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The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz – Book Review!

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written–let alone published–anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that–a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

My Review.

Thank you to Celadon Books for the review copy. I can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I buddy read this book with Susan over at Novel Lives & thank god we did, because The Plot was twisty af and I desperately needed someone to throw my crazy ideas at. Susan’s been trying to get me to read more adult thrillers for a while now, and I’m so happy that she convinced me to pick this one up. Filled with twists and turns and with an ending that had me screaming WTF, it’s definitely a story that will stay with me for a while.

Jacob Finch Bonner was a one hit wonder in the publishing industry. He now spends his time teaching talent-less students how to write, and wallowing in self pity over his own lacklustre career. But one day he gets a student with a plot for a book that Jacob knows will be read the world over. Years later Jake wonders what happened to Evan Parker thinking surely he would have heard if his book had been released. A little googling is all it takes for him to discover Evan tragically died shortly after his weeks at the writing programme, failing to ever get his story out in to the world. Jake is sure that Evan Parker would want his story to be read, and who better to write it than his past teacher? When Crib comes out it takes the world by storm and Jake lives the life he always thought he deserved, until one day he receives an email, and those four words upend his life ‘You are a liar.’ Desperate to find out who knows Jake stole the idea, he takes a deep dive into Evan Parkers life. How exactly did he get the idea for the world wide best seller? Who could possibly have known Evan’s story? And who exactly stole the story from whom?

Jake is a really interesting POV to read from. Narcissistic and arrogant he feels he was never really given a fair shake in the publishing world, so when he writes Crib and it takes off, he is so sure he is deserved of all the fame. He isn’t a likeable character, he thinks the world owe’s him something, if I’m being completely honest? He’s a bit of a dick. He see’s other people’s fame and wonders why them and not me? I can write just as well as them. But once he set’s his mind to something there is no stopping him. We meet a whole cast of side characters from Evan Parker himself, to Evan’s publishing colleagues as well as his family and friends, most of these don’t have a large part to play in the story as a whole, but once the final chapters hit you realise that they were pivotal to telling Jake’s story.

While there were parts of this book that I loved, there were also some parts that let it down a little. Because the story is told solely from Jake’s POV we get a lot of introspection, especially in the first 75% of the book. Now, normally that’s not something I mind but because I wasn’t a massive fan of Jake as a character, and the fact that some of it was very repetitive, I did find myself skipping big chunks of the text because I didn’t really care what was being said. However, once the story picks up, it takes off at a sprint and I found it near impossible to put the last 25% of the book down. One thing I did love was the inclusion of chapters from ‘Crib’ the book that Jake wrote. These really fed into the mystery of not only who was blackmailing him, but where Evan got the story from originally, and gave us insight into what made this plot so shocking. I did guess the big twist, but that didn’t stop me from being shocked when I realised I was right, and there were still plenty of others that managed to catch me out of nowhere.

The Plot gives us a real deep dive into the publishing world, both the highs and the lows, the never ending press tours & the fact that writing a book and selling it are two completely different things. But it also asks us to question the ethics of Jake’s decision. In his mind Evan was dead and, knowing his personality, he wouldn’t have shared the story with anyone else, but does that give Jake the right to take his story and write it as his own? There is so much I want to mention about ‘Crib’ but I can’t because of spoilers, but safe to say that they are chapters you definitely want to pay attention to.

Overall this was a book that definitely took me out of my comfort zone as a reader and on one hell of a wide ride. I do think it could have been paced better, but the story continuously kept me guessing and it had me gasping out loud at some of the plot twist’s. An easy 4*, and a story that will certainly stay with me for a while.

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