A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that An Abundance of Katherines is a quirky novel by John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) about teen boys who take a road trip to Tennessee, where they get jobs recording the locals' oral histories in the town of Gutshot. There's strong language (including "s--t," "ass," "damn," bastard" and various euphemisms for the male organ) and references to sex, orgasms, and oral sex. While less graphic than many young adult books, the book has some mature themes, including the reality of teens facing their anxieties and fears as they grow up.
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What's the story?
Colin is a former child prodigy who has just graduated from high school as valedictorian -- and has just been dumped by the 19th girl he's dated named Katherine (well, 18th, really: One of them dumped him twice). He is in a deep funk, worried that all of his early promise will add up to nothing, and that his talents -- for absorbing knowledge, working hard, languages, trivia, and anagrams -- aren't really of any use in the real world. When his best friend, Hassan, a genial if lazy lout, decides Colin needs a road trip, they soon wash up in Gutshot, Tennessee, where they get a job recording oral histories from the town's residents. While there, Colin works on what he sees as his last shot at mattering: a mathematical formula to predict the course of romantic relationships: the Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability.
Is it any good?
This delightful exercise in geek chic hums along on the strength of three central characters who have failed to live up to their potential -- and also have no clue what their potential is. There's no real plot to speak of, no action except for one fight, and the text assumes at least a tolerance of, if not interest in, the things that interest Colin -- and the author. And even fans may be disappointed in Colin's rather obvious and trite revelations and epiphanies, which are expounded on at great length.
Ultimately, though, readers who like intriguing characters and intellectual play will find this book lots of fun. And teens will certainly relate to the anxieties and fears of these young adults about to embark on the greatest adventure of their lives: adulthood.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about road trip stories. Can you think of any other books -- or even movies -- that feature teens or young adults hitting the road in search of themselves?
Why are road trip stories so popular? Why do they make for good stories?
Have you read other John Green books? How does this one compare? Do you think he understands teens well and that his work reflects their real lives?
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