No one writes a male coming-of-age story better than Jonathan Tropper! (This could be my review in one sentence)
But, I will elaborate.
All too often I find that many writers deliver their best stuff early on in their career. I won’t mention names as they aren’t important to this review, but I have run across a large number who were great in the beginning. I think it’s a safe bet that their initial work is what landed them their big house publishing deals. But after book number five or six, sometimes ten or so, their books seem like early-day knock offs. The characters begin to sound like characters we’ve read before, with a name change.
A while back I read This Is Where I Leave You, a Tropper novel written in 2009 and probably the fifth or sixth book he’d written. (Even before I learned it was to be a movie) I loved it. Today I finished reading what I believe was his first book, Plan B. I’ll begin with his characters, as that is the only area I didn’t find fabulous. I would have found his characters wonderful had I not read This Is Where I Leave You. The characters in both books felt interchangeable and in both books, they felt like they just stepped out of Central Perk. Ben, the narrator, felt very much like Judd Foxman from TIWILY, with the rest of the cast filling in for Judd’s dysfunctional family. It’s not that they weren’t well-written, they were. I enjoyed reading them, but I would love to see the author introduce a few new characters in his next work. Someone refreshing and not the same emotionally confused, thirty-something, over analytical thinker that has shown up before.
As for dialogue, Tropper is up there with the best of them. The conversations between characters not only come off as real, but he makes you wish you were part of them. The characters come off as witty and comfortable with each other and you won’t find his turn of phrases in anyone else’s book.
There are a couple of scenes that are a bit over-the-top, just as there were in This Is Where I Leave You, but not so flamboyant as to kill the read. Actually, I believe I have now come to expect a little over-melee in his works.
My point about other writers burning out after several books is that Jonathan Tropper has not reached that point. If I compare his first book, Plan B, to his fifth or sixth, This Is Where I Leave You, my opinion is that his writing has gotten better. I would definitely pick up another of his books and hope that he continues to follow the trend he’s on now. He’s absolutely an author worth checking out.