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The Plot

5 stars
25,348 (23%)
4 stars
48,604 (44%)
3 stars
27,000 (24%)
2 stars
5,929 (5%)
1 star
1,509 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 15,203 reviews
Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews3,324 followers
July 31, 2021
After finishing The Plot, it seems to me that author Jean Hanff Korelitz has the following:

1. A giant set of cojones. To write an actual novel about the plot of a fictional novel that’s so good it will be a guaranteed best seller, and to include that fictional novel within your actual novel? Yeah, that’s pretty ballsy.

2. Writing chops. This is a well-written *literary* thriller, where form doesn’t heed to function. Yes there’s a great plot to The Plot, but it’s framed with crafty sentences and giant walls of text. Don’t like page-long paragraphs? Too bad for you.

3. A crystal ball. This novel (and ergo the novel within it) will be a best seller. A worthy one, at that.

My thanks to the (ballsy) author and Celadon Books for the advance copy to review via NetGalley.

Profile Image for Yun.
521 reviews21.7k followers
December 12, 2021
He'd always known a good plot when he saw one.
Jacob Finch Bonner is a has-been. His first novel was well-received, but that was years ago and he knows he hasn't come up with anything good since then. He now teaches a writing course. When one of his students boasts to having a plot that will blow the literary world away, Jacob is naturally skeptical. But when he hears the plot, even he cannot deny its power. So what happens next? Best not spoil it by revealing any more.

The writing is what drew me in immediately. It's sharp and clever. It's a book about writing a book, managing along the way to poke gentle fun at writers and the publishing industry, and it's all a bit droll. The author includes details from the real world, referencing Macmillan Publishing and Oprah, and even Goodreads gets a shout-out. Those little details all help to blur the line between what's real and what's fiction, which is great fun.

This has the format of a story within a story, which gets me every time. I've only read a handful of books done this way, and I've loved every single one. So please, authors, write more of them, because I honestly can't get enough.

I found this to be unputdownable from the very first page. There's this urgency there, a tension that stretches so taut, it's hard to look away. I definitely inhaled this book.

My only issue is that I saw the big twist pretty early on. It's my fault... sometimes I can't turn off my brain, and it'll just cheerfully supply me with a litany of unsolicited guesses about what it thinks is going on. In this case, it was right. (Shut up, stupid brain!) Also I didn't find the secret plot to be as amazing as advertised and it certainly didn't blow me away.

But I read so much of this genre it's hard to surprise me with plots and twists anymore, so feel free to just ignore me on that. In every other way, this story is amazing, and I will be recommending it to pretty much everyone I know. If that isn't a strong endorsement, I don't know what is.
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
431 reviews4,225 followers
June 16, 2023
Jacob Finch Bonner is a has-been. Once upon a time, he was a moderately successful author, but his spark has slowly dimmed and faded as a writer. He finds himself relegated to teaching writing courses that will allow anyone to attend. One day, he meets Evan Parker, a new student of his. Parker has a great idea for a novel, and Bonner agrees that it will be a best-selling book. Fast forward a few years, and Bonner discovers that Parker has died without ever publishing his book. It is a story that just needs to be told! Who better than this has-been author?

Oh gosh. I know that people have just been raving about this book, but it just was not for me. This book was overly predictable - There was so much foreshadowing. The pacing of the book seemed off, and I felt that the story should have been more succinct.

This book also seems to oversimplify writing. Writing is far, far beyond plot. Great writers are storytellers - they stir the emotions and take you on a journey. They whisper dreams of what might be. They inspire adventures and create ideas to change the world. Philip Pullman once wrote that ""Thou shall not' is soon forgotten but "once upon a time" lasts forever." An author needs more than a decent plot to be a success. What about tone? Character development? Pacing?

*Thanks, NetGalley, for a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

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Profile Image for Holly  B .
849 reviews2,012 followers
July 5, 2021
Somewhat of a slow- burn that slowly turned into a fast tumbleweed that blew me away!!

Once this story took off, I couldn't stop reading to see what was going to happen next. Though it took some time to build up (somewhere around 37%), it was worth the wait!

This book was nothing like I thought it would be and I'm happy I read it without knowing much of anything about the plot (other than the title). It builds slowly and adds each layer by revealing secrets that left me intrigued and wanting more.

Meet the writer, Jacob Finch Bonner, who learns about a plot for a book that could make him very famous. Problem is, it isn't his story. He writes it anyway.....

Someone reads it and another plot emerges and takes over Jacob's every waking moment.

Who is chasing who? Its a deadly game.

Addictive, unexpected and delicious mystery!

Thanks to Celedon books for sending me a review copy! OUT May 11, 2021
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,302 reviews43.9k followers
May 28, 2022
Another good news about this book’s adaptation to the limited series: Two times Oscar winner Mahershala Ali will be the leading actor! 🤗🎉
Wow! Such an impressive book is questioning how demanding job to be a writer and how much sacrifices you may make or how far you go to create your dream work. A thought provoking approach to be writer and be part of literature industry.

I have to admit: this book’s plot so similar David Bell’s” kill your darlings”I recently finished. At that book a literature professor plagiarized his missing student’s thesis and finds himself at the police investigation because his book he’s inspired by the thesis based on real murder.

There are slight differences about “the plot”s story: Jake is struggling author and also advisor at a summer college writing program. That’s how he met Evan Parker, acting like pretentious douchebag and rejects Jake’s help because that narcissistic guy already found the way to be a bestselling author: he has a brilliant plot idea which is hundred percent guaranteed to be a blockbuster and he spills the bean about the plot line during their conversation. Jake is surely pissed off as he works too hard but nothing creative enough comes out of his mind, a lucky bastard already won the jackpot.

As Jake turns back his downward spiral of self- hatred, lack of creativity, he finds out Evan Parker never published his book he mentioned him. He passed away without leaving any book behind which gives Jack free pass to use the idea at the most creative way to write his masterpiece.

If we compare the both books, this one starts like slow burn, informing us the background of Jake: tax attorney father, high school guidance counselor’s son, has mediocre-at best at PSAT score on the verbal side, raised in Long Island. Even though his math skills were better than verbal ones he insisted to be a powerful author when his father objected him because only Sidney Sheldon can make decent money from writing and he’s not close to be Mr. Sheldon.

We keep reading Jake’s struggles to live in NYC, chasing his dream, working at his side hustles which are odd jobs but he has to earn his life.

We also read great criticism about why people choose to be a writer.

After the slow burn character analyzing parts later, we witness how Jake’s life has changed after he finished his book. He found the fame, success, love but also faced with fears, guilt, resentment.

He meets with his wife and it seems like finally he reaches his entire goals in his life till one day an anonymous email blames him to steal the idea which pushes him dig deeper about the dark past of Evan Parker who presumed to be death from drug overdose.

The big difference of this book’s story with “Kill your darlings “, Jake didn’t stake his claim on finished manuscript , he took the idea but he shaped the entire development and conclusion by himself. And the author could not come back from the death to sue him about copyrights.
And the second big difference is this book is about telling us how painful and compelling job to be writer even though you work as hard as you can, there is a chance you never fulfill your dreams and you’re doomed to fail.

Second half of the book is more exhilarating, filled with high tension, capturing your entire focus and the realistic approach of the author telling how far you go to pursue your writing dreams was remarkably told.

Jake was truly easy to connect and as a writer I truly heard him, felt for him.

Overall: it’s solid, well written, interesting, well developed and satisfyingly concluded novel which earned my four stars.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Celadon Books for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,196 reviews3,033 followers
July 4, 2021
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz 

Jacob Finch Bonner has a well received published book behind him but has been unable to get much or any attention for his later attempts at the next great novel. Years later he's struggling, working at jobs connected to writing, becoming the cliché of "those who can, do, those who can't, teach". He's his own worst critic, considering himself nothing if he can't write, mired in years long writer's block and incredibly jealous of anyone with current writing success. He really has no interest in anything else but being a great writer and his low self esteem and feelings of dejection lead the first half of the book. 

