May 2, 2012

Audio Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

an abundance of katherines  Title: An Abundance of Katherines [Amazon|GoodReads
  Author: John Green [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
  Standing: Stand alone novel.
  Genre: Young/New Adult, Contemporary
  Published: September 21st, 2006 by Brilliance Audio (in print by Dutton Juvenile)
  Format: Audiobook; 6 hrs. 47 min. Read by Jeff Woodman
  Source: Borrowed from my local library.
When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type happens to be girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. He's also a washed-up child prodigy with ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a passion for anagrams, and an overweight, Judge Judy-obsessed best friend. Colin's on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which will predict the future of all relationships, transform him from a fading prodigy into a true genius, and finally win him the girl. Letting expectations go and allowing love in are at the heart of Colin's hilarious quest to find his missing piece and avenge dumpees everywhere.

I’m not sure why this didn’t occur to me until long after I’d finished An Abundance of Katherines that of course I was going to thoroughly enjoy it.  The whole ‘being attracted to someone with a particular name’ thing has The Importance of Being Earnest written all over it, and I don’t think it’s any secret that I am a fan.  And enjoy it I did.  Thoroughly.  An Abundance of Katherines was the book I chose to give my John Green V-Card to, and I really don’t think I could have made a better decision.  This book, to me, was hilarious, but not over-the-top-trying-too-hard ridiculous hilarious, completely-plausible-real-life hilarious.  The kind of hilarious that means you probably shouldn’t listen to this audiobook while working out if you have asthma, because you will inevitably have a laughing fit while already low on breath and have an asthma attack somewhere far from home and your inhaler that you left sitting by the sink.  Quite possibly when Hassan is having a fat kid asthma attack of his own.  So, so worth it.

Jeff Woodman, the narrator, has a pretty sweet backlog of audio goodness behind him.  I’ve listened to his narration of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and Life of Pi, but he also narrates books I’d love to listen to including The Westing Game, The Queen’s Thief series, and other John Green books.  Those are some legit credentials people, and he’s earned them.  His narration of An Abundance of Katherines was spot-on—not the kind of narration that makes a good book better, but the kind of narration that brings a great book to life and lets you consume it in an ideal format.

One of my favorite aspects of An Abundance of Katherines was that I did not like the protagonist, Colin Singleton.  Quite frankly, the kid was a tool, and I love well-written characters that are the types of people I would never hang out with enough to observe in real life.  I mean, I’m all for nerdome and smarty pants and what not, but Colin Singleton just takes it too far.  He’s the kind of kid who’s socially awkward, and knows he’s socially awkward, but only because he has a friend like Hassan to give him clues as to what is and is not interesting for other people to hear.  I was less shocked by the idea that Colin had been dumped by nineteen Katherines than I was by the notion that this dweeb could get nineteen girls to go out with him in the first place.  His social awkwardome doesn’t shut him up or turn him into an introvert, and I kind of love that.  Colin is who he is, and even though I wouldn’t be caught dead with the kid, more power to him for not compromising and for finding friends who do enjoy him for who he is.

Even though Colin is a quirky mega-brain character with many life experiences the rest of us will never have, I feel like he’s incredibly relatable.  He grew up labeled as a child prodigy, and now that he’s finished high school and is ready to move out into the world, he has to decide what it is he’s going to do that will mark his future.  Colin wants to matter.  I think most of us go through a similar experience at one point or another.  We all grew up with certain labels, and we all have to decide whether or not those labels will continue on with us, and what we’re going to do with our lives.  But, as the character Lindsey so poignantly puts it: “What matters to you defines your mattering.”  To Lindsey, her mom, and many people in Guttshot (the town Colin and Hassan end up in on their quarter-life-existential-crisis road trip), it’s stories that make us matter.  For Colin, it’s the idea that he could be a genius—he could figure out what it is that makes someone either a dumper or a dumpee. 

An Abundance of Katherines is full of profound eureka moments about what it means to be an average person living life and what impact that might have, not on the world but on you.  It was hilarious, fun, and full of insight about becoming who you are supposed to be.  My one complaint about the audio version of this book is that you don’t get to see the equations and graphs that Colin writes for his theorem.  For someone very visual, like me, it was kind of hard to picture.  Luckily, other people have posted pics of them, like Chachic, whose review I’ve linked below!

