an abundance of katherines / looking for alaska

I don’t exactly remember when I heard of  young adult author John Green, but I definitely wish it had been a bit sooner.

I’ve had a copy of his novel An Abundance of Katherines on my shelf for a little while now; I vaguely remember picking it up without any real knowledge of who John Green was, just because it looked interesting, but I’m not sure when or where (most likely at a used bookstore).  And since then, I’ve read a few positive things about another Green novel, Looking for Alaska. So I decided it was time to give this guy’s writing a try.

An Abundance of Katherines impressed me.  Looking for Alaska totally won me over.  I am officially declaring myself a John Green fan and am placing him on my “Best of YA” pedestal.

In An Abundance of Katherines, new high school grad and child prodigy Colin Singleton has  to come to terms with his nineteenth break-up of a girl named Katherine — not to mention the fact that his efforts to move from prodigy to genius are not coming along as well as he’d like them to.  In Looking for Alaska, Miles, a teenage memorizer-of-last-words, tells us his story of going to an Alabama boarding school to find his Great Perhaps and finding instead a girl named Alaska.

In both, our protagonist is a quirky, offbeat, socially awkward sort of guy.  Both have hilariously funny moments, and both have cringingly honest ones.  However, the styles of the stories are quite different, and each fits its tale nicely.  Katherines is written in the third person and has a Wes Anderson-esque tone and structure to it  (which I thought early on, and then found it interesting that he referenced The Royal Tenenbaums later) that immediately drew me in. Alaska, told by Miles in the first person, is split into two parts, Before and After, with the defining event of the novel being the divider.

But the shared overlying factor – and what I would look for in his other books – is Green’s ability to create a teenage experience that seems simultaneously authentic and over-the-top.  Green definitely does not shy away from the vices of teenagedom; his characters drink, smoke, swear, and have sex to varying degrees (ranging from a lot to not at all) and with various consequences.  He doesn’t glorify these actions, but neither does he send a message of disapproval.  He simply allows his characters to make the same choices real teenagers often do, while experiencing the joy, sadness, heartbreak, and thrills life has to offer.

What Green does glorify is friendship – friendship and its power to change how someone sees themselves and how someone sees the world.  It’s certainly not a new theme to take on, but Green carries his characters through their journeys with energy and empathy, and in doing so lets us think a little bit about how we see ourselves, and how we see the world.

WHO: John Green
WHAT: An Abundance of Katherines /Looking for Alaska
WHERE: Purchase used book/Downloaded audio book from library
WHEN: June/July 2010
WHY: Looked interesting/positive buzz
HOW: Hard copy/audio

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~ by Molly on July 16, 2010.

4 Responses to “an abundance of katherines / looking for alaska”

  1. I’m listening to An Abundance of Katherines now, and read Looking For Alaska last year. You’ve done a great job of identifying what works so well about these books. I wish I’d discovered John Green earlier, and look forward to reading more by him.

  2. Just read this and really enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  3. […] fell in love with John Green’s writing last summer, and so his Paper Towns found its way on my Christmas list this year.  From the start, the […]

  4. […] Book Blog Book Nut bookhopping bookshelves of doom Fluttering Butterflies Fyrefly’s Book Blog Jenny’s Books things […]

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