To his utter disgust, a disrespectful student of a third-rate MFA program he teaches, shows him several pages of his work in progress, which has a plot that must be told, can't help but be a raging success, and will make anyone who writes the book an instant best selling author. Years later, when the book hasn't been written or published because the student died, Jacob takes the plot for himself, writes a best selling novel, and then basks in the glory while dreading he's going to be found out at any moment. 

And then it happens, he starts getting texts, emails, and more, from someone threatening to expose him for stealing the story. This is where things get good. Before, Jacob was stuck on his couch, wallowing in self pity, then, basking in the glory of his success. Now he's scared and he's not willing to be exposed,, not about to lose his high standing in the publishing world. I did guess who was sending the threats but doing so didn't diminish my enjoyment of this book in any way. We've been so caught up in Jacob's head and we know that he feels like he "took" that plot and we know he's determined to keep the story as his story. But he has his work cut out for him to find out who is threatening him. This is very much a psychological drama, well written, and it kept me glued to the pages to see how it was all going to end. 

Publication: May 11th 2021

Thank you to Celadon Books for the print copy of this ARC. 
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,296 reviews27.9k followers
May 17, 2021
Shit, this was everything I was hoping it would be. This was one of my most highly anticipated thrillers of the year and this book DELIVERED. I listened to this as an audiobook (huge thanks to Macmillan Audio) and I finished it in ONE SITTING. I don't think that's even happened to me before, finishing a 10 hour audiobook in one sitting has never happened but I was absolutely engaged and obsessed with this story and I had to know where it was going.

This story follows a professor named Jacob who once had a really popular book published. But ever since he's been trying to write book after book with no success. While teaching his creative writing class he meets a student named Evan Parker who is the most cocky piece of shit ever, and he's convinced he has an idea for a book plot that will sell millions and be turned into a movie, etc. Jacob discovers he's actually a really great writer despite being annoying as fuck, and he thinks the plot is a really great idea. Years go by and he hasn't heard of the book being published, and he finds out that Evan died. He doesn't want the genius plot of that book got to waste, so he decides he's going to write it instead. But someone knows what he did and they are threatening him.

This book was so well-written, it was so fast paced and I really enjoyed reading from Jacob's POV. I found him to be really entertaining and interesting, and I love reading books about writers. I also love that in this book we get chapters of the actual book he was writing and we get to see the plot unravel ourselves, and it's a great story within a great story.

And that ending!!!!!!!! I will admit, there was one twist toward the end that I kind of saw coming throughout most of the book, but that very last epilogue chapter!!!!!!!!!! I was like bitch whaaaaaaaat. It was so good. So this still gets 5 stars, because even though I predicted one of the twists I was still 100% shocked at the ending!
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,309 reviews120k followers
June 21, 2022
…a few minutes later in the car, he found the first of the messages. It had been forwarded from the contact form on his own author website (Thanks for visiting my page! Have a question or a comment about my work? Please use the form!) just around the time as he was about to go on the air with local Seattle institution Randy Johnson, and it had already been sitting there in his own email in-box for about ninety radioactive minutes. Reading it now made every good thing of that morning, not to speak of the last year of Jake’s life, instantly fall from him and land in a horrible, reverberating crack. Its horrifying email address was, and though the message was brevity itself at a mere four words, it still managed to get its point across. You are a thief, it said.
Buckle up. Jacob Finch Bonner (Jake) had some early success as a writer. His novel, The Invention of Wonder, received critical acclaim, the New York Times including it in its list of New and Noteworthy books. But it has been a while since that critical (if not commercial) triumph. A story collection was largely ignored and then there was, well, nada. Jake teaches at Ripley University in northern Vermont. It is not writer’s block Jake suffers, it is more like Writer’s-Great-Wall-of-China. He teaches creative writing, endures the continual delights of academia politics, and lives, literally, on Poverty Lane. But then Evan Parker happens.

Jean Hanff Korelitz - image from her site - Photo: Michael Avedon

An incoming student, Evan is convinced that he has a perfect plot for a novel. He is insufferable, arrogant, condescending, and clearly thinks that Jake cannot really teach him anything. He does not want to tell anyone the specifics of his work, just get a degree, educational cred, and some connections, figuring that is all he will need. But a time comes when he does share with Jake the arc and some detail of his novel. Turns out Evan was right. A few years later Ripley has down-sized, and Jake is working at a proprietary artist colony.
All he had ever wanted was to tell—in the best possible words, arranged in the best possible order—the stories inside him. He had been more than willing to do the apprenticeship and the work. He had been humble with his teachers and respectful of his peers. He had acceded to the editorial notes of his agent (when he’d had one) and bowed to the red pencil of his editor (when he’d had one) without complaint. He had supported the other writers he’d known and admired (even the ones he hadn’t particularly admired) by attending their readings and actually purchasing their books (in hardcover! at independent bookstores!) and he had acquitted himself as the best teacher, mentor, cheerleader, and editor that he’d known how to be, despite the (to be frank) utter hopelessness of most of the writing he was given to work with. And where had he arrived, for all of that? He was a deck attendant on the Titanic, moving the chairs around with fifteen ungifted prose writers while somehow persuading them that additional work would help them improve.
But when Jake learns that Evan Parker has died, and that his magnum opus appears to have never been published, he makes a decision, backing it up with large volumes of excuse-making and a cyclotronic level of self-justifying spin. Three years later he is on his long-dreamed-of book tour, promoting his hugely successful novel, Crib. He still carries guilt and paranoia about being found out. The guilt he manages (Mr. Bonner, when it pops up, take two excuses in a large glass of entitlement and call me in the morning), but I guess you can’t be too paranoid. Then the message.

This is where the book kicks into high gear. Who is #Talented Tom, how much does he know, what can he prove, what does he want, and what will he do? Is this blackmail? I was reminded of a classic story of guilt and crime. length, I found that the noise was not within my ears. No doubt I now grew very pale; --but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased --and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound –much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath --and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly --more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart
An e-mailed threat was not the only thing he left Seattle with. Anna Williams, a fan, the producer at the Randy Johnson show at KBIK, who had arranged for Jake to do the interview, chats him up afterwards. They have a coffee, stay in touch even when he returns to New York, and their connection soon become a thing. The messages do not stop.
but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed --I raved --I swore!- EAP
We ride along as Jake deals with his publisher, his agent, his fans, and his peers. There is a lot of support for him in the community, as most presume it is just a nutter harassing him in search of a lawyer-enhanced payday. But Jake knows this is no gold-digging faker. Yet he still feels it necessary to keep this from Anna for a long time, even after they are living together. Just how dangerous is TalentedTom?
I seem to be attracted to sociopathic male antagonists. I also appear to like college campuses. - from the Scoundrel Time interview
The engine shifts into overdrive when Jake decides to stop playing defense and begins doing some serious research to identify his tormentor, and learns that his may not be the only theft related to Evan’s plot.
It grew louder --louder --louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! --no, no! They heard! --they suspected! --they knew! - EAP
In addition to Poe, I was reminded of another book-stealing novel of recent vintage, A Ladder to the Sky, with a much more flagrant, and feckless thief. In this one Korelitz drives us through Jake’s excuses and makes us consider just where fair use ends and theft begins.

As one might expect there is a lot in here about writing. Where do you get your ideas? an eternal question, the struggle to create. Coping with a book tour, difficult questions, redundant questions, ignorant interviewers. As this is Korelitz’s seventh published novel, and I am sure she has motored the book tour circuit a time or six, I expect this is the product of experience. As is her take on campus life, coping with students, and the horrors of faculty politics. Not to mention a writer’s inner turmoil.
The Plot may seem a little hard on writers, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone; we’re hard on ourselves. In fact, you couldn’t hope to meet a more self-flagellating bunch of creatives anywhere. At the end of the day, though, we are the lucky ones. First, because we get to work with language, and language is thrilling. Second, because we love stories and we get to frolic in them. Begged, borrowed, adapted, embroidered … perhaps even stolen: it’s all a part of a grand conversation. - from Acknowledgements
The only place I had issues was with the baddie’s final explanations. I cannot really go into details as it would require significant spoilage, but the motivation for what comes at the end seems thin. A name change might have raised questions at an institution. And one might have expected a greater bit of interest on the part of the authorities after one death, particularly in tracing back a specific person’s real-world movements, and someone else’s on-line activity.

