One Katherine Just Wasn't Enough

Green, John. An Abundance of Katherines. New York: Dutton Books, 2006.

0525476881_01__SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg "...Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine..." (3). In John Green's young adult novel An Abundance of Katherinesreaders encounter the unique main character that is Colin Singleton. He is unusual for a number of reasons. His uniqueness stems from the fact that he has dated and been dumped by nineteen Katherines "not Katies or Kitties or Cathys or Rynns or Trinas or Kayes or Kates or, God forbid, Catherines" (15). There is also the unique fact that Colin is a child prodigy who can literally anagram anything. "Anything" becomes "Night, Nay" (78). "Katherine Carter" becomes "Her Karate Cretin" or "their arcane trek" (79). In the beginning of the story, Colin is extremely upset about being dumped. In order to help him forget about Katherine's, he and his best friend Hassan set off on a road trip which ends up being a trip of self discovery for both boys.

Their road trip has an unexpected final destination at a small town called Gutshot, Tenessesee. Here, the boys meet Lindsey Lee Wells, and her mother Hollis who offers them the summer job for "Five hundred dollars a week...and free room and board." (64). During their stay at Gutshot, the boys must interview members of the community about Hollis's company Gutshot Textiles, which makes, of all things, Tampons. Between interviewing and cruisin around Gutshot and eating Hardees burgers, Colin begins to work on creating and completing his dumper/dumpee theorem, which is based on the nineteen times he has been dumped. Colin believes that every child prodigy must have a "eureka moment" and his was the theorem. Throughout the novel, Colin undergoes quite a personality change, and eventually learns that he is actually a dumper. And most importantly, "if Colin had learned one thing from Gutshot, it's that you can't stop the future from coming" (214). By the time summer is over he has completed his theorem, and breaks his Katherine streak with an unexpected friend. As for Hasaan, he gains some self-confidence, dates a beautiful girl, and finally registers for college.

Teenage readers will enjoy this novel for a number of reasons. The book is extremely is written with a lot of witty language and humor. The dialogue is quick, realistic and extremely hilarious. Hassan and Colin are always giving each other a hard time and the word "fug" is often used in place of another less acceptable four letter word. Their back and forth banter is exactly how any two guy best friends would behave, making it easy for teens to connect to them. An example of their humor is a reoccurring joke in the book involves the word "dingleberries". The boys use "dingleberries" as a code word for when one of them has taken their jokes and sarcasm too far. There is a pivotal scene in which Colin and Hassan discuss Hassan's need to always make a joke. Colin asks him, "Why does everything have to be so fugging funny to you?...So you don't have to ever really care about anything?" To which Hassan responds, "Dingleberries, Dr Freud. I'm actually just going to issue a blanket dingleberries on all attempts to psychoanalyze me." (186). Another aspect that the teenage reader may find enjoyable are the many footnotes peppered throughout the novel. The footnotes are completely random and give glimpses of John Green's voice.

Teachers may be hesitant to teach this seemingly unconventional novel in their class. Why would they want to teach a novel about to crazy boys who say fug all the time? Not to mention that the novel revolves around a boy who has been dumped by nineteen girls all named Katherine. It is definitely not your typical symbolic, meaningful novel. However, it does not seem fair to toss this book aside without another thought. There is something to be said for the fact that this book has the potential to connect to teenage readers in a variety of ways. They will be able to relate to the humor as well as the feelings that Colin deals with. High school is certainly a time of self discovery and this book has the potential to spark many conversations on the life of a teenager and what it means to find oneself. And not to mention, it is just a funny and engaging book.

Recommendations for Teachers

Teaching this book would be beneficial for a number of reasons. With that, it would also be difficult to teach for different reasons. We suggest that teachers approach the idea of bringing this book into the classroom from the idea that reading should be fun. This book allows students to make numerous connections with the characters. The ideas and language are something that students would not only understand, but thoroughly enjoy as well. In a classroom, teachers could use several of the book's ideas and contents for discussion and writing activities. For example, discussions could arise from the relationships within the book, as well as from the humor, and what it's purpose is. Writing prompts could generate from foreshadowing, as well as from the connections that John makes throughout the entire novel. Everything manages to come together at the end, and students could take deeper looks, using critical thinking, into the way John Green brings the story full-circle at the end.

About John Greenjohn_green.jpg

The Short Biography of John Green:

John Green, born in Indiana and raised in Florida, did not start off as wanting to become a writer. On the contrary, John Green had a childhood dream of, one day, be a oligochaetologist (and for those of you who don't know, it is an earthworm scientist). He now lives in Indiana with his wife.

Now, The Real Biography of John Green:

Yes, it's true that John Green grew up in Florida. And yes, as a child he did want to become a earthworm scientist. However, there is more to the story. What was left out was the explanation that he is unable to care for pets and ended up killling his earthworms. So instead, he decided to make a list of the things he was good at. Said list consisted of things such as "sitting" and "tellings lies", so naturally, he decided to become a writer. He moved from Florida to Alabama to attend Indian Springs School (and if you've read Looking for Alaska, it was the inspiration for Culver Creek). After graduating with a double major in English and Religious Studies, he began working as a student chaplain at a children's hospital. While there, he was struck with the inspriation for Loooking For Alaska. Eventually, he ended up in Chicago and worked for "Booklist Magazine" where he was able to read many different books on a diverse collection of topics ranging from Islam to Confucius to Conjoined Twin (and according to Green, he read 11 books on Conjoined Twins). Currently, he is continueing his writing, occasionally writing for National Public Radio's (NPR) "All Things Considered" and vloging with his brother, Hank on a project they titled "Brotherhood 2.0" (which you can watch on his website listed below). As stated before, he currently lives with his wife, Sarah who he refers to as "The Yeti" on his vlogs.

For more information on John Green, check out his website.

Other books by John Green

Not yet released


Podcast Interview - John interviews himself (Podcast #30)

John Green shares his excitement in his book becoming a movie.

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