Heartbreak Multiplied by Nineteen

Kelliann McCabe ’15
EE Contributor

Feeling lonely, angry, and completely devastated? Heartbreak can be an unbearable challenge that may even seem incurable, at times. Colin Singleton, the main character of John Green’s novel, An Abundance of Katherines, can definitely relate.

Winning  Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book in 2007 and  receiving recognition as one of American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults, this novel features a large amount of comedy, friendship, and a hint of romance, as Colin ventures on a road trip with his best friend, Hassan Harbish. While traveling the country, after his most recent heartbreak, Colin is interested in visiting the roadside attraction in Gunshot, Tennessee, claiming to possess the tombstone of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. While there, the two boys meet a southern medic-in-training named Lindsey Lee Wells, who happens to be dating a Colin (he and Hassan call him TOC, “the other Colin”) , as well. Throughout the novel, young adult readers strap in for a wild ride of Colin’s unique summer adventures in Gunshot, Tennessee.

An Abundance of Katherines written by the well-known John Green, was one of my all-time favorite novels for many reasons. His comic choices being the largest impact on this decision. I constantly laughed my way through each page as Colin stated random facts and made awkward situations at every chance possible. Editors at Booklist agree, “The laugh-out-loud humor ranges from delightfully sophomoric to subtly intellectual”, explaining Green’s excellent execution of entertainment.  For instance, during Colin and Hassan’s long roadtrip Colin would always interject useless facts such as “the world’s largest wooden church is in Finland” and that “fetor hepaticus” is the name for bad breath (Green 32). Green makes uses of witty footnotes to insert more humor to his comedy. In these footnotes, complicated math formulas and useless,but interesting facts can be found and allow readers to get in a little giggle. Another factor I have to give a lot of credit to John Green is for the amazing character development he creates. His characters are very strong and unique but highly relatable. Hassan being a prime example of this, he is explained as, “good at not-doing things”(102), as he refuses to apply to college and watches endless episodes of Judge Judy on TV. Justifying my own laziness I was quickly able to connect to him and relate to his other behaviors. He strong characters have deep, realistic relationship that cause readers to be fully pulled into the pages of the novel. John Green does a tremendous job making the plot interesting and adventurous while keeping the reading enjoyably quick.

Colin Singleton has just graduated high school and has many reasons to be upset including recently getting dumped and a constant uphill battle to prove he is not a washed-up prodigy. After being dumped for the nineteenth time, all by which were girls named Katherine, the child prodigy feels deflated and is pursued into an aimless road trip with his only friend Hassan, who is the complete opposite from Colin and provides him with a social navigation system by letting Colin know what facts are interesting to share. They have a close friendship, that allows for readers to have a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Their friendship, along with anagramming,  memorizing different languages, and reading, all allow Colin to feel relaxed after his many break-ups. Colin and Hassan travel from Chicago and finally stop at Tennessee where they meet Lindsey Lee Wells, who maintains many different personas, such as, southern belle, nerdy chick, and ditzy girlfriend. The three of them experience extraordinary adventures as they discover the importance of individuality, living in the present, and plans for the future.

Readers experience an up-close glimpse of the many lessons that Colin, Hassan, and Lindsay learn through their southern adventures. Colin begins to question if his pursuit to be different is really worth it and struggles in his realization about individuality, while working through his theorem about relationships called the  Theorem of Underlying Katherine Probability. John Green explains, “ I’m really interested in why we are all so obsessed with mattering–why people in our historical moment are so fixated on fame and notoriety and leaving a legacy”, which is project through his main character, Colin Singleton.  Another message that readers can discover in the page of An Abundance of Katherines, is about living in the present. As Colin goes through his eureka moment to prove he is still the prodigy he was at the age of two and continually thinks upon K-19 (his last Katherine), he constantly lives in the past. Colin struggles to find his peace with the present throughout the novel. While Colin cannot move on, Hassan is conflicted with the fear of planning for the future. He may seem as if he is a relaxed, careless teenager, but deep down he battles with the idea of his future and what it holds. John Green does a successful job in allowing readers to relate to the character and helping them to understand the major themes and ideas he wants others to know through his strong characters’ actions.

John Green is the New York Times bestselling author of Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars, and definitely proves his award-winning abilities in the novel, An Abundance of Katherines. He allows the character come alive, making readers laugh, cry, and “awww” as they turn each page. Attracting many young adult readers with this impressive novel, he conveys many relatable message through Colin Singleton’s unique dumpee status. In the end, he helps readers to understand  its okay to be “non-unique in the very best way possible” (208).

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