That said, keep your BP meds handy. This is a tension-filled journey, page-turning wonderfulness, leaving you panting to know what happens next, and unable to turn out the light and go to sleep before you get through some serious white-knuckle twists and turns to arrive at The Plot’s destination.
I felt that I must scream or die! and now --again! --hark! louder! louder! louder! louder! - EAP

Review first posted – January 15, 2021

Publication dates
----------Hard cover – May 11, 2021
----------Trade paperback - May 3, 2022

I received an early e-look through MacMillan's Reading Insiders Club. While reluctant at first, they came around after I used a pitch written by a friend.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter – for insulting morons, Twitter #2 – for book promo and FB pages

Her FB page is inaccessible at present. I am not sure if she has shut it down permanently, or if access is merely limited.

This is Korelitz’s 7th published novel

Her book You Should Have Known was adapted to the recent TV miniseries, The Undoing

-----Scoundrel Time - Into that Dark Room Where the Fiction Gets Made: An Interview with Novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz

Items of Interest
-----The Poe Museum - The Tell-Tale Heart
-----My review of John Boyne’s 2018 novel, A Ladder to the Sky
-----Sidebar Saturdays - Plots, Prose And Plagiarism In Fiction – Four Things Every Writer Should Know About Literary Theft by Matt Knight
-----Catapult - Reading Group Guide

Profile Image for Meredith (Trying to catch up!).
814 reviews12.7k followers
December 25, 2020
Read this for the ending!

The Plot is about a struggling author who steals a masterful “plot” for his next novel.
A game of cat and mouse ensues between the author and a reader who knows too much, resulting in a dramatic and chilling conclusion.

Jake, a writer down on his luck, steals a plot to a novel that brings him fame, fortune, and success, but someone knows his secret and threatens exposure. In an effort to keep his secret, Jake tries to hunt down his adversary, but will they get to him first?

This book pulled me in from the beginning. Jake’s voice had me captivated, which was interesting since I found him bland and ordinary (but I think that’s the point). He is relatable, and even though he did steal the plot for his novel, I was still rooting for him. For the most part, this was unputdownable, minus the middle (it slows down a bit).

I loved Hanff Korelitz’s commentary on the literary world, which reminded me a bit of A Ladder to the Sky, but Jake is no Maurice Swift. The plot which Jake’s steals is supposed to be the “it” plot leading to movie offers, fame, fortune, etc., but it is a bit of a letdown once revealed. However, the villain is masterful, and they made this book! The final sentences, which should have left me cringing, left me smiling. This is all one twisted and fascinating game that I had great fun reading!

I received an ARC of The Plot from Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mary Beth .
383 reviews1,768 followers
May 26, 2021
Jacob Finch Bonner was once an aspiring author. Today he is teaching in a third rate MFA program. One of his students, Evan Parker, announces that he doesn't need any of Jacob's help, and that he has a plot of a book that will be on the best seller's list. He then tells Jacob of the plot of his new book.

When Jacob finds out that Evan is deceased he then steals the plot since Evan's book was never completed. The book then turns into a success. Jacob enjoys all the publicity. He is now famous and his book is now known all around the world.

But then he receives an anonymous threatening email and the email says You are a thief! He then discovers more about his student and it terrifies him. He then tries to find the person that is threatening him.

This book in the beginning is a slow burn. It took me awhile to get into it but once I did I couldn't put it down. The book gets better and better.
I also learned more about the world of book publishing.
I thought the book was written very well.
Close to the ending there is a twist and another twist that I didn't see coming at the end of the book. The twists were just clever and brilliant!

This was a buddy read with Jayme, DeAnn, and Dorie.

I received a free ARC of The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz from Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. I also want to thank Celadon Books for the physical copy of the book.

Available Now
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.5k followers
July 13, 2021
love, love, love the concept of this one. the synopsis kind of reminded me of the film, ‘the words,’ so i was super excited to pick this up. books about books and authors are totally my thing, so i knew i would really enjoy the plot.

however, from page one, the writing style was a struggle for me. its well-written, without a doubt, but its not something that caters to my personal reading style. the narrative is very descriptive-heavy, with long paragraph after long paragraph of description, and for a mystery/thriller, i 100% need writing that is quicker paced than this and with more dialogue. thank goodness it gets more tolerable/balanced as the story progresses.

i think it helps that excerpts of the book the MC publishes are included throughout. i love when bookception is used and it was a lot of fun seeing how the events in the MCs book unknowingly parallel the events happening in his reality. i will say that the ending is predictable and most people will see it coming, but i think the way the information is revealed is engaging regardless.

overall, a really great concept and fascinating plot (i wouldnt expect anything less for a book titled as such), even if some elements of the execution werent my personal favourite.

3.5 stars
July 3, 2021
4.5 stars
Do writers own their words? Of course. But do writers own a plot or an idea? Of course not, right? Most of us would consider it ludicrous to think a writer owns a plot. But what if someone does not? What if they feel wronged? How far will they go?

Writer Jacob Finch Bonner is a sad sack. He was a one-hit wonder, but now finds himself struggling to write anything and teaching at a third rate MFA program.

Then his luck turns. Jake seizes the opportunity to take (‘steal”?) a plot as his own, a plot so daring and different that it is certain to be a hit. He writes his book, and as predicted, it becomes a huge bestseller. Life is finally looking good for Jake.

However, despite the fact that every word of the novel was his own, he lives in constant guilt and fear that his secret will be discovered. And indeed, someone does know. The anonymous “Talented Tom” (very clever play on words, as the reader discovers), who begins to send him threatening messages. The threats eventually escalate, risking Jake’s career and future.

The cat and mouse games begin as Jake begins to investigate on his own to discover the identity of the person sending him the letters. What follows is a wild ride that ends in a shocking conclusion. Truth really is often stranger than fiction. I enjoyed the plot within the plot with chapters from Jake’s book. Each entry gets us closer to the truth.

As an aside, I didn’t find “the plot” to be that daring or different, but maybe that is a bit of humor from the author? Maybe all authors think THEIR plot is revolutionary, when it is not? As in this book, it’s not the plot, but the way it is told that makes for a terrific read.

This was a slow start, but the payoff was worth it. As a buddy read, Marialyce and I enjoyed the author’s sly commentary on a writer’s life and the publishing world. Who owns a story? Who has a right to tell it? It’s certainly a timely topic that begs discussion.

Most readers will guess the revelations to come and will wonder why Jake is such a dimwit. The journey itself is the fun of this novel within a novel. But just wait, the final scenes are jaw-dropping!

• I received a digital copy for review from NetGalley. All opinions are my own
• Publication date May 11, 2021 by Celadon Books
Profile Image for Farrah.
221 reviews607 followers
April 8, 2021
This is definitely one of my favorite covers. It cleverly reflects both the 'book within a book' aspect of the story, and the dual meaning of the word PLOT.
I have an advanced copy (thank you NetGalley and Celadon Books!!) and it doesn't say who the designer is but I'll update this when I find out.

I had never read anything by Korelitz before so I was happy to see that her writing is VERY engaging and in-depth.
𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘭𝘰𝘵 builds up great momentum and although a couple parts were kinda predictable it was a very entertaining story with a satisfying, no-mercy ending that I didn't see coming.

𝘈𝘷𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘔𝘢𝘺 11

Korelitz has another book, titled The Latecomer, expected in 2022 and I'm already looking forward to it!
Profile Image for Julie .
4,076 reviews59k followers
July 26, 2021
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz is a 2021 Caledon Books publication.

