I’m so grateful that Orca Book Publishers, an amazing Canadian publishing house, sent this Advanced Reader Copy to me! Plank’s Law by Lesley Choyce is short, bittersweet, and for me, fell a bit short. The synopsis reads:
First Item on the List: Live
Trevor has known since he was ten years old that he has Huntington’s disease, but at sixteen he is informed that he has about one year to live. One day while he’s trying to figure stuff out, an old man named Plank finds him standing on a cliff by the ocean. It’s the beginning of an odd but intriguing relationship. Both Trevor and Plank decide to follow Plank’s Law, which is “just live.” This means Trevor has to finally do the things on his bucket list, like hang out with real penguins, star in a science fiction movie and actually talk to Sara–the girl at the hospital who smiles at him.
When I started this book, I absolutely loved the concept. A teenage boy, who has a terminal illness, becomes friends with an elderly man in his nineties. I love books where the characters have relationships that the plot centers around, where there is a large age difference. However, as this book carried on, I found tropes that I don’t care for.
The best part of this book was 100% Plank. He was sarcastic, full of dark humor and was willing to help someone who he thought was in need. When he approached Trevor against the cliffs, he was concerned about his welfare. Eventually, after applying Plank’s Law to his life, Trevor and his family would come to care for Plank as if he was one of their own. The friendship between Plank and Trevor, which eventually extends to include all of Trevor’s loved ones, was the best part about this novel hands down.
The rest of the book really bothered me. Not because it wasn’t good; it was quite good. I didn’t appreciate the tropes between Trevor and Sara. The fact that having a girlfriend is what made Trevor less-depressed, as if his happiness was solely a result of being with her, annoyed me. I would have preferred if they hadn’t been romantic partners at all, instead being friends. Sara having cancer was a fantastic part of her character, as it added an extra dimension and commonality between her and Trevor. However, other than that, I hated their relationship.
Sure, Sara and Trevor could rely on one another and relate to each other in a way that no one else could. In the grand scheme of things, their relationship was super unhealthy. Towards the end of the book, Trevor and Sara are talking about Trevor’s mortality, and Sara tells him that she wants to have his baby. At that point, I was so angry, I put the book down for two weeks. I couldn’t handle it. No teenager who I know has the emotional maturity to say that his approaching death didn’t bother her, or that despite the Huntington’s gene being carried, she would want to have his baby. It is an immature thought to want that, which I would expect from a teenager, but it felt so wrong and out of place in this story.
If the book had focused on Plank’s relationship with Trevor, without Sara, I would’ve loved this book. Maybe it was the fact that the book was more of a Novella, at only 179 pages. Perhaps it didn’t have enough room for character or plot development. It didn’t work for me, at all. I debated not finishing this story several times. While this book wasn’t my favorite, I wouldn’t say that I hate it. I dislike it, and I dislike the tropes it makes use of. If you’d like to read a better version of this story, read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, or Before I Die by Jenny Downham.