A Brief Foray into Young Adult Novels: After and An Abundance of Katherines

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I don’t often have the urge to seek out a young adult novel, but this month has been one of them. I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed the two I chose. After deals with a teenage mother, and An Abundance of Katherines deals with a genius teenager dealing with yet another break up. Both novels felt original, and gave me, as an adult, a sense of satisfaction as I read them. After was by far the more emotional, and Katherines was most amusing.

I was also pleased that neither had unnecessary or inappropriate language, drug use, or sex, things that would cause me to steer away from Young Adult novels. (Obviously, After had sex, but it wasn’t unnecessary or inappropriate. I’d say the same for the language in Katherines.)

After by Amy Efaw

Fifteen-year-old star soccer player Devon Davenport has apparently tossed her newborn infant into a garbage bag, the most unlikely person to do so. By writing in present tense, Amy Efaw captures the panic, the confusion, and the denial of a young teen mother and makes it real for the reader. In her afterward, Ms Efaw mentions she wrote this book to try explain just why some teen mothers did leave babies in dumpster. Especially given that premise, it was an emotional journey to be a part of. Fantastically written and fascinating in its psychological and judicial implications, After (Viking, 2009) frankly addresses the issues of adulthood through a young adults’ eyes. Is a fifteen-year-old truly responsible?

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Colin Singleton is distressed not just from having been dumped by a girl named Katherine for the nineteenth time but also because he feels he’s never had a special “eureka” moment. Since he’d been dubbed a child prodigy at age 2, he worries he’s lost his chance now that he’s age seventeen. To recover from his break-up, he and his lazy friend go on a road trip and Colin works on a special theorem that will describe his nineteen failed relationships. I loved the light tone of the book, I loved the mathematics (which were beyond me but apparently accurate), and I love the themes. Although Colin is a genius, he is truly an everyman. I don’t read many young adult novels, but I loved how Colin was normal. For those teens (or adults!) wanting to come to terms with their past or wondering what the future holds, An Abundance of Katherines (Dutton, 2006) would fit the ticket. It was wonderful!

It will probably be a year before I read another Young Adult novel. Nevertheless, which one would you suggest?

Reviewed on July 14, 2011

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I’m so glad you liked After! It’s one of my favorite YA novels ever, so powerful. I wasn’t a fan of the other one, honestly, but I’m not a huge fan of John Green’s writing in general (though I like him, personally…).

    • Amanda » thanks for the review a million years ago! It’s what got me to add it to the list. AFTER definitely was a strong novel, I loved how the present tense made it so emotional to read.

    • Ms. Yingling » I have a boy (still little) and so I can definitely appreciate that. It seems so many ‘boy” books are fantasy or dark dystopias. Granted, I say that not having read much YA…

  • I enjoyed John Green so much when I read him, I read all of his books in one year. That rarely happens with me! I am curious about After, but I haven’t read it yet. I don’t think my library had it when Amanda reviewed it. (I think it is her review I am thinking about.)

  • I liked An Abundance of Katherines too, although maybe not quite as much as some people. Most of the YA I read is fantasy — it satisfies my Narnia-loving brain without involving lots of incest or hacking people up. :p Hence Patrick Ness, Megan Whalen Turner, etc.

  • Yay, I’m glad you enjoyed them! Abundance’s math is, I think, correct– I think I remember hearing something from J Green about having the math checked out by a mathematician friend of his (or maybe the friend did all the math himself?). Just, you know…in case you were wondering.

    For your next YA book: maybe Nation by Terry Pratchett? Have you read that one yet?

    • Anastasia » yeah, the afterword had an explanation of how the math was right…I still didn’t get it. Is NATION fantasy? I think I may steer away from YA fantasy for now, just not in the mood.

      • It’s more like magical realism except in an alternate world? There’s gods and stuff but not really any magic (that I can remember, anyway), and the emphasis is definitely on the characters/their relationships/their society/etc.

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