cover image Plan B

Plan B

Jonathan Tropper. St. Martin's Press, $24.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-25253-3

The title of Tropper's debut novel refers to the madcap plot at its center, and also to one of the book's primary themes--that life rarely works according to plan. Nobody knows this better than Ben, the narrator, who wants to be a novelist, but finds himself at age 30 stuck in a low-level publishing job in New York City, on the cusp of a sad and bloodless divorce, and envious of his closest college friends: Lindsey, the spirited ex-girlfriend who's always followed her heart; attorney Alison; surgeon Chuck; and movie star Jack Shaw, who earns $13 million a picture. But Jack, it turns out, is also a cocaine addict whose drug-fueled escapades are increasingly finding their way into the tabloids. When an intervention attempt fails, his friends turn to Plan B: they kidnap Jack and keep him captive in the Catskills until he shakes his habit for good. Of course, holding a mega-celebrity against his will is no simple matter, and complications abound. Jack turns violent, then vanishes, the local-yokel sheriff's department starts poking around and soon enough the FBI and the media are involved. Meanwhile, the remaining friends are forging new bonds (platonic and otherwise) and confronting encroaching fears of aging. Despite Ben's exaggerated Gen-X voice--by turns jaded and facile, glib and bleak--the picaresque plot is diverting in a sitcom kind of way. The characters are unlikely as friends but entertaining as Friends, and Tropper keeps the story moving at a brisk pace with crackling TV dialogue. Agent, Simon Lipskar. (Feb.)