Dutton, $18.99, ISBN 978-0-525-47688-7
Contemporary Fiction, 2006
An Abundance of Katherines is pretty good at repulsing readers who propelled John Green’s apoteosis to YouTube and Internet god only to shriek in horror when they realize that the sensitive feminine fantasy machine behind The Fault in Our Stars was actually the anomaly. This book reveals the real John Green: the white male who writes navel gazing stories of privileged white males moaning and whining about how hard they have it in life because nobody appreciates how special they are compared to the rest of the world. In other words: dick lit for white men. As you can imagine, the sensitive Tumblr princesses, who revel in how nobody appreciates who they are because they are so oppressed unlike those privileged white males, find such an approach a complete 180 from their professed beliefs. The resulting dissonance and subsequent rants and accusations of whatever-ism are most entertaining.
I wish this book is as entertaining. Now, I know we were all young once, and we all went through that phase where we felt that we were special snowflakes, misunderstood and unappreciated. If only someone could see how awesome we are, we would surely shine like a phoenix and people would worship us, let us have sex with whoever we want, give us money to buy whatever we want, and say nothing but praises of adoration to us all day. With such attitude, though, we often ended up being our worst enemies: we were so intent to see ourselves as special snowflakes that we ended up wallowing in self-pity when we could have done… something… to make ourselves happier. That realization comes with age and maturity, so yes, such a phase is understandable. It’s practically a part of growing up. I get that.
That doesn’t mean I want to read a story with such a person, though, especially when Colin Singleton lacks the charm, humor, and self-depreciation to carry off this act. He’s no Adrian Mole, let’s just say. Colin is a prodigy and his parents refuse to let him entertain even for a second that he is anything less than perfect. As you can imagine, this kind of upbringing results in a socially awkward guy whom anyone sane wouldn’t want to be caught in a conversation with even for a second. Colin doesn’t have conversations, he talks about what he wants to talk about and expects the other person to listen and nod to every word. His idea of a conversation is pretentious statements. When talking about life after graduation, for example, he intones that it is surely the end of the world. He’s Dexter – from Dexter’s Laboratory – without a Dee Dee to keep his navel-gazing excesses in check.
Of course, this is fiction, most likely written for socially anxious and awkward men who like to imagine that it is never their fault that people would rather drill a hole in their own skulls than to listen to them drone on and on about how the world doesn’t understand them, so Colin has had 19 girlfriends – give or take some prepubescent awkwardness that he insists on checking anyway on his personal “girls that dumped me because they don’t understand how awesome I am” list because each tick must have increased his penis by an inch or something – and counting. He only has one criteria for his girlfriends: her name must be Katherine. This is all part of the pasty little twerp’s quest to decipher the mathematical equation of relationships, original ideas, and other nonsense.
In this story, his only friend, the couch potato Hassan, decides that they should go on a road trip to help Colin overcome his latest dumping by Katherine the 19th. Hassan is “exotic” because he calls Colin kafir often for… comedic effect, I guess. He’s like that pet that the white male keeps to prove that he is magnanimous enough to accept people of different ethnicity into his circle of worshipers. They meet Lindsey, who actually likes Colin for some reason – I think she must be John Green’s avatar – and Colin spends the entire story moaning and whining and moping that he doesn’t know what to think, do, say or that his relationship issues are simply the worst things to ever hit the civilized world.
Okay, maybe I’m dense, but am I supposed to find this twerp interesting? He spends all his time moping and whining like a wet bag full of dirty socks. He acts like he’s the most troubled person in the world because he is too dumb to figure out that girls like flowers, nice words, and six pack abs along with a big fat bank account. Maybe we should cut off his balls and give him a real issue to yap about all day.
It also doesn’t help one bit that the characters here all speak like fifty-year old geezers imagining that if they use big words often, they would sound like heroes and heroines in a show scripted by Joss Whedon.
The entire book can be summed up simply as: “Who the hell cares?”