Today we go back in time to look at Jonathan Tropper’s novel Plan B. If you have ever seen the brilliant movie This is Where I Leave You, then you are at least partially familiar with author Tropper’s work. After realizing This is Where I Leave You was based on a novel, I immediately decided that Mr. Tropper had earned himself a top slot in the “To-Read” pile, though I decided I wanted to read something other than the book the film was based on. I decided to pick up Plan B, Tropper’s debut novel, both because it was his first book, and because the book centered on a group of friends turning 30 and trying to hold onto youth and the close-knit friendship they developed in their college years. Being that I am certainly nearer to 30 than I am 20… or 25 for that matter, and I also look back at my college experience fondly, this book basically jumped off the shelf at me.
Synopsis from Jonathan Tropper’s website:
A novel about Friendship, Love, Celebrity, Addiction, Kidnapping and Turning Thirty.
Turning thirty was never supposed to be like this.
Ten years ago, Ben, Lindsey, Chuck, Alison, and Jack graduated from NYU and went out into the world, fresh-faced and full of dreams for the future. But now Ben’s getting a divorce, Lindsey’s unemployed, Alison and Chuck seem stuck in ruts of their own making, and Jack is getting more publicity for his cocaine addiction than his multimillion-dollar Hollywood successes.
It seems that the one thing they’ve learned since graduation is that nothing turned out the way they planned it. Suddenly, turning thirty- past the age their parents were when they were born, older than every current star athlete or pop music sensation – seems to be both more meaningful and less than they’d imagined ten years ago.
There’s no time to contemplate this milestone, however; life is intervening, especially for Jack. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and though the bold plan the friends devise to save Jack from himself may not be the best way, once again, going with Plan B seems to be the only choice they have.
Jonathan Tropper’s wonderful debut novel is about more than friendship, love, celebrity, addiction, kidnapping or even turning thirty- it’s a heartfelt, sharply written comic riff on what it means to be an adult against your will, to be single when you thought you’d have a family, to realize nothing in life happens like you planned it, to discover you are not, in fact, immortal, and to learn that Star Wars is as good a life lesson today as it was when you were six years old.
As I mentioned earlier, Plan B centers on four decade-long friends who get into all sorts of shenanigans as they try to save their movie star friend from his cocaine addiction. I found all of the characters to be very well thought out. The kind of characters that feel “lived in,” if that makes sense. Despite having vastly different life experiences from these characters, I could still see some of me and my close college friends in them. Like most good fiction, these people are likable, but flawed, which adds to the charm. Ben, the book’s main character/narrator, is struggling in a dead-end job (if you can call writing for Esquire “dead-end,” even as a lowly list-maker), in the middle of an amiable divorce, and has been in love with his best friend Lindsey since college. Ben along with Lindsey, Alice (the lawyer who has an almost maternal instinct towards Jack the moviestar), and Chuck the possibly sex-addicted surgeon get the band back together in an attempt to save their friendships and their friend Jack Shaw, action star. The imperfection of these people feels real and the ridiculous situations these characters find themselves in adds a layer in which we see how these relatable personalities work out their shit with each other and life in general.
Tropper seems to have a knack for perfectly describing the minor existential crisis that comes with life just not ending up like you’d expect. A lot of the narrator’s introspection put words to what I experienced after leaving the close-knit society that is college life. While in school I lived with two good friends while my girlfriend and some of my other close friends lived just down the stairs. Living that close to your friends ensures that you will constantly be in contact with the people you want to hang out with. Nothing to do? Walk 10 steps away and find your friends. When you move away, that immediacy of friendships dissipates and it’s hard to figure out how to fill those gaps, while also figuring out your direction in the adult world. Needless to say, I appreciated a novel that both brought my nostalgia to the forefront, but also managed to tell a great tale of friendship, adulthood, and settling down.
I rarely read modern fiction (I mostly stick to science-fiction, fantasy, comics, and boring nonfiction books), but I bought this novel on the January 2nd and had it finished by January 5th. That’s with kids, a job, and an irritating inability to speed-read. I either really liked it or I am a literary sadomasochist. Plan B is available at major book retailers and, of course, on Amazon, just make sure you specify “books” or you will end up in the digital birth control aisle.