Thomson, Sarah L. The Manny. Dutton, 2005. ISBN 978-0525474135 256 pp. $
16-year old Justin is no dummy. When he gets an opportunity to spend a summer in the Hamptons enjoying ocean breezes and meeting rich girls instead of stuck in a sweltering NYC apartment, he doesn’t mind that it also means taking care of four year old Aspen (who might just be the easiest charge of any babysitter ever). Justin promptly falls for exotic Serafina, enlisting the help of her plainer friend Liz to win her over. Popular and pretty girls come with unique challenges that Justin isn’t prepared for.
Mixed in with the PG-rated romance are weighter issues of fitting in the rich kids, an angry dad who mistreats his nanny, and Justin’s discomfort with his mother, a widow of 13 years, finally going on a few dates.
Attention to clothing details, a sensitive protagonist with two stereotypically male best friends, and a plot revolving around how much better the cute friend is than the raving beauty make it all too apparent the book was written by a woman. Justin’s voice, though humorous, loses any authenticity it had when he emails his buddies and describes the girl he has targeted with his affections as weighing about 126 pounds. At least two references to the episode of Friends revolving around Ross and Rachel’s manny give the impression the author is stretching for validity to her plot. Still, the unconventional ending is refreshing and redeeming. No doubt, middle school girls will enjoy this light, often funny beach read.