The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (2021) Review

Those who can’t do, teach.

Why I picked up the book:

We meet Jacob Finch Bonner released a critically acclaimed novel in his youth, but his career has been stagnant since. He is frustrated with his life when we meet him in the present. Being a teacher in a third-rate MFA program is as low as Jacob thinks he will go. That is until he meets Evan Parker, an arrogant student who brags about not needing Jacob’s help because he has THE next bestseller. Unfortunately for Jacob, Evan can back it up. After hearing his plot outline, Jacob is jealous, and his life is consumed by waiting for Evan Parker’s first novel. Months and years pass, and nothing.

Digging into Evan’s life to figure out why he never released his book, Jacob finds out he has died not long after they met. What does Jacob do? He tells Evan’s story, of course! After all, stealing a plot is not illegal. Or is it?

Well, Jake’s gamble paid off. Jake is now an accomplished author of Crib, a novel published in the US by Macmillan and translated into many languages. Crib has brought him wealth, worldwide fame, recognition and led him to find love with Anna. 

Jacob’s life could not be better, but all good things must come to an end. When he receives an e-mail accusing him of thievery, he knows that is just the beginning.

The book through my criteria lens:

I listened to The Plot on audio, and I have to admit I am a big fan of Macmillan Audio productions. They have excellent narrators working for them, and Kirby Heyborne delivered! His narration was terrific. He did a great job bringing each character to life, and his narration style served the story well: I knew where I was in the book at any given time; and never confused characters. Kirby’s pace was very consistent with and respectful to the story’s flow. The audiobook for The Plot was easy to listen to and impossible to put down.

Korelitz built a great atmosphere in The Plot. The book started slow, but this choice allowed us to understand Jacob and get invested in the outcome. Once the threats began, The Plot started picking up speed, and it did not stop until the end! The slow start took away a little bit from my enjoyability, and I can foresee some people not giving the book a try because of it – but I promise you, the wait pays off.

Korelitz developed Jake’s arc well: I felt that I knew him and understood his motivations. Anna was also a character that Korelitz created well. However, some minor characters felt like they were just there to move the plot along, and I wish I got to know some of them better. The characters in Crib, however, were also intense and vivid. I also loved the idea for the plot, though I feel the story took a while to find its groove. Alternating between Jacob’s life and his book was a great choice as this allowed for the breadcrumbs to be placed throughout the book and gave the reader a fair shot to solve the puzzle by themselves.

My personal feelings:

I will constantly screech like a schoolgirl when I read something remotely easter eggy or meta in a book. Maybe I liked it more than I should, but I cheered and laughed out loud when, in the book, Crib’s publisher was Macmillan (Macmillan Audio publishes The Plot audiobook). I wonder if this changes depending on the edition! I will be checking it out as soon as it is published! It is such a small thing, but it thoroughly contributed to my enjoyment.

I am a big fan of books within books and books about authors. And let me tell you, The Plot hit the spot. I loved being privy to the creative process and struggles of Jake. Furthermore, I loved following him in his journey to figure out what happened to Evan and understand the story he wrote. The mother and daughter relationship within Jacob’s book was excellent. Every time the narrative shifted back to Jacob’s life, I just wanted to go back to Crib. But also, every time I was reading Crib, I just wanted to go back to “real life.” The suspense building worked for me; it kept me on the edge of my seat until the end. I enjoyed how both worlds came together at the end. Even though I solved the puzzle way before Jake, I was thoroughly satisfied with the ending.  

Enjoyability     9

Characters       9

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                 10

Execution      8

My total rating: 4.66


Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Macmillan Audio, NetGalley and Jean Hanff Korelitz for providing me with a copy of The Plot

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