Thursday, January 19, 2012

An Abundance of Katherines Review, or How I Love Thee, JG.

Let me count the ways.

Reason I:  Always the awesome first sentence.
This guy.  He writes books.
Case in point:  "The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath."

Reason II:  Unapologetically smart.
Case in point: Colin's speech and thinking are peppered with oddball factoids from history, the arts, literature, mathematics, philosophy, etc.  And that means we, the readers, get smarter - or at least reminded to exercise our smarts - too.

Reason III:  Funny as fug.  (I loves me some language play, I does.)
Case in point:  See above fug (which is a nod to Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead, who - upon being told that he simply could not publish a novel with so many f-bombs in it, changed them all to their sound-akins and thereby launched one of the best sellers of its time), the recurrent use of "sitzpinkler" (you go look it up, 'cause I'm not telling), the main setting of "Gutshot, Tennessee", and too many other language-gags to count.

Reason IV: Funny as a "Friends" episode too, only deeper.
Case in point:  Situation comedy galore.  Two urban yutes, one a geeky, skinny dumpee, one a hirsute and rotund Lebanese Muslim, road-trip to the above-mentioned Gutshot, where they chance to meet a fetchingly no-nonsense young heiress to a tampon-string fortune, move into her mom's pink mansion, and get into all sorts of shenanigans as they get down to it with the colorful denizens of Gutshot.  Think wild pig hunts, jealous ex-football star boyfriends caught cheating in the graveyard, ''Hassan and the hornets' nest'.  That sort of situation comedy.

And the book you're referring to
would be???

Reason V:  More complex, more realistically rich in characterization than just about anyone writing Y.A. today.
Case in point:  Hassan, the hilarious sidekick, is conflicted - but not dwelling on it - because he loves his family and his faith and wants to honor them, but can't seem to get off his butt to do anything in life.  Colin's parents, though loving and laid back in most ways, may be too academic for their son's good, setting their child "markers" for achievement that keep him obsessed with his "prodigy, but not genius"  prospects (dim, by his reckoning).  That, and always being the 'dumpee' in a string of nineteen relationships with girls named Katherine, have him understandably depressed about his future and his very identity.  And that's just the tip of their proverbial icebergs.

Reason VI:  Unashamed of philosophy, and unabashedly a champion of learning.
Case in point:  See above, and note that Green's protagonists - here, in An Abundance of Katherines, in particular - are always smart and decent at the core, so they can carry musings about their place in the world and the world's place in the universe and humans' place in it all quite gracefully and naturally, offering adults and mature teens alike the opportunity to ponder "the big questions" with them.  Plus, Green manages to naturally weave in all sorts of fascinatingly quirky facts that actually add depth and interest rather than distracting from or conspicuously padding the work thematically (as can be true of lesser Y.A. writers' attempts to 'academically enrich' their work).

Reason VII:  World's Greatest Ear for Dialogue.
Case in point:  You must simply take my word for it (only for the span of this sentence though), as Green's dialogue is so integral to plot and characterization that I can find nary a short "set piece" that would offer a lucidly fair glimpse into his verbal gifts.  So how 'bout this: please oh please hop over to Amazon to read a snippetYou will grin and love it, trust me.

And if all that is not enough for you (AND IT OUGHTA BE), check out John Green's adorable vlogpost on his site.  If that doesn't get you, I don't know what's to do.

So, CALL ME, John Green.  And, gentle readers, go devour An Abundance of Katherines


p.s.  Cage match:  Cinder V. An Abundance of KatherinesKatherines, round one, in a knock-out.


Timothy Moody said...

Hi Laurie. I found your site through LibraryThing seeing that you read some of the same things I do. Loved this review "An Abundance of Katherines," which I have not read. I rarely read YA books but I will certainly give this one a try. I'm crazy about your writing style and obvious love of words. It was Emerson, you know, who said every word was first a poem. I always try to keep that in mine when reading and writing. Anyway, love your blog and will be returning often!

Timothy Moody said...

BTW, I love your Beckett's "Fail Better" and the whole MFB tag at the end of your posts. That is seriously good!

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Though I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson (as you know), I somehow never moved on to a John Green novel written on his own. Now I notice that he seems to be everywhere! He was at Winter Institute last week and I attended his panel session on social media. Not sure it was exactly helpful to me vis a vis my bookstore, but I left there feeling a little smitten and NOW. MUST. READ. HIM>

LBC said...

Have you read The Fault in Our Stars yet? It is ruinous (and I've never used that word in a positive way before, but probably will in my review). It was one of those books that I wanted to keep reading, so I read the acknowledgments page, then the author bio, then flipped back to the beginning and had to squelch the urge to start again.

I liked An Abundance of Catherines too:)

LBC said...

Katherines. It's with a "K," as is mentioned about a million times in the book. Oops.

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