Likelihood that I'll be back for more:  Of course!  I’m reading The Fault in Our Stars for book club, and I plan to listen to Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska on audio.

Recommended for:  Any contemporary fan, people who enjoy road trips, existential crises, eureka moments, and nerds. 

Real life repercussions of reading this book: Um, remember that somewhat vague allusion to this book making you have an asthma attack it’s so funny.  Yuuup.  That was me.

Get a second opinion:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Book Harbinger
Good Books and Good Wine


  1. This is a good one to start with. Don't read them all too fast, though, because they are strikingly similar. My least favorites were Paper Towns and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, both of which I listened to, which makes me wonder if you'd love them in that format since you liked this that way:)

    1. You're right, I need to not go through them too quickly! I had to read The Fault in Our Stars for book club within a month of finishing An Abundance of Katherines, and I am so glad I read this one first. Honestly, I'd be scared to go near John Green if TFiOS had been first. I'm honestly not sure that I want to read Will Grayson, Will Grayson at all, as I've found I'm really not a fan of the back and forth structure of dual authored books that David Levithan tends to do. Just doesn't really work for me.

  2. You know, I'm pretty sure this was my first John Green too, AND I think I also listened to it! I was actually at work during that scene with the bees, and I remember laughing so hard that my co-worker had to come check on me. I didn't know this narrator had done The Westing Game and The Queen's Thief series. I remember really liking him.

    P.S. I listened to Paper Towns (re - Flannery's comment above) TWICE and loved it both times. It's my favorite John Green. She's right though; they are all strikingly similar. I feel like he finally perfected the formula with Paper Towns though. (But not everyone agrees, obviously :))

    1. Haha, clearly. Really good to know they're all so similar though, that means I'll try to space them out more, and will probably enjoy them all more because of it. Jeff Woodman's narration was fantastic! He also did Looking for Alaska, so I'm definitely listening to that one when I get to it.

  3. I WANT TO RE-READ THIS ON AUDIO! Oh my goodness. Stop convincing me. STOP. Seriously, I am all for a strongly narrated book. And John Green, ILY FOREVA.

    ALSO. You need to read The Fault In Our Stars, holy eff is that book amazing and unlike what he's written before.

    Also? The equations are pretty cool, I read this via hardcopy and even though I had no idea what it meant, it was a nice extra touch.

    1. You really should April, it's a pretty quick listen, and so so good! Jeff Woodman is the type of narrator that made me look up books he's done, and I added them to my library wishlist based on him alone.

      I've actually finished TFiOS by the time this was posted! It was amazing, and wonderful, and I'm really glad I read it even though I dragged my feet about doing so so much.

  4. I love John Green, I have TFiOs but haven't felt like I've been in the right mood to read it. I've never read an abundance of katherine's because I always think it's weird to read a book with my name in it.

    I've never listened to any of his stuff on audiobook. I think I saw this one at my library, maybe I'll pick it up.

    1. Haha, I can see the weirdness with your own name. I mean, obviously, I've got Heidi to contend with, but other than that I don't see my name often. If you go by 'Kat', Abundance of Katherines might still be okay, since he adamantly states it's not Kathy or Kate or Kat or God forbid Catherine with a C. :P

      I do say read TFiOS for sure, but YES, you need to be in the right mood for it. I had to get through it for book club, and so I felt like a forced it a little.

  5. I have always felt like a total weirdo because I have only read one John Green novel (Paper Towns) and I absolutely hated it. Proper hate and rage and annoyance...not just 'meh that was not enjoyable', a proper 'I WANT TO RANT ABOUT THIS NOWWW' reaction! Everyone else seems to love it or think it was average which made me feel like an outcast and made me think I should never read a John Green book again! I do love the sound of the premise of this one- I like the whole Katherine it as farcical as The Importance of Being Ernest!? I will probably read Looking for Alaska first as I own that one...when I have summoned the courage to do so :-P x

    1. Hahaha, I kind of love that you had such a visceral negative reaction. You probably will hate his other novels, as, from what I've gathered, they're fairly similar. You should NOT feel bad about it though! Not everyone is going to click with a certain author, and they shouldn't either.

      This isn't as farcical as The Importance of Being Earnest, but I did think it was really pretty hilarious.


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