Complaints and Compliments on An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

February 1, 2013 Coming of Age, Humor, Romance, Young Adult Fiction 31

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

A few weeks back I wrote about how much I loved The Fault in Our Stars so I decided to pick up another John Green novel. I settled on An Abundance of Katherines for a couple of reasons. First, it was the only John Green book available from the library for my kindle. Second, I’m very self involved. Fun fact! Did you know “Katie” is short for “Kathryn?” I know you’re shocked. Kathryn with a “y” and Katie with an “ie”?! I know. Sadly, I had no part in naming myself, so I couldn’t prevent this travesty. However. Since the main character in this book had a fixation with “Katherines” I thought I’d get a little ego boost for my awesomeness of name. Sadly, this was not to be…


Complaint #1: Early in the book our “hero” Colin explains that he only likes K-A-T-H-E-R-I-N-E-S. No Katies, Kates, Kathryns, Catherines, Kathys, Kats, or Katrinas will do. This revelation started Colin and I off on the wrong foot, and I’m afraid we never got quite onto the right one. Colin is a “prodigy.” He’s got a super sharp brain and he is fluent in 11 languages. Now, I really like nerds. I like awkward folks. I root for the underdog. But…

Complaint #2: Colin is not likable AT ALL. He’s a smug little jerk. He’s whiny and his teen angst lacks the charm of, say, a Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower type character. Maybe I’m just jealous. I’m sure that plays a part in my distaste. I would love to be brilliant, but I know deep down that at best I’m an A minus student. I knew kids who memorized digits of pi for fun, but I liked them better than I liked Colin. I suppose they were more humble because they weren’t brought up as prodigies? Who knows. And why isn’t Colin seeing a therapist? I mean, really? The kid is obsessed with girls named Katherine. That isn’t healthy. Which brings me to…

Complaint #3: How did Colin get 17 (yeah, he dated one Katherine twice) girls to agree to go out with him? I was a much more likable child/adolescent/teen! He got more dates than I did in high school, and THAT IS NOT FAIR! Ugh.

Complaint #4: Colin and his buddy said “fug” all the time. Now, I’m not one to go around dropping F-bombs like they’re hot, but it annoyed me. I know, I KNOW it was in homage to Norman Mailer, but still. If you want to say the F-word, just say it. If you want to avoid saying it, come up with a more amusing alternative. I enjoy “frick” or “flim-flamming” myself. “Fizzing Whizbees” anyone?


Colin is obsessed with his “Eureka” moment in which he can move from being a prodigy to being a genius. Not everyone can be a genius, Colin, but everyone needs a doctor. That’s a noble profession. GO SAVE LIVES!

I know, I’m being hard on this book. It’s just tough to appreciate something when you spend most of your time wanting to shake some sense into the main character. I hate to be totally negative on a Friday, so I’ll discuss a few of the things I liked.

Compliment #1: Colin’s BFF Hassaan was pretty cool. What’s not to like about a Muslim kid who embraces his chubby physique and has an unhealthy obsession with Judge Judy?! 

Compliment #2: Even though the premise of Colin and Hassaan ending up in Gutshot, Tennessee was ludicrous, I liked the idea of a small town kept afloat by a tampon string factory. And the lengths the factory would go to in order to keep supporting their retirees.

Compliment #3: Lindsey hangs out with old people. I like that John Green makes it seem cool to chill with the old folks. Everyone, go call a grandparent right now! (If you’re lacking in the grandparent department, send a greeting card to Great Aunt Shirley or something. It’s good karma.)

Compliment #4: The title of this book gets “27 Jennifers” by Mike Doughty stuck in my head, and you just don’t hear that song enough these days.

judge judy

She’s got to self promote. Syndication deals aren’t what they used to be.

Have any of you bookworms read much John Green? Do you think I should give him another shot or cut my losses? If you have no opinions on John Green, you certainly have an opinion on the color green. Tell me about that. (The correct opinion on the color green is that it is the AWESOMEST COLOR IN THE RAINBOW. I’m open to your varying levels of incorrectness, however.)

31 Responses to “Complaints and Compliments on An Abundance of Katherines by John Green”

  1. Megan M.

    This post makes me all kinds of sad, because Abundance was my first John Green, and I loved it. I probably read it about ten years ago, so I don’t recall whether I thought Colin was smug but I doubt it, because I remember giggling every few minutes. I thought it was a very charming story.

    Most people will rave about Looking for Alaska, and it won an award and all, but I have to confess that even though I love John Green and think he is a brilliant writer, Alaska was a DNF for me. I don’t know if it was because the tone was so different from Abundance and I just couldn’t get into it or what, but I quit reading it about halfway through. I’m totally in the minority on that one, I’m sure.

    I liked Paper Towns but it wasn’t as charming (to me) as Abundance, and of course, I loved The Fault in Our Stars.

    • Words for Worms

      I’m sorry to have made you sad, Megan. I’m sure my disdain was due in large part to my taking personally that Colin dislikes my name. That’s the delight of books though, yes? Everyone gets something different. Looking for Alaska… you say that’s quite different from Katherines? Perhaps I’d like it then! Although, sometimes I read award winners and I’m all “What were you thinking?!”

      • Megan M.

        I’m sure I would have bristled if he said he ONLY dated Meghan-with-an-H’s. 🙂 Yes, Alaska is probably more like Stars in subject matter.