Jacob Finch hit it big with his first novel – at least with the literary crowd- garnering him an air of respect. His attempt to follow up with the next great American novel never quite got off the ground.

Now he’s forced to teach to make ends meet. The best position he’s able to manage is far from prestigious-The MFA program at Ripley College.

Here he meets Evan Parker, a narcissistic student who claims to have a near perfect plot, the details of which he refuses to share with anyone- save for a small excerpt. He’s convinced his novel will put him on the map, will make him a household name- but after a time- the novel fails to materialize.

Long after his stint with the MFA program-out of the blue, a niggle of memory causes Jacob to remember Evan Parker, prompting him to do a little internet search.

Shockingly, he discovers Evan has died. Knowing he has no living relatives, the plot of Evan’s novel begins to germinate in Jacob’s mind.

The next thing we know Jacob Finch has regained his respect, and then some, after publishing ‘Crib’, his new novel. He’s a household name, an Oprah book club choice, and his novel has been optioned for film, by none other than Steven Spielberg.

But just as he’s really hitting his stride, just when his life is really starting to finally come together- professionally, and personally- it would appear that his secret is not entirely his own. It seems someone out there knows that, for all intents and purposes, he stole someone else’s plot.

The question is: Who is taunting him? How do they know where he got the idea for his book, and can he prevent them from blowing up his career and his personal life too?

As I was reading this book, I came across an article about an old ‘feud’ between John Lennon and Rod Stewart, in which the former accused the latter of borrowing a tune from one of their songs. Years later, Stewart addressed the accusation by saying ‘there’s nothing wrong with a good steal’. Ha!

Seemed like an apt quote that went well with this book. It wasn’t outright plagiarism- but… It’s a slippery slope. Yet, who is to say two people can’t have ideas that resemble one another?

It happens all the time. As an avid reader, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read books with eerily similar- but totally independent- plot-lines. Plus, I’ve seen several household name authors accused of plagiarism- and it does seem like a rite of passage.

The situation in this book, is a bit different than simply borrowing an idea. As it turns out, Jacob steps into a quagmire he never could have anticipated.

Yet, what is really eating at him is his own guilty conscience, his bruised ego at not having been able to come up with this genius plot on his own. He becomes desperate to discover who else knows about the plot. A relative, a friend, a former student? What do they want? Blackmail? Or to simply out him as a fraud- a washed -up writer who couldn’t put together an original thought on his own?

Either way, Jacob has a lot at stake and his panicked state of mind is palpable.

This book has a clever setup, plus, the cat and mouse games are tense and entertaining… provided one manages to remain in the dark throughout the majority of the story. A huge tip off clued me in early on- and as it turns out it’s one of those situations, unfortunately, when knowing the twist in advance ruins the entire book.

Once the cat is out of the bag that early on-it reveals how one-dimensional the story is. The characters were unable to enlist my sympathy, there was nothing emotional or compelling to make up for the advanced knowledge. Of course, I’m not psychic- so I continued reading to see how it would all come together in the end.

I also liked the double entendre- with the title- and I thought the author did a great job with presenting the mindset of the author- the inner workings of publishers, publicist, etc. I also thought the ending was darkly humorous- although I’m not entirely sure that was the author’s intention. The 'Ripley' allegory was a nice touch, too.

Overall, though, despite all the rave reviews for this one, I was underwhelmed and thought the book was over -hyped. Don’t get me wrong-the book is good for a quick escape, but it’s just not worthy of such effusive praise. That said, I seem to be in the minority on this one- many people loved it- so don't let me deter you. You might have better luck with it than I did.

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Susan's Reviews.
1,107 reviews531 followers
August 24, 2022
My thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for an Audio ARC of of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I truly admired the author's writing abilities and obvious intelligence. I even enjoyed many of the discussions about artistic inspiration and how writers take from and build on other author's ideas and plots. (I cringe every time I hear allegations of plagiarism in either the publishing or music industry. To my mind, hasn't every trope, conflict or life drama been depicted in just about every manner possible by now?)

I actually enjoyed this novel very much, but......! As I listened to this wordy, often overly descriptive audio on the unwieldy NetGalley Shelf Ap, I kept thinking ... hmm: very erudite, "high altitude" writing style. This won't appeal to everyone - even I found it a tad tiresome at times, hence the one point deduction in my rating.

Acquit me! - I love a good discussion about art: the history of, the making of, the talented or eccentric creators of, the feelings and thoughts evoked by, etc. etc. As I audited this book, I often felt like I was back in class, listening to a lecture - but without the opportunity to raise my hand and ask the Prof for clarification or even debate a point. (I also felt the urge to check for footnotes and reference sources, but, alas, this was an audiobook....)

The narrator was quite decent and I liked his voice, but I was occasionally distracted by his pronunciation of certain words and would loose the thread of the story. (For example: the main character's name: instead of Jacob Finch Bonner, I occasionally heard Jacob Finch Boner - I kid you not! This is basic phonics, people!)

Technical issues aside, this was a pretty decent thriller, but half way through, I knew who the killer was, the why of it and even the how of it, and I could even foretell how the story was going to end - and I knew I wasn't going to like that ending.

My take: everything was a tad "over-explained." There really was nothing left to infer or guess - all the work was done for the reader. Dialogue and characterization were good, and the various settings were so well described and detailed, you could probably make your way through the halls of the now defunct Ripley college or the small New England towns where the main and side stories took place. This minute attention to detail and the heavy use of elaborate and multi-syllabic descriptors slowed the action down.

This entire novel can certainly be made into a movie, but it will be a short movie, because nothing, for much of the novel, happens... just the slow dripping away of all the characters' lives - both fictional and "sub-fictional," and all of those long interior monologues from Jake.

Of course, I enjoyed the "NOVEL WITHIN A NOVEL THAT MIRRORS THE ACTION IN THE MAIN NOVEL" theme, but this is also what made it so very predictable. Maybe The Plot was never meant to be a thriller in the true sense, but if you were hoping for a shocking twist, I don't know how you couldn't see it coming.

I'm rating this one a 3.8 out of 5 because the writing was very good, and I did enjoy the literary discussions, but as a thriller.... well, I'll let you decide, because I do still highly recommend this one!
Profile Image for Jayme.
1,189 reviews2,249 followers
May 11, 2021
Once a New and Noteworthy author on the New York Times bestseller list, Jacob Finch Bonner’s novel is all but forgotten and he is teaching a writing course for a third-rate MFA program.

So, it is ALMOST comical, when student Evan Parker, attends his first session boasting that he has a PLOT so original that he is convinced that his story will not only get published, but will become a bestseller, an Oprah pick and will be optioned by an A-List producer who will make it into a movie.

He is so protective of it, that he will only share a few pages with his instructor or his classmates.

He has even selected a pseudonym, Parker Evan-to protect his anonymity.

Years later, Jacob wonders whatever became of this student and his story. He certainly doesn’t recall seeing Evan Parker’s name on a bookshelf or movie marquee.

A little research reveals that Evan died tragically before he could publish giving Jacob the idea that maybe HE should flesh out this PLOT. And, when he does, all of Evan’s predictions for it come true for author JACOB FINCH BONNER.

Until a troll threatens to expose him as a thief of someone else’s work!
But, can you steal a PLOT?

After all he didn’t publish someone else’s written words as his own.

The book started a bit slowly for me, and I didn’t find excerpts of Jacob’s book, called “Crib” all that remarkable. The PLOT is really NOT that scintillating!

AND, I guessed the troll!

So where could the book go from here?

Thankfully the book builds momentum when Jacob begins investigating to figure out who is accusing him of plagiarism in an attempt to stop his troll -before his troll stops him-and his now promising career.

And, when his Publisher, Macmillan gets involves and explores APPROPRIATION in the Publishing World, and how COMBUSTIBLE this topic has become.

Narratives get told and retold all the time.
Can you own a PLOT?

