The Manny, by Holly Peterson

Time for another Wordcandy Book Review Double Feature!

The Manny, by Holly Peterson

Thirty-six-year-old Jamie Whitfield is unhappy. She has a fulfilling career and three beautiful children, but she finds herself spending way too much time fantasizing about ditching the Park Avenue lifestyle and divorcing her husband (a WASP-y butthead who uses ethnic slurs and ogles Jamie's friends). In an last-ditch effort to offset her husband’s influence, Jamie hires a "manny" for her children. Her new employee turns out to be charming, supportive, great with her kids... and super-smokin' hot.

It's difficult to get too choked up over the plight of a mega-rich, attractive woman torn between two guysparticularly one who's so wishy-washy. Jamie's husband is a jerk, sure, but we never see her making any serious effort to change his behavior. Instead, she delivers mild reprimands (i.e., "Phillip, cool it. Do not call Chinese people little idiots.") and secretly drools over the manny, a twenty-nine-year-old part-time computer programmer who's practically perfect in every way.

To do it justice, The Manny is more readable than most novels about the sufferings of glamorous New York thirtysomethings, and Peterson is a capable writer who breathes some new life into the tired Candace Bushnell formula*. We'd prefer it if her next book features a main character that spends less time mooning after the help and more time openly kicking ass, but she's an author worth keeping an eye on.

*Which, frankly, we thought was an impossible feat.

Stray, by Stacy Goldblatt

Natalie Kaplan, the sixteen-year-old heroine of Stacy Goldblatt's novel Stray, strongly resembles a junior version of Peterson's Jamie. Natalie's divorced mother seems determined to distrust her, despite the fact that Natalie is levelheaded and well behaved. Rather than openly disagreeing with her mother, Natalie gives herself an allowance of eight lies per year. She's never yet met her quota... but her policy of avoiding conflict at all costs may not survive Carver Reed, the handsome, free-spirited boy who's just moved into the apartment over the garage.

Like Jamie, Natalie prefers brooding to standing up for herself—but unlike Jamie, Natalie's brooding is portrayed as a character flaw, not a reasonable response to a problem. Stray is all about learning the value of honesty, and Natalie eventually discovers that she's better off openly defying her mother than sulking or sneaking around.

Goldblatt is an engaging writer, but Stray too middle-of-the-road to set the YA publishing world on fire. It isn't bubbly enough to appeal to people looking for Meg Cabot-style ebullience, and it isn't gloomy enough for people interested in hardcore teen drama. Still, Goldblatt's intelligent, likable, plausibly screwed-up heroine is more than sufficient reason to check out this book, and we're sincerely looking forward to reading her future efforts.
Posted by: Julianka


07 Aug, 2007 06:58 PM @ version 0

Don't confuse this 'Stray' book with this one--
Verrrrrry different subject matter.

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