Why Lindsey Lee Wells is the Best Katherine of All

[There are spoilers so don’t read ahead if you haven’t finished!]

When he reminisces about Katherine XIX early in the novel, Colin says “She said I love you as if it were a secret, and an immense one.” This very thing he loves about Katherine XIX becomes the thing which connects him to Lindsey Lee Wells in the first place—she bites her thumb in front of him, a “private habit.” They become the people they most want to be around, the people you can think out loud in front of, the people that show you their secret hiding places.

Lindsey’s biggest insecurity is that she is never truthful. She says the only statement that’s true that begins with “I am” is “I am full of shit.” She has been faking everything for a long time, which is why when it’s finally over with TOC, she’s mostly relieved because she doesn’t have to pretend anymore. This is the relief she transfers into her relationship with Colin, someone with whom she had always felt like she could be private in front of. The sharing of private things throughout the novel (whether it was biting her thumb in front of him, or sharing the theorem with her, or sharing her hiding place, or thinking out loud in front of her—something introverted people like Colin simply don’t do—, or telling him how full of shit she is) is, again, what binds them together.

Now the reason Lindsey Lee Wells is better than all the other Katherines is how she makes him forget about all of them, especially Katherine XIX. What Colin discovers about his breakup with Katherine XIX is that “Dumping isn’t something that gets done to you; it’s something that happens with you.” It’s more like an inevitable coming of separation. The reason it didn’t work was because he was too needy and she was too inconsistent. She was a good person and kind, he says, but she lit up his heart a little too much. With his insecurity and her inconsistency, they were an obvious bad match but he didn’t notice because he had wrapped himself up in her. Lindsey helps him unravel.

In his final story, he also says, “You don’t remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened.” It’s not about what happens it’s about what we remember happening that makes it matter.  Later, in the epilogue he says that in a moment nothing may happen but it can still be thick with mattering. The affect is what matters. So, even being around Lindsey makes him forget things—that’s something worth noting. And further, forgetting is just the beginning because it allowed him to step back and look at his relationship with Katherine XIX, which just wasn’t right.

Most importantly, though, is that Lindsey Lee Wells is the one who teaches him storytelling. He even says that this is so much a part of how and why he loves her. She teaches him that mattering (his biggest insecurity) comes from telling stories. Again, it’s about affect. How we are changed by what happens to us is what really matters. And how we are changed is how we remember. Those are the stories of infinite meaning, the ones that make us matter. And further, she shows him we cannot be in the stories we have finished. The future is wide and expanding before us and in that, there is always the possibility of mattering—the ability to reinvent oneself, to transform oneself into something different, something even better.

– Preston

John Green: Transformation and Story-Telling

Transformation is so important in a novel. There must be, from the very beginning, the conflict and through the course of the novel a protagonist deals out a way he or she can change in an attempt to assuage this conflict. Frankly, that’s fiction writing. No conflict, no novel. No transformation, no protagonist. So, in An Abundance of Katherines our protagonist Colin has to go through a transformation. Luckily for us, the journey he makes specifically involves the power of storytelling. [FYI There are spoilers if you have not finished the novel. Too, there is no summary so if you aren’t familiar with the story, you may want to become familiar].

Before: So, we begin with conflict. The conflict from the very beginning of the novel is finding one’s place in it all—how perfectly young adult (YA) fiction of Green. Colin wants to matter. He wants to have that Eureka moment that takes him from prodigy to genius. He feels misunderstood (YA) and often just plain distant from a lot of the world (YA!!)—there’s a reason he dates the girls from smart camp—because of his prodigy lifestyle. No one really “gets it” (YA!!!!). So, we can guess his transformation is going to be feeling misunderstood to being understood. Who’s going to help him do that? Well, a love interest that creates a love-triangle of course (YA)!

Before Lindsey Lee Wells, Colin mentions the problem has always been transition. (This is something she hints at as well when she says he goes from thing to thing too quickly). He also, according to her, lacks the necessities for a good story: adventure, romance, and a moral. In this journey with her, Colin learns the importance of what Green later says in the afterword is the third most important advice he gives young writers: always tell stories and always listen when others are telling you theirs.

As we established, Colin wants to matter. That’s been the conflict since page one. In the end, he learns that telling stories is how we matter. The stories will make the infinite mattering possible even when the future erases everything. Each of us causes a little ripple with every story we tell because, even just slightly, people are always different after hearing our story than they were before. So there’s his transformation. We all matter, he says, maybe less than a lot but always more than none.

[I would also like to point out that even using something like anagramming — an act where you take a word and change it into something it wasn’t before — is a method of transformation. This is more a testament to John Green’s brilliance, but this talent is Colin’s greatest pastime because it speaks to the beauty of language and how language is so malleable. Green speaks to this in the afterword, saying “Words are not static. Language shapes our memories and it is also shaped by our memories.” This motif accomplishes just that in such a subtle way.]

– Preston