Who will prevail in the end?
Will the truth get exposed or buried?

The ending raised my rating to 4⭐️

I received a free ARC of The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,707 reviews25k followers
July 16, 2021
This is a wonderfully intriguing psychological thriller from Jean Hanff Korelitz that immerses the reader into the world of writers and publishing, and aspects that are integral to it, including reviewers, book tours, interviews and fans. Jacob 'Jake' Finch Bonner was once a critically acclaimed author, if not a commercial success, but his second book sank without trace and his other books could not even secure a publisher. He clings onto his past success which has him tutoring would be writers at third rate Ripley College in Northern Vermont but he has little interest in other writers, having to force himself to read his students written endeavours.

It is here that he is to fatefully encounter the obnoxiously arrogant and sneering Evan Parker, convinced no-one can teach him anything, reticent about sharing any of his writing, boasting that he is writing a book with a mind blowing plot that will make him the toast of the publishing world, bringing him untold riches, gaining recommendations from the likes of Oprah, and be made into a movie with a A list director and become an all round certain global success story. Jake is initially sceptical, although he accepts how well written the few pages he reads that Parker offers are, but upon hearing the plot, he enviously agrees that his student is right in forseeing an instant bestseller that will take the world by storm. Jake's fortunes continue on a downward spiral in the following years and it is only on meeting a Californian writer that reminds him of Parker that he wonders what happened to Parker, only to discover he had died soon after he had met him without completing his book.

Jake takes the plot, feeling a little guilt, and writes the runaway bestseller, receiving critical and public acclaim, and all that Parker had foretold. All that he had ever dreamed of is his, the world is at his feet, until he receives a message from #TalentedTom referring to him as a thief. Terrified of his entire world crumbling into ignominy and public failure, Jake delves into the life of the late Parker to discover who is threatening him. This is a twisty and entertaining read, of murder, deception, lies and family, discussing the moral quandry of helping oneself to the plots of other writers, given that the best authors unashamedly borrow and steal from others. My only gripe with the novel is that perhaps the person threatening Jake is a tad too obvious, otherwise I highly recommend this. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.
Profile Image for Virginie Roy.
Author 2 books624 followers
May 30, 2021
Books about books: give them to me anytime and I'll be the happiest reader alive!

You can plagiarize words, but is it possible to steal a plot?

It took me a couple of pages to familiarize myself with the author's writing style, but after that, I was hooked. Korelitz kept me engaged throughout the different parts of the story and there are no words to explain how I loved entering the book world for a day! However, I thought the famous stolen plot would be a bit more astonishing.

About the ending: I would lie if I said I didn't see the big reveal coming while I was reading, but I assumed I was wrong so I just put aside the idea and forgot about it. It was a very clever and well-thought ending!

4.5 well-deserved stars!🌟

Many thanks to Celadon Books and Netgalley for the eARC in exchange of an honest review.
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
May 11, 2021

even though i am not an instagram-person, i accepted celadon's invitation to be part of their little free library promotion for this book, and here i am dropping a copy off at

Charter #106653
Woodside Little Library
55-01 32nd Avenue
Woodside NY 11377
Lat: 40.7557514
Long: -73.906108

see the people who DO use instagram doing the same thing today @celadonbooks, #ThePlotBook

All Jacob Finch Bonner had ever wanted to be was a writer.

well, those who can, do; those who can't, teach. those who hate teaching, steal from their students and make bank.

i’m probably being a little unfair to our dear antihero, the aforementioned former wunderkind-author jacob finch bonner, whose debut novel The Invention of Wonder received such critical praise that he seemed poised on the brink of becoming a Famous Writer. but that early promise fizzled, his career trajectory became a study in diminishing returns, and he ended up teaching creative writing in the low-residency MFA program of a shabby school, becoming more disengaged with each passing year.

you're not gonna fall in love with jacob, or even feel too sympathetic about his slide into the rut of failure. he's competitive and envious, and a little delusional about his own talent; his desire to be a writer is more about the prestige of being a writer than the actual work of writing, and he has a very 'but i WANNIT' sense of entitlement about his thwarted expectations.*

the novel opens on jake depressed by the detour his life has taken; his prospects limited, resigned to being a one-hit-wonder paying his bills evaluating the creative outpourings of his students; each year another batch of supremely unpromising wanna-be writers.

but then he meets evan parker, an arrogant fratboyish blowhard, who has this plot. a plot so unusual, so hooky, that it’s destined for bestseller status. evan hasn’t actually written much of it, but it doesn’t matter, because the plot, you see, is enough to guarantee his success. parker is so confident in the 'can't fail' of this plot that he's not looking for jake's input as a teacher/mentor—he's just there for the degree before before blasting off into fame and fortune. evan eventually, grudgingly shares the details of the plot with jake, who stews in jealousy over its originality, resenting the fact that this douchey bro is destined for accolades and success; to live the life he himself has been denied.

it is very much this dynamic:

bone-deep jealousy of genius in the hands of a fool.

so lemme interject to talk about this amaaaazing plot real quick. it’s…fine, i suppose, but ‘nothing new under the sun,’ yeah? it’s a lifetime movie/domestic suspense thriller kind of premise—a variation on some fairly common tropes. it certainly has commercial viability and would appeal to the book club set, but strictly in terms of plot qua plot, i don’t think it’s an idea that would necessarily make anyone swoon over its conceptual originality.

anyway, time passes, jake slips even further down the professional ladder, and when he learns that evan has died suddenly, leaving no trace of his manuscript behind, he decides to snag that golden plot and write the book himself, calling it Crib, and it does indeed become a blockbuster sensation, catapulting him into the life he's always wanted—book tours and interviews and praise, marrying a wonderful woman who is—more importantly—a fan, and then he starts receiving anonymous messages calling him a thief and threatening to expose him.

which, no big deal, you can’t copyright a plot, right? and it’s not like he stole any of evan’s content, even if it’s a little ethically iffy because of the whole teacher/student thing. still, finders, keepers, dead men can’t sue &etc. only it turns out that evan’s plot was ripped from a real-life situation and someone isn’t too keen on their story being out there in the world.

jake's investigation into the identity of his accuser and the circumstances of evan's connection to the events of THE PLOT are back-and-forthed with excerpts from Crib that finally reveal the details of THE PLOT—the juicy secret someone's determined to protect.

it's not an aha shocker of a reveal—there are some references in here that'll set off alarm bells in savvy readers who have two specific book-notches on their belts, but korelitz builds suspense well, and i really enjoyed the claustrophobic tone of the ending (not the epilogue). but to be honest, the best part of the book was not the mystery, which was a bit predictable (and, frankly, i don't understand the why of it—why risk exposure?) but it was the writery stuff—the publishing details, the professional envy, jake's questionable self-evaluations and justifications, the frustration of settling and the humiliation of teaching—it's all wonderfully, bitterly exposed; a scab peeled back.

The Clive Cusslers and mom bloggers might still be persuadable that Jake was a famous, or at least a “highly regarded” young (now “youngish”) novelist, but the would-be David Foster Wallaces and Donna Tartts who were certainly present in the pile of folders? Not so much. This group would be all too aware that Jacob Finch Bonner had fumbled his early shot, failed to produce a good enough second novel or any trace of a third novel, and been sent to the special purgatory for formerly promising writers, from which so few of them ever emerged. (It happened to be untrue that Jake had not produced a third novel, but in this case the untruth was actually preferable to the truth. There had indeed been a third novel, and even a fourth, but those manuscripts, the making of which had together consumed nearly five years of his life, had been rejected by a spectacular array of publishers of declining prestige, from the “legacy” publisher of The Invention of Wonder to the respectable university press that had published his second book, Reverberations, to the many, many small press publication competitions listed in the back of Poets & Writers, which he had spent a small fortune entering, and, needless to say, had failed to win. Given these demoralizing facts, he actually preferred that his students believe he was still struggling to reel in that mythical and stupendous second novel.)

