28 September 2009

That smile could end wars and cure cancer.

I expressed in the previous blog post that I was quite a fan of John Green's Looking for Alaska; my reading circle in the adolescent in American literature did as well, so we decided to split his other two books, An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns, between ourselves. As you may have guessed, the title of the former intrigued me, and I read it.

Katherines is about a recent high school graduate, Colin, and the over-abundance of Katherines in his life. His girlfriend (Katherine XIX, as he affectionately refers to her) breaks up with him, and Colin falls apart. His best friend sprints to the rescue with the idea of a roadtrip to nowhere lasting forever, and the two embark on this journey to rid Colin of his curse--the dumpee of all Katherines.

The writing here differs significantly from that of Green's first book. Katherines is in third person, which makes connecting to the main character (who is a little distant in the first place) more difficult. After a bit of consideration, I think that Green may have done this on purpose. Though I have no evidence other than my own personal knowledge and opinion of the following claim, I think it's an interesting one; perhaps Colin has (very mild) autisim. He has a lot of classic signs I've observed in classes before--he's obsessive (the Katherines, anagrams), he was reading at a young age, he tries to make love into an equation, his best friend has to teach him social cues--and Green's third-person narrative exascerbates the distance between the reader and the protagonist. I think there are a lot of interesting, intelligent ideas presented in this novel, but the way they are presented lacks something. I can't quite put my finger on it, but this book is not nearly as engaging as Alaska.

Because Colin is so interested in math and anagrams, the book does contain some interesting content in subjects other than English, but as a future English teacher, I don't think I would teach this book to the general classroom. I would certainly suggest it to any student whom I thought would be interested; though there is a little bit of language and a few awkwardly inappropriate comments (particularly surrounding religion), there is no material objectionable enough to question its audience.