An Abundance of Katherines: Cover Woes

Summary: When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun – but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself. (from the first edition)

This is, undoubtedly, the most entertaining summary that I’ve ever found. It’s what persuaded me – yes, moreso than the very fun title (I do so love that title!) – to read “Katherines” in the first place. “Katherines” has since become one of my most favorite books. So, imagine my surprise when I realized that it’s the least popular of John Green’s novels. What? How? With that title and that summary, I was sure that it was an enormous hit. And shouldn’t the fact that it won the Michael L. Printz Honor Award garner it even more attention?

Disregarding the plot (I know that Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars are the favorites), I think that An Abundance of Katherines‘ lack of reader interest is due in huge part to the very uninteresting covers with which it has been issued.

Another K Cover

This is the dustjacket for the hardcover edition, published by Dutton Juvenile in September 2006. The title as a math equation is a clever representation of Colin’s obsessions: the Katherines and his Theorem. However, this is the lone creative feature of this cover. The Katherines are faceless, nothing more than brightly colored silhouettes. This is unfortunate, as they are the combined driving force behind the entire story and are interesting individuals in their own right. They deserve better representations.

The bigger problem that I see is the blank white background. It makes AAoK’s dust jacket appear only half complete. It is dull, and, unfortunately, suggests boredom on the part of the cover designer. If someone wasn’t engaged enough to make this book appealing, then why should anyone read it, much less pick it up?

 

 

Cover 2 is for the first paperback edition, published by Speak in 2008.

Sigh. Why do all the Katherines look a little too similar? This doesn’t appear to be a contemporary, romantic comedy. This is a science-fiction story about a young man’s encounter with a group of clones. (Hmm, that might not be such a bad idea, actually…) And I see that the white background has made yet another appearance. Lovely.

Further points of annoyance:

  • the dull coloration: brown, pale green, white (Make it go away!)
  • The very photo-shopped faces of the Katherines makes me reassert my theory that they are clones.Or androids. They’re too plastic-y, too smooth, too perfect.
  • The tiny, tiny title. Is this book really such a non-entity? Shouldn’t readers want to know what it’s called?
  • John Green’s name – it’s too enormous. I grow irked when the author’s name is so large that, on first glance, I suspect that it is the actual title of the book.

 

 

On to Cover 3. Yes, there is a third cover, one for another paperback edition. In 2011, the publishers of Penguin held a contest; residents (ages 13 and older) of the US and the District of Columbia could submit original cover designs for AAoK. A panel of judges would select the winning entry. This is it:

Question 1: WHAT IS WITH THE WHITE BACKGROUND? It could easily have been turned into a piece of notebook paper. Then, the images could be sketches by Colin. That would have been rather fun.

Question 2: How in the world was this not the winning entry?

  • The Katherines are (finally) represented as unique individuals.
  • The car (called Satan’s Hearse) calls attention to one of the most important points of the entire story: that Colin agreed to go on a roadtrip to escape his old life and his old identity. It’s a symbol of freedom, of new beginnings, and I can think of no more fitting representation for Colin.
  • How many times should I write that THERE’S NO WHITE SPACE THERE’S NO WHITE SPACE THERE’S NO WHITE SPACE ANYWHERE!!!! Every inch of the cover is decorated expertly.

An Abundance of Katherines deserves a better cover. No, it needs a better cover. I sincerely doubt that a new cover would make it more popular with people who are already fans of John Green, but it would invite newcomers to take a more in-depth look at one of the works of a high-caliber author.

– Circuit B

A note to my readers: I know that some (or all) of you may have excellent reasons for liking or disliking An Abundance of Katherines. If you wish to write them, please don’t do so in this post. I want only to address and call attention to the issue of covers.

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