Thursday, May 31, 2012

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green: A Review

I do not need to make John Green any more famous than he already is. I recently discovered The Greens, John and his brother Hank, also known as The Vlogbrothers, when my husband showed me their YouTube channel Crash Course.   John covers World History. Hank covers Biology. According to their Wikipedia article, “As of May 17, 2012 the CrashCourse YouTube channel has gained over 200k subscribers and over 4.9 million video views.

That same article also points out why I like the channel so much: “In Crash Course World History, John frequently tries to get his viewers to not look at history through Eurocentrism, but in a broader context.” I thought history was boring when I was required to study it in school. Now I understand it was just me being me, thinking my own Eurocentric public school history lessons were boring. But worse than boring, I felt like I was getting some kind of Disney version, like it was fancy and well crafted, but it didn’t tell the whole picture. The author of this article seems to agree with me.

I’d been enjoying the Crash Course videos immensely. My husband and I gave up cable last year. All of the three TVs that have been given to us are so old they don’t have the ability to broadcast digital television. So the TV shows I once watched have mostly gone unseen this year, other than when I take a break from Facebooking, something I view as a type of participatory reality TV show. I watch clips of The Daily Show and Bill Maher occasionally, but nothing very regularly. Until I became addicted to Crash Course World History, which now uploads a new episode every Thursday!

Because the show is all of twelve minutes long, I find myself jonesin’ for some John Green throughout the week while awaiting the next episode. So I turned to his books.

I began reading them in order. I finished Looking for Alaska a couple weeks ago. It was very good. I was kind of underwhelmed with the ending, but that’s my husband’s being clever at fault, not John Green. My husband had long before told me his philosophy of life, which Green’s protagonist shares too in Alaska. So by the time I read it from Green’s character I was like, “Well yeah? Tell me something I don’t already know.” Again, husband’s awesomeness at fault, nothing to do with a lack of awesomeness on John Green’s part.

"As they say in my hometown ‘Don't Forget to be Awesome!’” -- John Green

I finished An Abundance of Katherines today. It was even better. The sophomore effort surpassing the freshman release? Yes, it can be done. Go read it for yourself.

And don’t let its Young Adult classification throw you off track. You don’t have to be a quirky character to love the quirky characters in this book. For example, Colin Singleton is a child prodigy. I was not a prodigy. My parents were not big on education. Mom was more apt to knock on my bedroom door to see if I’d come out and watch “Dynasty” on TV with her than to see if I was studying Chinese dynasties for my World History class. Little did they know a YouTube world history show would pique my interest in a young adult story about a child prodigy having a post-adolescence-crisis when he starts to lose faith in his ability to matter.

When the story begins it is the beginning of a new season. Just graduated from high school but before starting college in the fall, Colin gets dumped by his nineteenth Katherine.

His best friend--his only friend--finds Colin despondent on his bedroom floor, soaked in his own vomit. Thus, they do the only natural thing: they take a road trip. Go with them.

I don’t want to give too much more away because it’s a gloriously geeky-fun read. Get in the car and just "keep going and not stop” as one of the characters who matters reminds us matters most.