TLDR: fame, fiction, and revenge.

* this is probably too close-reading to be of interest to anyone casually checking out this review to see if they wanna read this book, so i'm plopping it into footnote territory because i appreciate the character-work. this is from an early scene (ARC p 18), at a start of semester barbecue where jake and alice—the poetry teacher, are chatting. alice has praised his work and been self-deprecating about her own, and jake thinks she may be flirting. he's a bit dismissive of poetry, but he's all puffed up by her appreciation of his novel, with being “thoughtfully admired” by another writer, and he responds indulgently with “studied modesty” and more than a little condescension until she divulges:

"I’m starting as an adjunct at Hopkins this fall, but I’ve never taught. I might be in pretty far over my head.”

He looked at her, his reserve of goodwill, already small, now swiftly draining away. Adjunct at Johns Hopkins was nothing to sneeze at. It probably meant a fellowship she’d had to beat a few hundred other poets out for. The university press publication was likely also the result of a prize, it occurred to him now, and just about everyone coming out of an MFA program with a manuscript went in for every one of those. This girl, Alice, was quite possibly some version of a big deal, or at least what passed for a big deal in the poetry world. The thought of that deflated him utterly.

oh, that seethe. it is worth noting that in alice's first appearance, she "looked to be about his own age," and in her second, she's a "woman...standing beside him," but then—tellingly enough, when he feels vulnerable by her accomplishments, he reduces her to a "girl." and i knoooow this is third person, but it's a very close third person POV...until it isn't, and that little dig is just jake all over.

there's another book on the publishing horizon that sounds like it might be friends with this book: Kill All Your Darlings, and even though i read and didn't love a different book by david bell (Bring Her Home), i really want to read this new one.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Michael David (on hiatus).
656 reviews1,608 followers
May 11, 2021

To what lengths will an author take to write a successful book?

Jacob (Jake) Finch Bonner teaches a writing course that is meant to help aspiring writers improve their work, assist each other with feedback, and possibly gain an agent at the end. Writing is very important to Jake, and he misses the days when he published his first book. Although it wasn’t a huge success, it made the NYT New and Noteworthy list. His second book was a complete failure, and he hasn’t been able to get any of his other work published.

Instead, he is now teaching this course. One of his students, an arrogant jerk named Evan Parker, claims he doesn’t need any help with the fiction novel he’s writing because he already knows how good it is, and he knows it’s going to be a colossal success. Jake hears the plot and grudgingly agrees.

A couple years later, Jake has sunk lower. It dawns on him that he’s never heard of Evan again, or his book. Researching, he finds out that Evan died a couple years back. Since Evan was so secretive about his book, Jake assumes that nobody else knows the plot. So why doesn’t HE write the story, get it published, and enjoy much-deserved success?

Now, Jake is famous as his book spends week after week atop the NYT Bestsellers List. He never dreamed of how wonderful everything in his life would be. Then, one day, he gets a message on his author site, saying, “You are a thief.”

And that is all you need to know going into it. I was hooked from the start. The writing flows fantastically, and this mystery is interspersed with excerpts from Jake’s book...and that makes things interesting as he starts to investigate to find out who is messaging him, and how that person knows the truth behind the book.

Everyone talks about the SHOCKING moment in Jake’s book that had each reader gasping (think Gone Girl). I can tell you that I don’t feel that is Jake’s book, or THE PLOT. It’s still an intriguing and gripping read with some nice moments of surprise. It’s not fast-paced, but it’s quick to get through (if that even makes sense). I guessed the culprit, but that was pure speculation on my part. The title has more than one meaning, which I love. It also has a satisfying and seriously wicked ending.

I received a free ARC of THE PLOT from Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.

Review also posted at:
Profile Image for Craig.
72 reviews24 followers
June 8, 2021
After a strong start, this turned out to be a disappointment. As I see it there are two big issues with it, each having to do with one of the two things this book tries to be: a thriller and a meditation on what it means to say a person “owns” a story.

Re: thrills:

The premise here is that the writer-protagonist Jacob Finch Bonner has come across a marvellous plot for a novel conceived by a former creative-writing student who never got the chance to write it before he died. So Jake finds himself with a plot which was described to him in apparently extremely thorough detail in an office-hours writing conference (one which may have lasted into the night like Shaffer’s Salieri giving confession in the institution). And this unwritten plot—which Jake can now write and publish to get himself out of the has-been slump his writing career is mouldering in—is apparently so much more than just a good, readily available plot for a novel. It’s apparently something utterly, entirely new, a kind of narrative eighth colour of the rainbow that turns on a plot twist so skull-shatteringly shocking that, both Jake and his late student insist, even if the book wasn’t written well, it still could not possibly lose and would certainly, certainly become a massive bestseller, a story adapted for the screen by Spielberg, an Oprah club pick, etc. So he writes and publishes it, and of course it does all those things.

All due props to Jean Hanff Korelitz here: with a setup like that, she could have been forgiven for leaving the details of the actual “can’t-lose” plot in question out of her own story. But the doomed student’s plot isn’t like the contents of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. We do find out in due course what the plot of the novel is, and we’re even offered excerpts from chapters of it. And while it’s a potentially successful story with a reasonably interesting twist, it’s not an eighth colour of the story rainbow by any means, and any chance of it becoming some massive Gillian-Flynn-style earthshatterer would definitely depend on it being executed very, very well indeed. This “can’t-lose” plot can definitely lose—and by being billed as transcendent and showing up as a simple story with a twist, it sort of does here.

But what about the story of that story—of what happens when, fairly early on, someone turns up and threatens to disclose Jake’s “theft,” and we get to The Plot’s own plot? That, too, is a story with a reasonably interesting twist, but you won’t have to be paying careful attention to see it coming, and when it finally arrives you’ll have a long chapter of Bond-villain-ish speechifying to wade through as the book tells you what you already know before winding down to its predictable close.

But that wasn’t even what I found most disappointing about The Plot. In some ways it’s actually a pretty engaging, well-paced presentation. (Though enjoying its various movements along the way requires ignoring a big problem: Jake spends most of the novel wandering all over hell’s acres investigating the mystery of this person who’s threatened to reveal his secret, trying desperately to figure out who did what and how, when all he’s ultimately doing is following the borrowed plot of his bestseller, which of course he knows perfectly well. He may not know exactly who, but how can he possibly not know what kind of thing this search will uncover?) In the promise of its great revolutionary twist, The Plot writes a narrative cheque that it cannot cash, one that duly bounces by book’s end, but what’s wrong with a bit of thriller-fun? Except that the book doesn’t just want to be that, and here’s where it disappoints most, at least for me.

Re: questions of ownership: This is a novel that quotes T. S. Eliot’s famous observation about good poets stealing. There’s mention of literary frauds like James Frey and Clifford Irving. There’s repeated meditation on the idea that you alone can tell “your story,” just as you alone can live your life. There are also a few mentions of famous retoolings and retellings of pre-existing stories going all the way back to Homer and all the way up to Shakespeare. And yet there’s never any serious pressure put on the assumption that Jake has committed some great crime or sin here, and on this key question The Plot never quite gets past (or even really defines the terms of) its own “nobody can tell your story but you” platitude.

