John Green

An Abundance of Katherines

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An Abundance of Katherines Summary

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An Abundance of Katherines is a young adult novel by John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars. Colin Singleton is a 17-year-old recent high school graduate. He is in a state of depression after a girlfriend dumps him. In this comic novel, Colin and his best friend set off on a coming-of-age road trip.

Colin is a former child prodigy with an IQ of over 200. He has a gift for languages, codes, and creating anagrams. But his social skills don’t match his intellect. He finds it difficult to relate to other people and has only one friend. He has also been unlucky in love. He has been dumped nineteen times, and every single one of the girls who dumped him shares the same name—Katherine. Colin’s definition of dating differs from the norm. He counts people with whom he held hands. The day after Colin graduates from high school, Katherine XIX breaks up with him.

Colin becomes depressed and has an existential crisis. He fears that he will become a washed-up child prodigy. He feels that he does not matter to Katherine XIX and that he does not matter to the world. As a prodigy, he is a master at learning. But Colin wants to be like geniuses who do and discover. When will he be like his Archimedes and make his own important discoveries? When will Colin have his own unique “Eureka” moment? He feels like there is a big hole in his stomach that needs to be filled.

His best and only friend Hassan Harbish, a slightly overweight and hairy boy of Lebanese descent, proposes a road trip. The trip will be the solution to all Colin’s problems.

First, Colin has to convince his parents that this is a good idea. Even though they worry the trip is a waste of his intellectual potential, they agree to let him go. They would prefer if he took a Sanskrit class, instead.

Next, they need to convince Hassan’s parents. Colin tells Hassan’s mother about his girlfriend woes in Arabic. She tells Colin to stay away from girls like her son. Colin convinces Hassan’s parents to agree to the trip by saying he will help Hassan find a job. Hassan’s parents find him lazy and dislike that he wastes his time watching the TV show Judge Judy. The Harbishes agree to let Hassan take the trip.

Colin and the wise-cracking Hassan drive from their hometown of Chicago to rural Gutshot, Tennessee. They visit the purported grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination in Sarajevo ultimately led to the start of World War I.

In Gutshot, they meet Lindsey Lee Wells, who gives tours of the town and is training to be a paramedic. Lindsey’s mother Hollis helps Colin and Hassan find work. They are hired to create an oral history of Gutshot by interviewing all the current adult residents of the town. Hollis runs the local factory that produces tampon strings. Colin and Hassan are also invited to stay with Lindsey’s family.

Colin falls for Lindsey, the first girl he has ever liked not named Katherine. Unfortunately, Lindsey already has a boyfriend, who is also named Colin. Hassan and Colin Singleton call the boyfriend TOC, which stands for “the other Collin.”

As an attempt to find his own genius, Colin creates a mathematical theorem. He calls it the Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability. This relationship formula is Colin’s attempt to use his intellect to solve a non-intellectual problem. His theorem works for the majority of his past relationships, except one.

While in Gutshot, Colin’s friend Hassan starts dating Katrina, who is a friend of Lindsey’s. As a devout Muslim, dating non-Muslim Katrina is the first of several departures for Hassan from his faith. Hassan ends the relationship after he catches Katrina cheating on him by having sex with TOC. This means that TOC is also cheating on Lindsey. This encounter occurs while Hassan and Colin are hunting feral hogs with Lindsey and her friends.

A fight ensues. Colin is injured while in the town’s famous cemetery. As he stares at the Archduke’s grave, he begins to create anagrams to distract himself from the pain. One of the anagrams is Fred N. Dinzanfar, which is the name of Lindsey’s great-grandfather. Colin realizes that Lindsey’s great-grandfather is in the tomb, not the famous Archduke.

Colin goes in search of Lindsey to share his aha moment about her great-grandfather. He finds her in a cave, which serves as her secret hideout where she can go to think. Colin also tells her the saga of all the Katherines he has loved and lost. He discovers that Lindsey is actually relieved that TOC cheated on her. Lindsey never felt like she could be herself around TOC, but she can around Colin. They both confess their feelings for each other.

Colin uses his theorem to assess whether his relationship with Lindsey has a chance. The results conclude that they will only have four more days together. He shares the results with Lindsey. As a joke, four days later, Lindsey writes Colin a note that says she is in love with Hassan and cannot be Colin’s girlfriend.

Lindsey’s note prompts Colin to make two key discoveries. His theorem cannot predict a relationship, but it can show why a past relationship failed. Instead of being devastated, Colin realizes it is OK to not be unique or to “matter.” The novel ends with Hassan, Colin, and Lindsey driving to Wendy’s.

John Green writes the novel from Colin’s perspective in a third-person narrative. This technique helps the reader to empathize with Colin. Green includes many footnotes and an appendix to help us understand the complexity of Colin’s mind. The appendix was written by Daniel Bliss, a mathematician and close friend of the author, to help explain the complex math in the novel.