  2. Rhian

    You can add Colin to the slap-fest list.
    I have no opinion about John Green but have to respectfully disagree with you about green being the coolest colour in the rainbow. 9 out of 10 experts agree that violet is the coolest colour.

    • Words for Worms

      Well, that’s just not fair. Using cool British spelling for “colour” makes violet sound much more exotic. You probably have a fantastic accent too. I’m so jealous of Englishness.

      • Rhian

        Oh dear, I hope you’ll still like me … I’m not English. I guess all we non-Americans sound the same online 😉

        Some other people from my hometown you may have heard of include Heath Ledger, Hugh Jackman and Sam Worthington. Some authors include Tim Winton and Craig Silvey. There are no other girls here and all of the fellows above are or have been my boyfriend (except for Tim Winton). This last sentence might not be completely (or at all) true.

        • Words for Worms

          Ahhhh! Australia!!!!!!!! You don’t even know. I had an Australia OBSESSION in high school. I referred to Daniel Johns as my “Australian Rockstar Boyfriend,” Ian Thorpe as my “Australian Swimmer Boyfriend,” and Heath Ledger as my “Australian Actor Boyfriend.” You are maybe my favorite person on the planet right now. Just so you know.

  3. Sarah Says Read

    I’m divided on John Green. He co-wrote Will Grayson, Will Grayson and I liked his character a lot more than the other author’s character and overall it was a good book. But I read this book and had SO many issues with how pretentious Colin was, the stupid “fug” thing, and the whole YA exisential (too lazy to check to see if I spelled that right) crisis crap. Blah. Hassan was pretty cool though.

    I MIGHT give John Green one more chance, a tie-breaker. But it’ll be a while before I try again.

    • Words for Worms

      I think I’ll have to take a break before reading another John Green, but I really did like The Fault in Our Stars. Was it you that was telling me you were afraid to read it and hate the cancer kid book? I can’t recall, but it sounds like something you would say LOL. Let me know when you’re ready to try again, perhaps we can read the same one and compare notes or something. Isn’t that what the cool bloggers do?

  4. therelentlessreader

    I am reading The Fault in Our Stars right this moment. Well, right this moment I’m typing, but you know what I mean. I waited for a bit of the hype to die down. This is my first Green. He is kinda like the rock star of the author world isn’t he? I’ll be reading more of his stuff but I’m not sure where to go next.

    Yellow is the awesomest. 😉

    • Words for Worms

      I finished The Fault in Our Stars in one sitting, and I was up at 3am bawling because it was so sad and I was overtired. Katherines clearly wasn’t my favorite, but I’ll likely try another. Yellow is a wonderfully happy color- I enjoy it in the winter particularly.

  5. didibooksenglish

    I’ve been hearing about John Green for quite some time but this one is not the one for a lot of people. I just received The Fault in Our Stars and will start there for securities sake. Although I hear there is a common thread to his story writing.

  6. Sami

    Apparently I am one of the uncool kids (which I am used to) because I haven’t read any John Green. I need to get one of his books so that when people ask me what I am reading on my Kindle I can say “Oh is just John Green” and they can think to themselves how cool I am. This brings me to a point I want to bring up…Why do people always have to ask you what you are reading when they see you with your Kindle? Have you ever lied about what you were reading because you didn’t want them to know? If I am reading some smutty brain candy and some guy I work with asks me what I am reading I just say Game of Thrones because all guys think that show is cool. Just a thought.

    • Words for Worms

      Okay. First: you are not uncool for not having read John Green. I totally get not being all up on the YA Lit scene. I wouldn’t consider myself proficient by any means. Second, YES! You could totally lie about what you were reading on a kindle! I’m mean and unapproachable, so people don’t usually ask what I’m reading, but if they did I’d be all “WAR AND PEACE!” when really, it would be a guilty pleasure trashy romance or something.

  7. Darlene

    Ok, I love John Green on Youtube. Love him.

    I read The Fault in Our Stars and I had an issue with it. (No hate please).
    I actually loved the story. I thought it was intelligent, funny and original. I like his writing style and for those reasons I will read more of his stuff.
    But dude…the language in that book is horrible! I know they have cancer and are facing their mortality at far too young an age. They are angry, it’s not fair and I get that. But good grief, the comfort level of just letting those words fly astounded me. I know few people are really offended by profanity these days but for me, it just felt like an All Out Assault on the bad words.

    Other than that, I REALLY liked it. I want to read Paper Towns next….sometime.

    Green is good…grass is green…and so it the cover to my Kindle.:)

    • Words for Worms

      I loved The Fault in Our Stars, but yes, those kids were pretty liberal with the swears. It didn’t bug me personally, but I don’t typically swear a whole lot myself. Kudos on the green kindle cover! Mine is black, but green has been my favorite color since childhood.

  8. Care

    This convo comes up a lot on the blogs and general consensus (which on blogs probably means NOTHING) is that the first John Green book you read will always be your favorite. I can’t even think of anyone I know who has read all/most of the JG books and this rule/formula/mathematical principle does not apply. I read Alaska first and was almost dumbfounded with an awe of love and reverence for the author and his amazing talent. Then I read Paper Towns, then Will Grayson Will Grayson and then the Katherine book and then FioS. And Alaska is still my favorite. You’ll notice similarities when you read a second. If I ranked them, I would put Alaska first, then FioS and then Paper Town, followed by wgWG and finally Katherines.

  9. Rick Wiedeman

    We can perceive more shades of green than any other color. Therefore, it is indeed awesome. The fact that I have green eyes is purely coincidental to this opinion.

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