But what does it mean to “have” a story? What are the sorts of differences that help to account for the gap between the snowflake-unique stories each of us seems to have and the seven basic archetypal plots that are purportedly all there ever really are? Why especially should telling a story be considered “owning” that story, especially in a world of film adaptations and fan fiction and mashups etc.? As I read I kept thinking that if the novel didn’t actually have a plot to blow a reader’s mind with, it must at least come around to exploring these questions in intriguing and illuminating ways, not least because its protagonist briefly raises them himself as he considers putting the “stolen” story on paper. But The Plot isn’t ultimately interested in these questions and never really takes them up past that early point. Jake scrambles to keep what he’s done from coming to light, but that never seems to have anything to do with fear of the world finding out he can’t write. Because he can write: he wrote every sentence of the novel. But he still acts with an uninterrogated certainty that he has committed a crime. Has he? What’s he done exactly? The novel simply waves the question away. But aside from “Whodunit?” it’s the main question this book is here to ask, and there aren’t really satisfying answers to either of them here.
Profile Image for Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill.
571 reviews618 followers
May 10, 2021
A book about a book? Yes please! 🙌Of course I am going to love that! However, this turned out to be more brilliant of a plot...yes I know...than I even imagined. This was such a unique premise and I couldn't read this fast enough. 😍

If someone tells you about their idea for a book- they don't even show you the actual book...because they have not written it yet...well ...what if they never write it? What if they are never going to write it...because they can't...well is it wrong for you to take their idea? 🤔🤔Hmmm

I will admit my moral compass was all over the place with this book. One minute I had one opinion and the next I had another. 🤷‍♀️As this brilliant plot (yes there is that word again) unraveled...I was left shocked! 😳Now that is how you write a fantastic book!🎉🙌 I highly recommend getting your hands on this one! I really suggest going in as blind as you can because this is such a unique read!❤️

Thank you so much to Celadon for my gifted copy!
Profile Image for Blaine.
782 reviews652 followers
May 11, 2021
But there was one thing he actually did believe in that bordered on the magical, or at least the beyond-pedestrian, and that was the duty a writer owed to a story.
I received a free ARC of The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz from Macmillan in an exchange for an honest review.

All Jacob Finch Bonner wanted to be was a writer. He paid his dues, and when his first novel made a modest splash in the literary fiction market, he thought he was on his way. But then his second novel tanked. And he couldn’t even find a publisher for his third or fourth novels. Which is how he found himself teaching at “a third-rate MFA program that nobody—not even its own faculty—took seriously.”

Evan Parker doesn’t have any particular respect for writing or writers. “I just care about the story. Either it’s a good plot or it isn’t. And if it’s not a good plot, the best writing isn’t going to help. And if it is, the worst writing isn’t going to hurt it.” But what he has is a bulletproof plot for a novel that will be the next mega-hit, one of those that come along once or twice a decade and explode: Presumed Innocent, The Firm, The Da Vinci Code, Gone Girl. As much as Jake detests Evan, when he hears the plot, he knows Evan is right.

But the novel never gets published, and when Jake finally digs into why, he learns that Evan died just a few months after they met. And Jake decides that the plot is simply too extraordinary not to be written. So he takes the plot, writes his own novel (he had only seen a few pages of Evan’s first draft), and it becomes the Oprah-loved, Spielberg-movie, multi-million copy selling smash that he could have only dreamed of. And his life is pretty perfect, until the first e-mail arrives accusing him of being a thief... because maybe there was more to Evan’s plot than Jake ever realized.

I had a lot of thoughts as I read The Plot. Jake rationalizes using Evan’s plot, yet upon being accused of being a thief, he feels and acts guilty. But is he? Certainly you can steal the text of a novel, but that didn’t happen here. Can you steal an idea or a plot? And if he was really worried, why didn’t he just dedicate the novel to Evan, and say that he’d done his best to honor the idea that Evan had told him? Maybe I just don’t know enough about plagiarism. But I’m 100% sure that Evan is 100% wrong that that a good plot can’t be ruined by bad writing. Let 1,000 people read one of those books I listed above, then give them a year to write their own version of that book from memory, and I’ll bet you couldn’t get through the first three chapters of at least 90% of the copies. Writing is hard, and a successful book works because of the marriage between the story, the writing, and the times.

But I eventually stopped thinking so much about those ideas, and became absorbed with the story itself. Jake is a well-developed character, and his insights into the world of being a writer were entertaining. The book-within-a-book technique—almost required given the story—is very effective. As Jake begins to learn more about Evan’s past, we get snippets from Crib, and each unsurprisingly sheds new light on the other. In fact, my only real critique of the book is that, given that he already knew the plot of his own book, Jake probably should have figured out what was going on faster than he did.

So could the The Plot be the next mega-hit? It has all of the ingredients. It’s got a good plot with some nice twists, is well-written, has some interesting ideas going on, and seems primed to appeal to those in the grip of the current obsession for mystery thrillers. Perhaps most of all, the book builds to a legitimately great ending that I may never forget. Highly recommended.

5/11/2021 update: reposting my review to celebrate that today is publication day!
February 6, 2021
Like the book referred to in this novel, I think this will be a well read and much talked about book this Spring. I found the writing to be very good in spite of the slow beginning. It took a while to set up the foundation for what was to unfold. I did not find it to be “breathtakingly suspenseful” as the blurb suggests, it’s much more of a slow buildup.

Jacob Bonner is a 40 ish writer who had a one time promising career. He wrote a novel that did quite well but then his second novel didn’t take off and the third novel, well he couldn’t even find a publisher that would take it.

Jacob finds himself teaching a creative writing class at a 3rd rate MFA program in Vermont. We join him as he is getting ready to greet the next class of prospective writers and he isn’t very enthused about it.

Then he reads a few pages of Evan Parker’s submission. It is clever and the plot is really something he has never read before. He has some further discussion with Evan about what will unfold next in the story. Evan is narcissistic, doesn’t accept suggestions or criticisms. He knows that this novel will be a huge hit. But Evan never finishes the manuscript as far as Jacob knows. He actually disappears from campus and Jacob doesn’t know where he has gone or what he has done. Jacob kept waiting for this novel to surface but it never does.

Jacob actually struggles with the thought of writing a novel with this plot. Who actually owns an idea? He justifies his use of the plot because he believes that “if you did not do right by the great story that had chosen you, among all possible writers, to bring it to life, that great story didn’t just leave you to spin your stupid and ineffectual wheels. It actually WENT TO SOMEBODY ELSE. A great story wanted to be told . . . AND IF YOU WEREN’T GOING TO DO THAT, it was OUT OF HERE, it was going to find SOMEBODY ELSE WHO WOULD!

The less you know about what unfolds the more you will ENJOY the story. I use that word a bit loosely because THE PLOT itself portrays the story of a woman who is inherently EVIL, with no moral compass or thought of anything except what she wants!!

I was thankful to read this novel with DeAnn and Jayme who helped me get past the first half!

This novel is set to publish on May 11, 2021

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews596 followers
April 9, 2021
“The Plot” is clever, savvy, and smart.
Stepping into Jean Hanff Korelitz’s literary world,
was an ‘honest-to-goodness’ crazy fun thrilling ride.

It’s not completely without flaws....but there are moments of brilliance that make up for them.

I enjoyed the entire exploration about people who write books....
their passions, urgency, arrogance, insecurities, drive, goals.... etc.

It was interesting to think about creative writing MFA programs....and why some writers bond with other writers, and why some never will.

Class was underway at Ripley Symposia’s first-year prose workshop.
Parker speaks out...
“I just care about the story. Either it’s a good plot or it isn’t. And if it’s not a good plot, the best writing isn’t going to help. And if it is, the worst writing isn’t going to hurt it”.

Jake (the teacher), responds:
“Do you have a plot in mind?”
“I do, said Parker, with now overflowing hostility. I prefer not to discuss it. He looked around. In this setting”.
“I suppose, Jake said, that what we need to know, then, is how I— how this class— can best help you improve as a writer”.
“Oh, said Evan Parker, I’m not really looking to improve. I am a very good writer, and my novel is well on track. And actually, if I’m being honest about it, I’m not even sure writing can even be taught. I mean, even by the best teacher”.
“Well, I’d obviously disagree with that, he said trying for a laugh”.
“I certainly hope so! Said the man from Cape Cod”.
“I’m curious, said the woman to Jake’s right, who was writing a fictionalized memoir about her childhood in suburban Cleveland, why would you come to an MFA program if you don’t think writing can be taught? Like why not just write your book on your own?”
Well—Parker shrugged—“I’m not ‘against’ this kind of thing, obviously. The jury is still out on whether it works, that’s all. I’m already writing my book, and I know how good it is. But I figured, even if the program itself doesn’t actually help me, I wouldn’t say no to the degree”.

