Thursday, 4 December 2014

Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Book cover of An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
I think I'm going to have to accept that there are certain authors that I. Just. Don't. Like. Charles Dickens is one of them, as I've admitted to myself this week, but unfortunately John Green seems to be another. While there's a great deal of difference between the two (which I know a lot of pre-teen girls will disagree with), they have in common my disinclination to ever read anything else by either of them ever again.

Plot summary:  When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight Judge Judy - loving best friend riding shotgun - but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl.

In defence of An Abundance of Katherines, this book isn't awful. Not like The Fault in Our Stars which led to me actually injuring my knee from slamming the book down too hard. But no, this book is... fine. There's nothing that irritates me or annoys me particularly, but there's also nothing that I liked about it. It has to be one of the most forgettable books I've read all year. Which I suppose is a distinction in itself, so never mind.

I think the problem is that I just don't 'get' John Green. I know I only have a sample size of two, but considering I hated one of the books and it took me more than a week to read the other, I'm unlikely to obtain more for the sake of accuracy. I don't understand though. What makes him so popular!?

I know his characters are meant to be really relatable for people growing up and his writing style is all fun and casual... but... no. In An Abundance of Katherines, there's a child prodigy, a typical 'cool best friend' and a swanky country girl. None of those things are relatable! They also come out with the kind of clever one-liners that nobody on the spur of the moment could ever come up with, leaving the reader with a sense of inferiority at both the protagonist's intelligence and the other character's wit.

The writing style is also merely acceptable. I never thought I'd say this, but I actually kind of preferred it in The Fault in Our Stars... *cringes* I liked the tone of that book - it was casual and chatty, yet somehow descriptive. It just worked. Here though, it seems oddly forced, like it's trying too hard to be casual and witty. I just couldn't get into it at all because I had to force myself to accept the style.

The concept itself is a fairly interesting one, which is why I chose this as the book to give John Green a second chance. Colin has dated nineteen girls called Katherine who all dumped him, so now he's gone on a Cheer-Up road trip and is trying to put together a theorum to predict how long a relationship will last. Except, much like, The Fault in Our Stars, the original plot point is completely forgotten about in the wake of the newer one and there's no actual ending. Awesome.

I don't think I'm going to read any more of John Green's books. They're clearly not for me. An Abundance of Katherine took me more than a week to read, when it should easily have been finished in two days at most. I just can't get on board with the tweeness, the unlikeable characters, the forced tone or the emotional manipulativeness. 

Read a more positive review of An Abundance of Katherines at B's Book Blog.

12 comments:

  1. I am with you on the whole not getting John Green thing. I recently read Looking For Alaska and it was fine if not a bit bland, but I don't get the whole cult of Green. I might try a third book to see if I can get a little insight into this but I have an inkling that I'll just be wasting my time.

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    1. Ah, I feel a bit better now. It's sort of like saying you don't like Frozen - people just don't understand why you could possibly dislike it.

      I have a friend that loves Looking for Alaska but another friend told me what happened in it, and it sounds a little emotionally manipulative.

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    2. I think it could have been a really interesting look at loss and grief and teenagers, but because it's all centred around the central character and his "love" of Alaska it definitely comes off as manipulative. Not as much as TFiOS, but it's definitely present.

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  2. I've never read John Green, but I don't entertain high hopes that he's going to be my new favourite when I do. I feel the same way about books like Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, which everyone raves about but which was quite forgettable and poorly paced for me, aside from a couple of nice moments involving books, because DUH. Dickens, on the other hand... well, you're on your own there. :P

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    1. Damn you Other Ellie, I was thinking of picking that one up for a short, fun festive read. Now I have to rethink.

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    2. Haha, I'm still thinking of picking that one up for a short, fun festive read! I've heard mixed reviews of it, but it's short and I've owned it for aaaaaages so it really does need reading.

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    3. I liked Dash & Lily! I think it's silly in places but in a totally adorable way :) And it feels pleasantly festive! Bookworm Ellie and Hanna - you should still read it. Don't expect literary brilliance and all will be well!

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  3. I think the clever one liners are the things that teens like. Like they like to think they're all that clever. I kinda prefer my YA with teens that actually represent real life teenagers, who 99.9% of the time aren't clever and witty. I liked TFioS more than you but a lot in it annoyed me. I also read Paper Towns which I probably had a similar reaction to as you with this one. I'm not running out to read him, though if I have another hiding on my Kindle I might give it a go. I think he wrote one with David Levithan which I might give a whirl...

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    1. I agree completely - both with the teenage self-view and how I prefer my characters. I like them to be mildly flawed but real, not sitcom-worthy, pithy models.

      Oh, I know which one you mean. I was actually tempted by that at some point!

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  4. I don't think I'll be a fan so I've just decided to pretend that John Green love isn't a thing and that there's no need for me to try his books. Especially after the horror of Dickens. Only books that I'm almost positive are going to be good until the New Year! So once I've finished my work's book club book (*sigh*), I'm going to start Station Eleven and I'm going to get to finish The Eye of the World. That will be a good day!

    So no John Green. Consider your warning truly heeded!

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  5. I don't really get John Green either. I've only read a couple (including this one), and they get on my nerves a bit. Okay, a lot. Which is sad, because John Green himself seems like a cool guy.

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  6. I may be in the minority here, but I think that this is one of John Green's best books. As in "Looking For Alaska," the characters are believable and relatable and "average"-- something the protagonist here struggles with. The jokes are funny, the plot has plenty of action and unpredictability, and I find myself picking up this book every summer when I'm in the mood for something light, quick, and full of humor.

    Marlene
    Info site for Seattle Water Pipe Repair

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