By John Green“We’re really boring.” “You’re not boring. You’ve got to stop saying that, or people will start believing you.”
Occasionally, when reading decades-old classics and New York Times best-sellers, it’s easy to find oneself disappointed by all the hype. I often find myself missing the perspective of 10-year-old me walking into the library and picking up books (practically at random) that seemed interesting. And so there are few things more refreshing than reading a book that has no reputation, no movie adaption, no international best-seller sticker. Which is exactly what reading An Abundance of Katherines was like. I didn’t know what it was about or whether it was going to be deep or lighthearted. I simply knew that I respected John Green as both a man and author and that I wanted to read more of his books. I felt like 10-year-old me again! And 10-year-old me was not disappointed.
An Abundance of Katherines features Colin Singleton, a child prodigy obsessed with anagrams, studying, and Eureka moments. Oh, and girls named Katherine, seeing he’s dated 19 of them. After graduating from high school, he finds himself with no Katherine, no Eureka moment, and a child prodigy label that’s going to expire soon. To cheer himself up, he embarks on a road trip with his best friend Hassan and attempts to prove his Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, a theorem that will predict the result of any future relationship.
In a book about say . . . teens dying from cancer, you expect deep and thought-provoking passages about the meaning of life and the legacy we will (or won’t) leave behind. In a book about a heart-broken child prodigy, not so much. But it’s in An Abundance of Katherines that Green sweeps you off your feet with his spot-on depiction of one of the greatest challenges facing many teenagers: figuring out that the world is a lot bigger than we realized and we are a lot less important than we thought. Green has an uncanny ability to understand and then eloquently explain thoughts and feelings we have all had at one time or another but have been unable to quite put a finger on. On those thoughts about wondering if getting up every day and interacting with other people even matters Green writes from Colin’s perspective, “Even if it’s a dumb story, telling it changes other people just the slightest little bit, just as living the story changes me. An infinitesimal change. And so we all matter–maybe less than a lot, but always more than none.”
So it’s not the next great epic love story or a book that’s going to keep you up at night, but I’ll tell you what it is. It’s short, sweet and fun, and it’s not afraid to ask big questions and grapple with the possibility that we don’t matter. It’s the type of book that will leave you feeling slightly comforted knowing that even if you’re not the brightest or most successful, your infinitesimal effect on the world is important. Because through billions of infinitesimal changes, we get one big change.
Also, this book contains one of the simultaneously sweetest and most brilliant dedications. So, you know, at least check that out.