dynamic, with Colin being largely socially inept and Hassan filling in as his go-between much like Sherlock Holmes and Watson. They make a fun and lovable duo, where I can't imagine one without the other. That being said, Green fills An Abundance of Katherines with great side characters like Lindsey and her mother Hollis, and a variety of intriguing folks form their small town.
"May I be excused for a moment?" He asked.
"Is it important?"
"I think I have an eyelash in my pupillary sphincter," replied Colin, and the class erupted into laughter...
After class Hassan found Colin eating a peanut butter and no jelly sandwich on the wide stone staircase at the school's back entrance.
"Look." Hassan said. "This is my nineth day at a school in my entire life, and yet somehow I have already grasped what you can and cannot say. And you cannot say anything about your own sphincter."
"It's part of your eye," Colin said defensively. "I was being clever."
"Listen, dude. You gotta know your audience. That bit would kill at an opthamologist convention, but in calculus class, everybody's just wondering how the hell you got an eyelash there."
And so they were friends.
Besides being funny and clever, An Abundance of Katherine's won me over for its distinctive messaging about being 100%, unapologetically yourself, and loving it. Green has written some decidedly non-conformist, socially awkward teens, they don't find easy popularity or have magical endings with hot girlfriends and all the answers to life, but they not only accept who they are, they thrive on it. It was absolutely delightful to read, and as much as I want to announce all YA should aspire to similar ideals (they should), I have to say its as much about how Green writes it, as it is about what he writes.
An Abundance of Katherine's, by John Green
Published by Dutten Juvenile, September 2006
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