All of us want to be remembered. Yes, even you, denying it with your head and thinking “No, not me”. It’s natural to want to matter, whether it’s in an ambitious, I-want-to-conquer-the-Universe sort of way, or simply by longing to be loved. Mattering is better than being famous – it’s being assured that we are actually doing something, even if it’s just being who we are, and that our lives are not going to waste.
Colin Singleton (brilliant surname for a brilliant character, as a matter of fact) is a child prodigy who isn’t sure as sure of his importance to the world as he used to be. His father has big plans for him, plans that require him to study everything and anything, learning many languages and memorizing facts. On his leisure time, however, Colin has found a hobby: dating Katherines.
And that’s where An Abundance of Katherines (written by John Green, 215 pages, paperback by Speak) starts: Colin, smart kid with a promising future, has just been dumped by his nineteenth Katherine. A lover of anagramming and languages, he seems to have quite a hard time making these nine letters work for him. This time, however, the heartbreak is mixed with insecurity and doubts about whether he’ll ever have his “Eureka moment” or not, about the possibility of mattering to the rest of the of the world like his childhood promised him to.
So begins an adventure with Hassan, Colin’s fat, Muslim friend, who is one of the highlights of the book. Hassan is funny – hilarious, even -, easygoing, charming and wears his characteristics as an armor (much as Tyrion Lannister, from Game of Thrones), preventing others from putting him down and giving him the confidence that Colin lacks. Hassan also seems to constantly bring Colin back to the rest of society, preventing him from becoming too self-absorbed or getting lost inside his own mind. On their road trip without a destination, they meet Lindsey, a not-so-typical girl from Gutshot who was supposed to show them Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s gravestone and ends up helping them in ways they hadn’t predicted (I know, how vague of me, but I promise I’d spoil the book if I said to much).
The story is centered on Colin’s search for a mathematical function that could predict exactly how relationships will work based on a Dumper/Dumpee variable – and, let’s face it, someone who has dated nineteen Katherines has some experience to analyze the subject. That’s all just an excuse, though, for John Green to, in a very Nick Hornby-ish way, reveal in unpretentious sentences big revelations about relationships, love, intelligence, friendship and (why not?) life itself. Green, more famous for his The Fault In Our Stars, has an easy to read, light, humorous writing style, filled with references and footnotes about many topics, including History and Physics (though he does say the wave-particle duality was Einstein’s work, when it was actually de Broglie’s, most of the information is fascinating to anyone who enjoys “fun facts”). It has many dialogues, making characters grow on the readers’ hearts and develop in a very credible way. A very, very nice read.
If you enjoy books without great action, but with beautifully written characters and feelings, this is your book. I haven’t yet read The Fault In Our Stars, but I can promise anyone interested on getting started with John Green that they most likely won’t regret it. I hadn’t read anything so modern, simple and enjoyable since David Nicholls’s One Day. It’s the definition of a great story by a great storyteller. As Lindsey would say:
‘That’s how I remember things, anyway. I remember stories. I connect the dots and then out of that comes a story. And the dots that don’t fit into the story just slide away, maybe. Like when you spot a constellation. You look up and you don’t see all the stars. All the stars just look like the big fugging random mess that they are. But you want them to see shapes; you want to see stories, so you pick them out of the sky.’
This book is, in my opinion, a star to pick out of the sky.