Book Review – “Plan B” – Jonathan Tropper (2000)

I am just spoiling my 3.5 readers silly with book reviews all over the place lately.

Tropper's Plan B earns a place on my shelf.

Tropper’s Plan B earns a spot on my shelf.

Plan B is humorist Jonathan Tropper’s novel, released in 2000, about a group of friends who experience the harsh realities that come with the territory of turning thirty years old.

In fact.  “Thirty.  Shit.”  is a common refrain throughout the work.

Before I start my review, I’d like to offer the following comparison between Bookshelf Q. Battler of ten years ago and BQB of today:

UPON SEEING A SUPER HOT WOMAN

BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER 10 YEARS AGO – Wow.  I must find a way to win her heart.  I will go out of my way to please her and spend my days thinking of ways to make her happy.  All I have is hers.  I will work to turn myself into a man who deserves such a spectacular creature.

BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER TODAY – Oh Jesus H. Christ she looks like a whole helluvalot of work.  Probably needy and demanding.  Probably will expect me to bend over backwards for her.  Probably wants all my money.  I’ll have to compete with every other jackass that wants her. Come on, sure she’s pretty but it’s not like rainbows shoot out of her butt or anything. God, I’m too exhausted for all that hullabaloo.  NEXT!

ON HEALTH

BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER 10 YEARS AGO – I’m going to run twenty miles and stay up all night!

BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER TODAY – I ate an expired yogurt.  Should I go to the emergency room?

ON DREAMS

BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER 10 YEARS AGO – I’ve worked so hard!  All my dreams will come true now!

BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER TODAY – My dream for today is to come home, watch Netflix, eat a taco, and fall asleep in a barcalounger.  All who interfere with my dream will suffer my wrath.

The great transfer from youth to adulthood is the crux of Tropper’s novel.

As a big humor fan, I’m not sure how it took me so long to read one of Tropper’s books.  He writes with a witty style, yet still manages to jam in enough seriousness to keep a plot moving.  The sign of a good author is that after reading one of his books, you want to read his other works, and that’s how Tropper left me feeling here.

In life, you start with Plan A.  You’re young.  You look at the world through rose colored glasses.  You truly believe anything is possible, that if you work hard enough, the world will give you a fair shake.  Ask a young person what they’re going to do when they grow up, and they will often tell you with great determination that they’re going to be an actor, musician, athlete, or insert other celebrated occupation here.

Then time passes.  The world knocks you around.  You experience your first breakup.  You suffer career setbacks.  You don’t get that plum job you wanted.  You find yourself feeling lucky to have any job at all.  Time keeps moving.  You suddenly realize that time is limited and there isn’t enough left to get yourself to where you always dreamed of being.

You end up having to go for, as Tropper puts it, “Plan B.”  You try to forgive yourself for not achieving the life you always wanted.  You learn to live life as best as you can with what you have left.

The story focuses around a group of now grown up college friends – Jack, Chuck, Lindsey, Allison, and Ben, the narrator.  They’re all adjusting to life after turning thirty years old.  They’re all finding that life isn’t what they thought it would be when they were young.

Ben thought he’d be a famous novelist by thirty.  Instead, he has a low level, cubicle dwelling magazine job.  Worse, he’s getting divorced from his wife, Sarah.  He’s hung up on his old girlfriend, Lindsey, who suffers from commitment-phobia.  She goes from job to job and man to man, never committing to any kind of stability for fear she’ll be stuck in the same ole, same ole forever.

Chuck is a successful doctor, but as a former fat kid who dieted his way skinny, he’s forever stuck in a rut of chasing after women, assumably out of a fear that he has to scoop up as many as he can before his latest body issue, a receding hair line, leaves him bald and unattractive.

Allison has spent her life yearning for Jack, the most successful of the bunch.  He’s a millionaire movie star but the twist?  Fame and fortune have turned out to be all they’re cracked up to be.  He suffers from a severe cocaine addiction that’s drawing paparazzi attention and threatening his health.

The group grows concerned about their friend and when an intervention fails, they take the unconventional route of kidnapping him, transporting him to Allison’s parents’ vacation home, and holding him prisoner until the cocaine is out of his system.  Along the way, Jack goes through withdrawals and eventually escapes and disappears, causing the world to suspect the friends of foul play.  It then becomes a goofy romp as the group searches for Jack and maintains their innocence.

Yeah, on the surface cocaine and kidnapping do not sound like the ingredients of a humorous story, but the talented Tropper can make anything funny.

Some of the references may be dated.  Others manage to stand the test of time.  Maybe Tropper could write a sequel, Plan C, about how the characters find life as a bunch of fifty year olds.  By then, they’ll probably yearn for the days when they were thirty.

STATUS:  Shelf worthy.

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