Friday, August 20, 2010

Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto

Eric Luper's latest, Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto is fun, funny and well-crafted. It's just right for music lovers or for someone who has been dumped for the first time or somebody who has kept secrets or plays golf. It's an excellent end-of-summer read that is light and easy, with an engaging voice and some memorable characters.

Seth Baumgartner has just suffered a brutal break-up in Applebee's on his girlfriend's lunch break. To make the situation even worse, while it's happening, he sees his father on a date with a woman who is definitely not his mom. After this, he loses his job. So life sucks, more or less. Seth decides to start a podcast called The Love Manifesto so that he can "examine what love is, why love is, and why we are stupid enough to keep going back for more." The podcast, a new summer job, his wacko best friend Dmitri and Dmitri's suddenly-sexy sister Audrey, all help Seth to make some sense of the complicated universe of love in all its forms.

Sometimes it can be hard to evaluate a book when you are completely not the target audience. I was well aware the whole way through reading this book that it is written for teenage guys, not for a thirty-something woman. Not one bit. It is a very "guy book" just as much as say, The Princess Diaries or Gossip Girl are very "girl books." A lot of the humor in this book is unabashedly teenage-guy humor, which meant I wasn't always laughing at moments which I knew were intended to be funny. I was pretty sure that a teenage guy would be laughing, but in places I found it difficult to engage with the jokes. Still it's not written for me, so that's hard to view as a criticism. It's more of an observation about the potential breadth of audience for this title. Luper is certainly successful at establishing the voice and mindset of his teen character with convincing consistency. As I was reading, I really felt that I was right inside the mind of a teen guy (and I don't know whether to say that that was absorbing or cool or just plain unsettling). Seth is completely believable, his confusion and frustration and heart. I imagine that this book will be easy for a lot of guy readers to relate to. I was reminded in places of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, what with the focus on romance, the comic moments, and the music aspect.

Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto is good fun. It will make you think about how you look at love now, and if you're an adult, how you saw love when you were a teen, and it might make you consider what would make it into your own love manifesto.

Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto is published by Balzer + Bray.

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