________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 5 . . . . October 6, 2017


Plank's Law.

Lesley Choyce.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2017.
179 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $14.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1249-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1250-5 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1251-2 (epub).

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Chasity Findlay.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



His name was Benjamin Collier, but he said that most people—well, those few people who even talked to him—called him Plank. He couldn't remember how he got that nickname. "Kid," he said, "I've forgotten more stuff than you'll ever even know." He started walking back toward town, and I guess I just sort of followed along. Aside from almost jumping off a cliff, meeting him was about the most interesting thing that had happened to me in a long while.

"Don't think I'm gonna start unloading a whole lot of philosophical bullshit on you or anything. Movies make it look like old people have some kind of accumulated wisdom. None of that is true. We're as confused and uncertain as young mugs like you. We've just been around long enough to know when to walk around a big pile of dog shit rather than into it."

"Sounds philosophical enough to me," I said, trying to keep up my end of the conversation.

He laughed. "Right. Guess I can't help it. When I was young, I was a teacher in high school. I taught English to young bastards like yourself."

"You don't sound like any English teacher I've ever had."

"I been out of education for a long time. I realized that I'd said everything I had to say, everything that needed to be said. Said it over and over until I got sick of it. So I quit. But that was a long time ago. Speaking of school, how come you're not in school today? It's no fucking holiday I know of."

"I don't have to go to school."

"Fuck off. What are you, some kind of genius or something?"

"No. My mom and dad let me go when I want to and not go if I want to do something else."

"Like jump off a cliff?"

"Let's just say it was a kind of experiment. A mind game."

"Bullshit. Give me the truth. If you want to hang out with Plank, you got to keep the old man entertained. I want the whole story. I was an English teacher, remember?"

So I told him what the doctors had told me. The short version.

He stopped in his tracks. "You sure you don't want to go back to the cliff? Sounds like a better deal than simply waiting for the nasty shit to hit the fan."

I shrugged. "I'm trying to figure stuff out."

"Been at that for ninety plus years, and it hasn't gotten me too far down the road to enlightenment. If I was you, I'd give up on that and, well…" He threw his hands up in the air, lost for words. "I'd just live. It's what I call Plank's Law. Stop trying to make sense of things and bloody well live your life. Really live it."

Trevor learned that he has Huntington's disease when he was 10-years-old, and at the age of 16, his doctor tells him that he has only one year left to live. Trevor feels like he has been drifting along, trying to figure out the meaning of life, but not really finding his purpose. This all changes when he meets Plank, a 93-year-old former English teacher who tells him to "go ahead and jump" as he is standing on the edge of a cliff. Straight shooter Plank gives Trevor the advice he calls Plank's Law: stop trying to figure things out and "just live". This encounter marks the beginning of a life-changing friendship for Trevor. As a result, Trevor decides to revamp his bucket list and to actually try to accomplish some of the items he has listed. His first order of business is to talk to the cute girl at the hospital who smiled at him. Armed with his fresh outlook on life, his new friend, Plank, his middle school, risk-taking friend, Antonio, and his budding relationship with Sara, the girl from the hospital, Trevor sets out to stop thinking so much, waiting for Huntington's disease to take over his life, and to really live life.

      Plank's Law, author Lesley Choyce's latest offering for Orca, consists of high-interest, relatable content which will appeal to a wide variety of young adult readers. It also features short chapters, a relatively large font, and a short page length, all of which are likely to appeal to even the most reluctant of readers and maintain their attention throughout. The plot sets itself up as an engaging read right from the first few pages in which Trevor introduces readers to his health issues as he stands on the edge of the cliff.

      This book includes some meaningful themes that are relevant to teens' lives. Plank's Law explores many subjects, including serious illness, mental health, suicide, identity, friendship, dating and relationships, and living life to the fullest. Through the first-person narration, Trevor provides a few details of the symptoms and prognosis of Huntington's disease. Readers could enhance their knowledge of the disease and increase their understanding of the text and Trevor's plight through additional research on their own. The book offers a glimpse into the value of having a strong friendship group and support system for those dealing with illnesses. Additionally, readers are likely to see some of the signs that Trevor's friend Antonio may be dealing with depression through his interactions and behaviour in the text.

      Although Plank's Law covers some serious topics, it does so in a relatively lighthearted way. As a result, the content is not too intense for readers on the younger end of the target age range. Plank's straightforward, matter-of-fact way of speaking and Trevor's reminiscing about Antonio's middle school stunts add doses of humour to the story. The budding relationship between Trevor and Sara inserts a touch of romance but does not come off as too sappy. The theme of living life to the fullest is prevalent throughout the book and is likely to be inspirational to readers. Choyce perfectly balances all of these unique themes throughout the course of the book.

      Plank's Laws's characters are interesting and relatable. Despite the short length of the text, the characters are multidimensional and well-developed which makes them realistic. From Plank's funny, straightforward manner to Antonio's risk-taking, daredevil behaviours, readers are likely to connect with one or more of the characters. As the book progresses, readers will see that the characters are much more than their initial portrayal. For example, at first Plank seems to have an irreverent opinion on most things, but once he speaks about his wife, it is clear that he is a loving, caring person. Additionally, Antonio may seem like fun-loving prankster through Trevor's recollections of him, but it is revealed through the text that there is much more behind Antonio's actions. The vivid, strong characters of Plank, Antonio, and Sara are perfectly juxtaposed with the cautious Trevor who is passively waiting for his illness to take hold of him at the beginning of the book. Trevor's character experiences a lot of personal growth throughout the book and develops his own identity.

      Plank's Law will appeal to a variety of young adult readers. The interesting and relatable subject matter and multidimensional characters are likely to engage both reluctant and experienced readers. The short page length, larger font, and fast-moving plot will appeal to both inexperienced readers and strong readers looking for a quick, yet realistic and interesting read. The book is apt to encourage readers to think about living life to the fullest. Plank's Law is a heartwarming read that covers serious topics whilst injecting doses of humour throughout. For these reasons, I believe that Plank's Law's would be a welcomed addition to any classroom, school, or home library.

Highly Recommended.

Chasity Findlay is a high school English language arts teacher and a recent graduate of the Master of Education program at the University of Manitoba.

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