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‘An Abundance of Katherines,’ by John Green

November 25, 2009

I need to look up in what order John Green’s books were published. I started listening to the audiobook version of his “Paper Towns” before I started reading “An Abundance Of Katherines,” and I have a feeling “Katherines” was published first. (A more ambitious person would look that up before publishing a comment like that, but … meh.) Why? I fell in love with “Paper Towns” right away but had more mild feelings for “AAoK.” It seems like Green’s writing is more developed in “Paper Towns.”

The book was great, and the chatacters were fun to know, but I don’t think I could hang with them – frustrating, considering that wanting to hang out with the characters is an  illogical quality I like in books.

Green does a great job of embracing society’s stereotypes for the categories his characters fall under. I respect the truth that we’re all essentially the same regardless of race, religion, gender, whatnot, but one can’t deny the fact that – despite that sameness, we all have to answer for our differences in society. Those differences may not be what defines us as people (or them as characters), but they are a part of who we are. Too often characters seem to carry a meaningless label as an attempt at a “unique” character, but development of that label and what it means to the character doesn’t really happen past the initial character sketch.

Green’s characters are just like anyone you’d meet in life, complete with labels that contribute to their exterior package. Colin has a Jew-fro. Hassan strives to avoid things that are Haram and worries about people thinking he is a terrorist. These are stereotypical bits that aren’t definitive of their characters, but they help develop those trait labels. It’s refreshing.

My biggest gripe with “AAoK” was all the math. Colin, our lovable geeky main character, has a scientific, exact approach to life, complete with a novel-long project to complete a theorem to predict relationship outcomes. There were so many times I wanted to scream “NOT INTERESTING!” at Colin, a la his best friend, Hassan.

Along with all that math, the constant nerdy footnotes grated my nerves. The info there could have generally been ignored, but the idea of them – a clever way to show how Colin’s inner geek is constantly at work – was brilliant. I connected with the idea of his sometimes random and often too-involved and overthought mental tangents – I just didn’t care to read all of them. I have enough mental tangents on my own.

(I forgot to mention it in my review of “Bitter Is The New Black,” but footnotes completely disrupt the rhythm I get in while reading. Someday I’ll tell you all about the other various things I see in books that are visually jarring. Speaking of mental tangents, right? Sorry, dear readers!)

Up next: “The Lost Symbol,” by Dan Brown

Edited to add: I was right – “AAoK” was written/published before “Paper Towns.”)

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