Colin has been dumped by his nineteenth Katherine and is miserable and his best friend Hassan knows the cure, a road trip. The two set out for a summer of no plans and freedom and travel from Chicago to the small town of Gutshot Tennessee. There they visit the grave of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and are intrigued by Lindsey Lee Wells, who doesn't totally fit their prejudiced idea of an ignorant country redneck. The two decided to stay in Gutshot, when Lindsey's mom offers them a job conducting interviews of the town's residents. With their pompous ideas of superiority, the two do their job and Hassan slowly comes to learn that he is lazy and not in a good way and Colin learns he is self-centered. Colin learns this through the Theorem, his chance at becoming more than a child prodigy. Feeling that all relationships can be graphed and predicted, Colin works constantly on his theory, his chance at genius. While Colin works, other people live their lives and through Lindsey and Hassan's help, Colin just might learn to live himself.
I love John Green's writing and generally I really like his books, but this is my least favorite. I had a hard time getting past the way the two main male characters degraded Kentucky, the South, and anyone who chooses to live in the country. That is my number one pet peeve. As someone born and raised in Kentucky and in the country it is painful to see constant reminders of how it is acceptable to degrade Kentuckians and to see all country people lumped together as ignorant rednecks. Colin never really learns to respect anyone in this book. He sort of learns that he can't be the genius he has always wanted to be and that he has to stop fearing rejection to truly live, but he never really learns how to not be self-absorbed. Hassan does a bit better and even embraces country life for a bit and learns that he has to do something with his life. Lindsey is the only saving grace of the entire book and she is close to the top on the best female characters Green has ever written. I think I even like her better than Hazel and she is my favorite so far.
Reading this one last showed me how far Green has come in creating more likeable characters. He also does a much better job with a road trip in Paper Towns, but I can see the evolution of the road trip from this story into that one. I can see some basis for Hazel's character from Lindsey and I can see how a pretentious character can go too far and where you can go from liking Miles aka "Pudge" to really disliking Colin. I did really like the way he used math in this novel and how Green does not feel the same way as Colin about country people. I was able to meet John at the McConnell Conference and he is a great guy. To me this book was just a warmup to Paper Towns and Lindsey was just a warmup to Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars. There were some great quotes in this one, particularly "Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they'll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back." With Lindsey and that quote, the book is saved to a 3 cups of cocoa read, but without them it would have only been a 2. That really pains me, but all his other books have been 4s and 5s, so I definitely recommend him as an author.