Minutes went by—none of the students spoke—
Jake said, “I’m glad to hear you’re well along on your project, and I hope we can be a resource for you, and I support system”.

From the start, I enjoyed the dialogue, the mysteriously interesting characters.... the way they presented themselves versus their inner opposite selves.
...A thriller develops.
...A writer dies.
...A novel is stollen...
...Plagiarism is revealed
not before walking down many different paths of possibilities as to why and by who....

Fabulous beginning.
Exceptional ending!
Parts of middle the section, is where I started to drift off.
I felt the book might have benefited with some tighter editing.
But ‘overall’ .... the greatness far out weighed the mediocrities.

“This story will be read by everybody. It will make a fortune. It will be made into a movie, probably by somebody really important, like an A-list director. It will get all of the brass rings, you know what I mean?”

“Anything can fail. In the book world? Anything”.

Terrific book choice for fiction readers, literary readers, and mystery thriller readers.

I enjoy 75% of it a lot!!
4 strong stars.
Profile Image for Michelle .
911 reviews1,406 followers
May 5, 2021
I want to begin this review with a thank you to all of the other reviewers that came before me that warned of the slow start. It took me about 60 pages in before I felt any connection to this story. I might have put this aside if I hadn't gotten that warning and that would have been a shame because this was really well done.

Who owns the plot to a story? That's the question we ponder through out.

Jacob Finch Bonner meets an aspiring writer - albeit an arrogant aspiring writer - at an MFA program he's teaching. Said writer, Evan Parker / Parker Evan, claims he has a plot like no other. One that is sure to skyrocket him to fame in the literary world. He holds the details close to his chest but lets Jacob see a small snippet. Just a few pages, really, and Jacob is gobsmacked that this idiot actually has something here. Something that could be HUGE.

Fast forward four years and Jacob is riding high on the success of his latest novel, Crib. That is until he starts receiving threatening messages accusing him of plagiarism and theft of plot.

After the slow start this turned into a heck of a fun ride. I have to admit that I did figure out the *who* early on which normally would have annoyed me but not the case here. The writing was so addictive that I didn't even care that I figured it out. To watch all the pieces come together in the end was so incredibly clever and satisfying. I am not at all surprised to see this book getting the attention that it's getting as it is well deserved. 4 stars!

Thanks to NetGalley and BookishFirst for my copy.
May 3, 2022
**Many thanks to @CeladonBooks and Jean Hanff Korelitz for an ARC of this book! Now available as of 5.11.21 and now available in paperback!**

ANYONE can be a writer.

At least, that's what the students at Jacob Finch Bonner's seminar believe. Although Jacob has been slogging along since the publication of his first book, desperately searching for the next great idea and for purpose in his life, teaching this band of misfits wasn't exactly what he had in mind. One aspiring writer in particular, Evan Parker, has too much 'tude and not enough least, at first glance. Once he reveals the plot of his novel-to-be, Jacob is stunned, baffled, and knows a winner when he hears one. This plot has NEVER been executed before, and for a literary aficionado like Jacob, the very essence of this story crawls under his skin and never fully goes away. Years later, stuck in another hardly-literary-but-it-pays-the-bills job at a hotel, Jacob discovers that Evan Parker has tragically passed away.

But that story. That one-in-a-million PLOT. Does IT really need to meet a similar fate?

Jacob decides the world needs to hear it, and quickly crafts a best-seller called Crib. As his popularity explodes, he finds himself name dropping celebrities, a member of Oprah's exclusive pantheon of authors, and with a Spielberg development deal. All of this newfound glory, however, comes screeching to a halt, however, when Jacob receives an anonymous message from online from "TalentedTom" (a nod to Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley) saying he knows Jacob has stolen the plot and that this wasn't his story to tell. Jacob is desperate to keep his secret safe, and enlists the help of his publisher and relies on his own detective work to draw him closer to the informer so he can prevent his own ruin. But has Jacob become so caught up in trying to furiously tie up his own loose ends that he has bypassed the glaring truth entirely?

Korelitz is a Literary writer (with a capital L!) and this was evident from the very first page of this fantastic book. This book is rife with commentary on the literary world, what it means to be a writer, what it means to be a TRUE original, and literary references GALORE (including one very overt Charles Dickens reference that made me smile!) I always love a book that can serve several functions, and this one absolutely fits the bill. Aside from all of this book talk, Korelitz also manages to weave an incredibly compelling and suspenseful narrative that starts slow, but by about 50% is going full-throttle. I had such a hard time putting this book down, even for a minute! I have to be honest and say that I did figure out the ending partway through, but surprisingly, this almost made me want to finish the book even faster because I just wanted to see everything play out---and WOW, did it ever! The hidden double meaning of the title is just the icing on the cake for this one and proof positive that Korelitz really DID think of everything! (If only all of her characters were so astute!) 😉

I had such a great time reading The Plot and the juxtaposition between commentary on the ups and downs and ins of outs of the book world and the slow-building tension of an intriguing and thrilling mystery was just the rejuvenating breath of fresh air I needed for Spring 2021!

4.5 couldn't-put-it-down ⭐!

#theplotbook #CeladonReads #partner
Profile Image for donna backshall.
677 reviews188 followers
July 19, 2021
I'm not one to start guessing at the beginning of a mystery movie. I'm more the kind of person who likes to sit back and be entertained. Surprised. Shocked even. It's the same with mystery novels. Give me a twisty story, and let me enjoy it as it unfolds.

So, a book about a book with a killer plot? Strap me in for the wild ride!

Except, well, it really wasn't. The main character, Jacob, is a sad sack, a real nothing. He's the kind of guy I might meet somewhere, and forget the moment he was out of my sight. As for respecting him? He was that dud, the one who does nothing to elevate himself, but keeps wondering why he's going nowhere.

And the plot? Even I knew what was coming, and I hate guessing ahead. It was annoyingly predictable from the beginning.

Overall it was a decent book, but nothing special. I wouldn't recommend rushing out to buy it, but if you find it free or at the library, it would make a decent beach read this summer.
Profile Image for Katie Colson.
675 reviews6,857 followers
September 13, 2022
It’s fine but it was slow and I predicted everything. So 🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️
Profile Image for Sheyla ✎.
1,837 reviews522 followers
June 11, 2021
Jacob Finch Bonner has the story of his life. He knows it needs to be written. Too bad it's not his story to tell.

As an unhappy teacher in an MFA program, Jacob is going through the motions. When classes begin, he meets a sullen student, Evan Parker. Evan is disrespectful towards Jacob. He also doesn't think Jacob can teach him anything and doesn't try to hide his feelings. During their only one-on-one meeting, Evan says he has the best plot for a novel. He's sure when he is done writing it, everyone will want to read it. Publishers will fight for it. He will be famous and Oprah will pick it as the "it" book. After Evan tells him what the plot is about, Jacob disgruntedly has to agree and he knows the book will be a success.

A few years later, Jacob is in a new job. A job that leaves him time to work on a new novel but if he has to be honest with himself, he can't come up with anything good. Jacob's first novel was good but the two after have not been recognized at all.

Over the years, Jacob has never forgotten about Evan's plot. A quick search about Evan's whereabouts on social media leaves Jacob in shock. Evan is dead and he never wrote the novel!

Jacob makes a decision that will forever affect his future. He decides to bring to life the story he heard so long ago. Yet, someone is quite unhappy with his decision.

Quite an interesting novel! I was engrossed reading about both plots, Jacob's and the novel he wrote.

I had some issues about Jacob's guilty feelings. Yes, he used the plot of someone else's but the words were his. Yes, what he did was wrong but he didn't plagiarize a novel. What if Evan found out the hard way, that it can be quite difficult to write a book?

The big twist was not impossible to guess. I was waiting to see which way the author was going to take it and I wasn't disappointed.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Celadon Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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