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The Man in Manual: A Book Review of The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook

I gravitated towards Matt Dun's The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook like poor people to the Bible. I was recently heartbroken, doomed horribly unattractive by my objet d'affections as "sexually unattractive" (exact words, no exaggeration), and the blurb at the back of this book read like writings on Facebook walls:

"It's not me - it's you. You've let yourself go, so I'm letting you go, too." When Edward Middleton hears those words from Jane, his girlfriend of the past ten years, he knows he's in serious trouble. Determined to get her back, Edward must learn how to make women fancy him again. But what makes for a good boyfriend nowadays? Right now, he's the kind of man who puts the 'ex' into 'sexy'. One thing is certain: If he's to be Jane's Mr. Right, he needs to turn himself into a bit of all right. From Atkins and Botox, Edward begins working his way through the makeover alphabet. But can cuddly Teddy really become sexy Eddie? Can he rise from the ranks of discarded exes? Or has his journey of self-discovery taken him in a different direction entirely?"

Received with generally positive reviews, the book offers a rare glimpse into the male post-break-up psyche. Insecurities are aired in the open, sometimes wrenched from their hiding places by Edward's lothario of a friend Dan, his personal trainer Sam, and the barmaid Wendy.

The narrative reads like, as the title suggests, a handbook. We join Edward's journey to self-recovery and rediscovery through makeovers physical, social, and, ugh, behavioral. The story has a tendency to be indulgent in detailing the steps of Edward's rehabilitation, and is constantly in danger of sounding too much like several feature articles on grooming compiled together until the spine's thick enough for the project to be published as a book.

The dialogue is witty. There are laugh out loud moments, no doubt. The narrator's editorializing voice, though, is a bit inconsistent. Sometimes, it shows potential for being insightful, at times it just sounds... flat and bored and dry as a, well, as a handbook. It's not hard to imagine the book as a hit HBO series, it's paced well enough, and the author has certainly shown a knack for comedy.

Near the end, the story gets tedious. We get it, we get it, Edward's pushing himself to get his girl back, can we please skip a chapter or two? (Yes, personally, I would edit out a couple of scenes to tighten up the otherwise solidly hilarious story.)

The book ends with a sappy, sweet ending that wouldn't have been amiss in a Star Cinema summer presentation. If you're the type who goes for sappy, sweet endings, then you're in luck. If you're not, well, what business had you picking up a book that says The Ex-Boyfriend Handbook in the first place?

Here are my casting choices if this was to be adapted into a movie / TV series:

Seth Rogen's got that cuddly charm, and bearish appearance of sweet Edward MIddleton
A fun contrast to Dan Davis, who can be played by my British boyfriend Aidan Turner.
And just because I miss her so much, I'd like for Catherine Tate to show up
and be Edward's femme fatale boss Natasha.

My Recommendations: READ this book IF you want a fun and funny read you can take in small, daily sips. Don't read this book as a substitute for Eat, Pray, Love or your Daily Devotionals. READ this book if you're a guy, and you're open to self-improvement. Don't read this book if you think you don't need someone else to tell you what to do. Read this book if at one point in your life you felt inadequate.

My Ratings: As much fun as two bottles of Tanduay Ice; as smart and insightful as eight episodes of Sex and The City.


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