I first discovered Jonathan Tropper soon after the release of This is Where I Leave You. I was excited by the comparisons to Nick Hornby and was really hungry for more lad lit, and, as an American, an American lad-lit author was an exciting prospect. It didn’t take long for me to go through his entire catalogue. Reading Tropper’s work definitely influenced me in writing my own novel, so I thought it would be interesting to look at his novels and rank them to give you a better understanding of which novels of his I liked the most and why.
Tropper’s debut novel. If you read this after reading his more recent work (like I did) you’ll notice how it is the oddball of the group. Unlike his other novels that focus on family dynamics and dysfunction this novel centers around of a group of college friends who have turned thirty. It’s a strong first novel, with a Friends meets The Big Chill vibe… but if you’re used to his more recent novels you might have a harder time getting into this one, but it’s a well written novel for sure.
For me, Tropper’s third novel is low on my list because I felt less interested in the characters and the story. The Tropper formula that would eventually make him into a bestselling author is here. A strong cast of family members and friends, an absent father figure… The writing style was not the issue with this novel… the story was lacking somehow. Almost too depressing at times. I’ve only read this novel once and that was enough.
The four year wait between Tropper’s breakout novel This is Where I Leave You, and this novel was a long torturous wait. By most measures, this is a classic Tropper story, but written in the third-person perspective, and giving us the story from the absent father’s point of view. I imagine that Tropper wanted to take a different approach with this novel, while still maintaining the core elements of what his readers have come to expect from him. I did not love this novel. I felt the third-person perspective kept the story and the characters at a distance, where his other first-person novels I felt far more engaged, but it’s a solid story, and I’ve been anxiously waiting for his novel after reading this.
I’ve read a lot of negative reviews of Tropper’s second novel that criticize the characters and the plot as cliché and full of tropes. Be that as it may, it’s in my top three because the story and characters are still done well. I’ve read this book more than once, and enjoy it every time. It’s a great mix of comedy and drama, and I love the concept of the author trashing his hometown in a novel that became a bestseller, and returning home for the first time since high school and all the tensions it causes, both with his family and the people he skewered in his novel. I found the concept enjoyable, even if the characters where often stereotypes.
Tropper tackles love and loss spot on in this novel… throw in some family tension and dysfunction and it’s a well-balanced, enjoyable read. The quality of Tropper’s writing from his debut novel to this, his fourth novel, is clear, and he handles the relationships between the main character, Doug, and each of the other characters expertly.
The book that started it all for me. Tropper blends humor and loss effortlessly in this novel that I didn’t want to end. There’s a lot going on in this novel between the characters… tension and angst that is realistic and entertaining. You’ll know while you’re reading it why this was his breakout novel, and why it was eventually adapted into a film.
My novel, Not Famous, is currently available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.