O.K., so I read Nick and Norah and hated it. I thought it was rude, crude, socially unacceptable, sad, and eminently disposable. Now I’ve read An Abundance of Katherines, and it’s full of crude language, unsupervised, snotty kids, and way too much sex talk. So why did I like the second book and hate the first? I think I just identify more with geeky kids than with Cool. Nick and Norah were both so frustratingly, pitifully, in-your-face, up-to-date, New York City Cool! Blech! Give me Colin the Eternal Dumpee any day.
” . . . he always had books. Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.”
“In the first century CE, Roman authorities punished St. Apollonia by crushing her teeth one by one with pliers. Colin often thought about this in relationship to the monotony of dumping: we have thirty-two teeth. After a while, having each tooth individually destroyed probably gets repetitive, even dull. But it never stops hurting.”
“The missing piece in his stomach hurt so much —and eventually he stopped thinking about the Theorem and wondered only how something that isn’t there can hurt you.”
Colin and his best (only) friend Hassan (not-a-terrorist) are on a road trip designed to make Colin forget the pain of Katherine #19’s breaking up with him. Yes, Colin has been “in a relationship” with eighteen previous girls named Katherine, and now Katherine #19 has broken his heart —as usual. Colin always gets dumped by Katherines. Hassan (not-a -terrorist) is a great sidekick, and he’s the only funny Muslim book character I’ve ever encountered. The two buddies end up in Gutshot, Tennessee where they meet a girl named Lindsey, not Katherine, and Colin tries to formulate a Theorem that will predict the course of a romance from first kiss to the eventual End —dumping, divorce or death.
Maybe I liked the profane, wise-cracking, over-sexed An Abundance of Katherines because it’s funny, and unlike Nick and Norah I don’t feel as if the author is secretly sponsored by Planned Parenthood and the the Alan Guttmacher Institute charged with the task of feeding me propaganda about the sweetness and inevitability of teen unmarried sex. I get the idea that John Green just wanted to write a funny story about a nerdy genius who gets dumped by a whole string of girls named Katherine. The story is unbelievable (who even knows that many Katherines?), but I don’t get the impression that I’m expected to believe anything.
NOTE: If profanity, crude situations, and premarital sex offend you, you probably won’t like An Abundance of Katherines. But, darn, it’s a fun ride! I didn’t recommend the book to my young adults. I’m offended by all those things, but I still found myself chuckling at Colin’s and Hassan’s adventures. And I don’t even care for Walt Whitman either —much too juvenile and contradictory.