I’ve been mired in one long, thick, heavy book for much of the summer (you’ll hear more about that later) so at the times when I’ve needed a break (which is often) I’ve been catching up on some of the young adult novels my kids have been reading over the last year or so. As you know, I loved John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (and love almost everything the man says and does generally) but there were still two of his books that I hadn’t read. I picked one up off the coffee table a couple of weeks ago — it turned out to be An Abundance of Katherines — and was immediately absorbed into its world.
An Abundance of Katherines is really a novel, I think, about the stories we tell ourselves and how we let them define it. Colin has just been dumped — for the nineteenth time, according to his reckoning — by a girl named Katherine. Not that the same Katherine has dumped him 19 times — all his girlfriends have been named Katherine, and they always break up with him. That’s how he defines himself: as the guy who gets dumped by Katherine. Also as a former child prodigy who’s not living up to his early promise. Colin’s best friend Hassan defines himself as the funny fat guy, as a Muslim, as a slacker who doesn’t want to go to college — and, of course, as Colin’s best friend and sidekick. An impulsive decision to take a road trip — combined with an even more impulsive decision to turn off and visit a spot that purports to be the gravesite of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand — causes both Colin and Hassan to question the stories they tell themselves — and others — about who they are. In other words they get a chance to redefine themselves — which is one of the things you should get to do on the ideal road trip. I liked this novel a lot and I’m glad my kids liked it too.