Matt Carberry (kingpin248) wrote,
Matt Carberry

The tfo Book Club: An Abundance of Katherines

John Green is right - everyone has at least one type. For RB, who gave me this book, it's "musically inclined girls" and "younger girls," which is a step up from "high school chicks" (or "Wooderson syndrome"). Mine? Redheads, athletes, or women between five-eight and six feet tall. Enter Colin Singleton, for whom it's all about the Katherines. A dozen and a half, to be specific, although he counts the first and the last separately. That particular lady has just dumped him, at high school graduation, after nearly a year together. To clear his head, this sitzpickling child prodigy (I feel that a little) and his Muslim best friend set out on a road trip (hmm, sounds familiar), ending up in South Central Bumblefuck, where everything around them about them is turned upside down.

In contrast to the last two books I've received from RB, I really enjoyed this one. I quit The Perks of Being a Wallflower after twenty-five or so pages, because it was too damned emo for my taste. And I have yet to touch Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist. Katherines, by contrast, was consistently funny, because Green takes the reader and the protagonists on a walk that's just totally absurd - at least, through the eyes of someone who has little experience with the South. I also found myself attached to the Colin character, because of my own smart tendencies. I can't anagram for shit, but I am pretty good with math, and that subject appears frequently throughout this novel. The whole concept of going on a road trip to refresh the soul definitely resonates, as I've planned that for over two years. Even the tie-in to a game show is relevant - back in elementary school, I considered trying to get on Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?, but that never got past a preliminary inquiry. And Hassan provides a great counterpoint to Colin; lazy, pious, yet having the street smarts the boy prodigy lacks.

If there was one drawback to the Colin character, it was that aspect early on. He suffers from the same affliction as the athletes in Varsity Blues - the belief that high school is the peak, and everything else is downhill from there. I know this well, because I had it myself to a lesser extent. Anyone who thinks they're "past their prime" at seventeen needs to take a step back and look at the world around them. And fortunately for Colin, his road trip gives him the chance to do exactly that, and he seizes it. Green drives home the two main points directly at the end; one, that no mathematical formula can predict a relationship between any two people, and two, that the only way to truly live is to embrace the future, not fear it. Regardless of how you choose to treat the past, the "always-coming infinite future" is nothing to ever despair over.

Katherines is classified as young adult fiction, but old adults and teens alike are sure to like it as well. I give it a Big Wheel score of 80¢.
Tags: books, rb

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