Author: Eric Luper
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: June 8, 2010
Hardcover: 304 pages
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Seth Baumgartner just had the worst day of his life.
His girlfriend dumped him (at Applebee’s), he spied his father on a date with a woman who is not his mother (also at Applebee’s!), and he lost his fourth job of the year. It’s like every relationship he cares about is imploding, and he can’t figure out what’s going on.
To find answers, Seth decides to start an anonymous podcast called The Love Manifesto, exploring “what love is, why love is, and why we’re stupid enough to keep going back for more.” Things start looking up when Seth gets a job at a golf club with his hilarious and smut-minded best friend, Dimitri, and Dimitri’s sister, Audrey. With their help, Seth tracks down his father’s mystery date, hits the most infamous bogey in the history of golf, and discovers that sometimes love means eating the worst chicken-salad sandwich you can ever imagine.
Why did I read the book: This book was on my radar for a few months. I liked the cover, the blurb and since I am on a contemporary YA kick, it was a no brainer.
How did I get the book: This was one of the books I most wanted to get when at BEA. I got a signed copy.
Seth Baumgartner is not having a good day. It starts with his girlfriend Veronica breaking up with him at Applebee’s, where he also sees his father having lunch and being too close to a woman-who-is-not-his-mother and it ends with him being fired from yet another job this summer – which doesn’t sit well with his very successful parents, especially his father. Seth then finds a new job at his Golf Club, where he is also training, alongside his best friend Dimitri, for the upcoming father-son competition. Meanwhile, Seth nurtures a broken heart and the horrible responsibility of knowing about his father which could lead to a broken home and that’s what makes him start a Love Manifesto podcast – where he anonymously, talks about the reasons why he loves Veronica and the steps he takes to investigate his father’s affair.
On the surface, Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto has some really interesting ideas and themes: young love (losing it and finding it again), how to deal with a cheating father, golf (have I ever read a YA book where the kid plays golf? No.), podcasting. In reality, the book just left me cold ad I am struggling right now to even remember parts of it even though I finished reading it three days ago. However, I do remember critical parts that did not sit well with me.
For example, Seth lies to Dimitri about why they are running around town following his father. The reason why he doesn’t tell his best friend is that he thinks that 30 years from now:
“Regardless of what happens between now and then – what schools I’ve gone to, what degrees I’ve gotten, or how many millions of dollars I’ve made – all that Dimitri will think about is how I’m that guy whose father cheated on his mother”
Really? That’s the reasoning? The guy is your best friend in the world and that is how you see his friendship? This is only one of the reasons why I couldn’t connect with Seth (and ultimately with the story). The themes of the book present a great opportunity to explore heartbreak, sadness, angst over parent’s marriage and to some extent this is done moderately well but right when things seemed to take a turn for the Great, something would happen to pull me out of the story. The example above is one of them; but there’s more: Seth started podcasting reasons why he loved Veronica and there were more than 100 and you know what? They are pretty cool, sweet reasons too including how she “got” him and or he “got” her. But then Veronica becomes a bitch and soon (way too soon) Seth is over her and falling for someone else. I do understand that we are talking about teenagers and love can be ephemeral – but the build up, the heartbreak, the reasons for loving her just become moot points.
Seth running around following his father and sleuthing sounded pretty silly too and what is the point of having an “anonymous” podcast if you will talk about things that will make it way too easy for people to know who you are? Those are only small things but to me, they don’t make a lot sense and bothered me. Plus, the book is supposed to be funny. I can tell the author really tries to, and Dimitri is supposed to be THE funny sidekick. But I did not laugh once and admittedly it is generally pretty easy to make me laugh.
Bottom line: it is not that the book is bad, but it is only…adequate. Harsh? Probably, but with so many good, awesome books out there, with so many waiting for me in my TBR, “adequate” is not going to cut it.
Notable Quotes/Parts: I earmarked this quote because I think it is a clear mark of the disengagement between the book and I. I am pretty sure this is supposed to be funny:
“Dimitri is not what I’d call fat, but he’s definitely carrying around some spare pounds. Let’s just say that if there were a sudden famine, he wouldn’t be the first to go – that is, unless all the skinny people got together and ate him”
Additional Thoughts: Two of the main themes of the book have been better explored (in my opinion) in two other books I read (and loved) this year. Mind you, these are not more “of the same”. Quite the contrary, each of these books could not be more different, but they are similar enough to make me think of them whilst reading Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto.
One is Delia Ephron’s wonderful The Girl With The Mermaid Hair
in which the protagonist’s father is also caught cheating. However, the way it is done, how the protagonist found out, the repercussions were truly, really heartbreaking. Also, there was no coup out or “explanation” for cheating (or presumed cheating) here – the father was indeed, a total sleazeball.
The other is An Abundance of Katherines by John Green,
in which the protagonist is ditched by his girlfriend and has an overweight, best friend who is in this case, TRULY hilarious. This book made me laugh so freaking much, plus it is a John Green novel so it comes with many layers of UTTER AWESOME.
Verdict: Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto has an interesting premise and universal themes that could have been fodder for a great book but its uninspired writing, unrelatable main character make for a merely adequate novel.
Rating: 5. Meh – Take it or leave it
Reading Next:Friend Is Not A Verb by Daniel Ehrenhaft