The Best Laid Plans is packaged as a frothy feel-good read, and there are definitely elements of the novel that fulfil that label. However, one thing this book is definitely trying to show you is that labels can be deceptive, and that not everything is easy to define.
Our story focuses on a group of seniors in a relatively small town who seem to have been together as a class for years, feel they know everything about each other and have to come to terms with the fact they’re growing up and will move on. Our main character, Keely, is fixated with the fact that she is the only virgin left in their class. She is obsessed by the fact that everyone around her seems to be so adult and in control of their lives, and is convinced that if she can lose her virginity she’ll suddenly receive the magic key to knowing how adulthood works.
The main impetus for her being so fixated by her status is the attitude of those around her to sex. Her best friend, Andrew, has a reputation as a ‘player’ and her female friends all seem to use sex and their sexuality as the way to define who they are. When Andrew hosts the party for Keely at the start of the book – the party that causes so much of the problem – and someone leaves a condom wrapper by Andrew’s parents’ bed, they jump with glee at the thought their offspring have finally got together. Everything about the attitude to sex in this book seems a little weird to me, and I felt it gave rather mixed messages to the target audience.
That aside, the novel focuses on Keely having a huge crush on an older boy, Dean. In an attempt to look more experienced, she hides the fact she’s a virgin. However, this then means she becomes preoccupied with the physical aspect of their relationship. So far, perhaps so normal – but then someone comes up with the bright idea that Keely should ask her friend, Andrew, to help…what could be weirder, eh?
For me, the entire book is focused on Andrew and Keely coming to terms with who they are, what each means to them and and how this growing awareness might impact on their current relationship. Along the way there are casualties, and characters who are clearly just used to help illustrate the point the author is trying to make.
Reading back through my thoughts, it seems quite negative. That’s not the case. This was such a quick read, and there were some genuinely funny moments. I liked the majority of the characters, and even felt they were genuinely developing as we progressed through the story. I had a feeling which way this would go, and the author definitely didn’t make this quite as easy as it might have been. It’s only afterwards that I start to consider exactly what message is being presented that I feel this isn’t quite as good as it could have been.