I picked this one up at Leaky Con, so I’d have another book to have signed by the genius, himself. And then of course I forgot that my copy was signed, and I have been carrying it around with me in my purse for the last few days…You never know when your purse book will be needed so it’s best to just always have one, except of course when your purse book is autographed. Because now it has a fold on the front cover. Oh well. I did also get my other two favorite John Green books autographed and they are hard covers that are sitting, all well behaved on the shelf, so all is still well with the world.
Any way, I think I still have one more John Green book to get to before I have read them all. I know I’m kind of behind with the times, but when I discover a great writer, I like to find everything they have ever written, purchase everything they have ever written, and then apparently slowly get to everything they have ever written. This allows me to slowly savor and appreciate them more, which is a good plan, or possibly just my excuse.
This one is about Collin. Collin is very smart, always playing with words (I seriously have not seen the word “anagram” written down in the same book this many times ever before in my life), and always learning. He was a child prodigy, knowing how to read words an extremely young age. And since that age his parents have encouraged a constant influx of education. The other thing you need to know about Collin is that he only seems to fall for girls named Katherine. And all 19 Katherines he’s been involved with have dumped him.
When the 19th Katherine (whose also technically the first Katherine returned) breaks his heart, Collin and his best friend, Hassan go for a road trip. Instead of going to what Collin calls Smart Kid Camp, he manages to talk his parents into letting him spend his summer in a normal teenager-type way. Or as normal as a child prodigy with a broken heart and a gigantic need to remain at genius-level to society can ever be. Collin’s worst fear seems to be that he will become just like most other child prodigies before him: not special.
The road trip takes them to Gutshot, Tennessee to the supposed grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and from there Collin’s real journey begins. There they meet Hollis and Lindsey (mother and daughter). Hollis hires the boys to go with Lindsey around the town of Gutshot to interview the citizens who live there. And all the citizens of Gutshot have something to do with the factory that Hollis owns (a tampon string factory!).
Lindsey, Collin, and Hassan go around town asking interview questions with a tape recorder and they hear a lot of stories. Meanwhile, Collin starts to work on a theorem that he thinks will make him famous. It’s a theorem that charts relationships and explains the relationship between the dumpee versus the dumper. There’s wild hog hunting, interviewing, Katherine-recovering, hamburger eating, and a lot of growing in this book! Between the secret hideaways, the old folks homes, the exploded hornets nest, and all the stories of the Katherines, this book never really had a dull moment. Hassan gets his first girlfriend. There is a reason they discover at the end, for why the interviews need to be done, and this was so unexpected for me! There’s one crazy fight between Lindsey’s boyfriend and well, everyone else. And every single thing that happens, even the hard things, are coated in this layer of classic John Green sarcastic humor that just makes it all seem so much more real.
There’s this moment where one character’s kindness manages to get all the other characters to realize that they can do more! And all of the characters of this novel needed to get to this moment! And when they did, it was pure magic. The timing of everything was just so perfect. I loved not getting the full Katherine story till the end when Collin tells the whole thing from start to finish to Lindsey. And I loved where everything ended!
I loved Lindsey and her honesty. I loved her hiding spot and how she wasn’t afraid to tell the truth to Collin. I loved her humor and how she wrote him a very funny/somewhat cruel letter that had me laugh out loud while reading! I loved that Collin, while very egotistic and intelligent, was also willing to listen to other people and accept that he still had so much more to learn about things. He so easily could have been so much worse. I loved that his first impression of Lindsey (reading a celebrity magazine) changed and was capable of changing! I also loved Hassan, who ended up being so much more than just the comedic relief.
John Green has this ability to write these short, singular moments of time where things come together for the characters, and I know I kind of already talked about it as this magic moment. There were only a few of these moments in this book. And as he continues to write (in his later books) there are more and more of these moments where it just becomes abundantly clear that he understands teens and how they think. He just gets it. I of course like his later books better because there are more of these moments, but it’s so nice seeing that he has always had this ability.
Also, it is so wonderful to see how highly intelligence is appreciated in these books. So many Katherines were intrigued by Collin’s smartness. And Collin wouldn’t even look at Lindsey until he realized she was so much more than the stupid magazine she was reading when they first met. Granted, not all the characters appreciated Collin’s IQ. However, I think this just made it overall more authentic because not everyone will always value intelligence. It’s just nice reading about how teenagers can value it.
My only qualm with this book was all the math. I found the theorem interesting, but like John Green, I was not that great with math. And even though he saves the majority of the math for the appendix at the end, which I attempted to read, I still found it a little frustrating. I also sometimes got sidetracked by the footnotes, which for the most part were either interesting or hilarious. I liked the footnotes, I really did. They added to Collin’s story in a way that I cannot imagine them not being there. But, they also pulled me out of Collin’s story a lot too and I kept finding myself having to bring myself back a lot. Also, Collin, in general could be a little frustrating (though that was the point at times) and it was almost a little too easy to continue to put the book down.
Regardless, this was another great story by John Green. I love how he values intelligence. His characters were fantastic, flawed, and believable. And I know that I will soon be able to say I have read everything he has ever written. This gets a 9/10.