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How to Be Manly

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When Fatty Matty Sullivan finds a self-help book by former football great Tad Manly at a yard sale, he secretly starts following the old pro’s advice to get in shape and get the girl. Summer goals: lose the milkshake weight, join the football team, and turn himself into the kind of guy super hot Cassie Bale will love.

But between taking care of his grandfather, trying to pass remedial Algebra, and getting caught up in his friend Jester’s half-baked weed-dealing schemes, Matty’s summer isn’t quite the game-changer he’d planned. When on top of it all his dad moves back in with his own plans to get rich quick, Matty suddenly has much bigger things to worry about than football and whether or not Cassie’s going to call him back. And it turns out that there might be more to being manly than he thought.

Maureen O’Leary Wanket’s debut is a sharp, comic novel about trying to do the right thing...even when you’re not sure what that is.


First published September 5, 2014

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Maureen O'Leary

10 books154 followers

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5 stars
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20 (30%)
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2 (3%)
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1 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews
Profile Image for Anna Carolyn McCormally.
Author 1 book24 followers
May 6, 2014
We at GSB are so excited for this book! It is laugh-out-loud funny and miss-your-bus-stop riveting.

Matt is a hilarious narrator. His infatuation with the unattainable Cassie is sad and sweet and his obliviousness to others who care about him is really on point. And his first football practice had me laughing and groaning.

With Matt's story Maureen O'Leary Wanket tells of the "typical" high school experience while managing to communicate how, when you're a high schooler, everything that happens to you feels like it's the first time it's happened to anybody. If you ever felt uncomfortable with your body, or held on to an unhealthy relationship because you cared too much to take care of yourself, then this is the book you're going to have wished you had in high school!
Profile Image for Daniel Douglas.
Author 11 books18 followers
November 22, 2014
Author Maureen O'Leary Wanket provides readers with humorous and tearful insights into teenager issues, concerns, and struggles in her YA novel, How to Be Manly.

The book’s central character, Matthew “Matty” Sullivan, is an overweight high school student trying to fit in. The people filling up Matty’s surroundings are either a blessing or a curse to him and the story details his attempt to navigate – and survive – this environment.

One of those positive blessings comes in the form of a self-help book written by “Tad Manly,” a professional football player whose own full story is revealed along the way too. Matty comes to value and implement the advice from the book, his possession of which he conceals from others. Matty’s adherence to the advice helps his efforts to try out for the football team – something prompted by various influences surrounding him – and to succeed in other important ways, including passing summer school Algebra.

Disruptions to Matty’s course toward trying to do the right thing for himself and others occur along the way. These troubles originate from the people in his life who are either blessings or curses, and from his own under-developed ability to see – and seek – true help that is staring him in the face.

How to Be Manly was a joy to read and prompted memories of my high school days as a “Hefty Boy.” As such, I laughed out loud during a scene in which Matty tried on clothes inside a dressing room at a department store. I also got a kick out of an alien abduction reference Matty made about a math teacher's personality.

The story also offered a great take on Santa Claus that I’m sure just about everyone will appreciate!

I highly recommend the well written How to Be Manly by Maureen O'Leary Wanket and I look forward to reading her future books.
Profile Image for Cinthia Ritchie.
Author 7 books25 followers
March 18, 2016
I just finished Maureen O'Leary Wanket's How to be Manly and I can't shut up about how warm and funny it is, how wonderful and real.
For what is it about a good YA novel that is so captivating, so endearing, so emotionally tender?
Whatever the case, O'Leary perfectly captures both the innocence and bravado of adolescence in 16-year-old Matty Sullivan (oh, oh, Matty, you are such a dear!).
Matty is overweight, and the book opens in the Hefty Boy section of a department store, where he's struggling to squirm into a size XXL jeans.
"Triple X would have been more comfortable but no way was I going that far," he says.
Matty lives with his grandmother and grandfather (who battles dementia). His mother is dead and his father is a dead-beat. What makes the book isn't the realistic and endearing situations so much as the voice, which is smooth and funny and ironic, exactly the way a teenage boy views the world.
"Mrs. Grant looked nice when you first met here," he says about his Algebra teacher. "But as soon as she started teaching she was terrible. She was too strict and she loved to get mad over nothing."
Matty's life changes when he discovers a book called "How to Be Manly" at a garage sale. He steals it (because he's too embarrassed to buy it), takes it home and begins to follow the advice.
The result is both hilarious and yet tender. And this is what elevates How to Be Manly from the ranks of just another YA novel. As Matty navigates the world of adolescence by joining the football team, discovering flaws in his family and trying to fix those flaws in the worst possible way, he begins to not only lose weight but develop the self-esteem and direction to start him on the path toward manhood.
I won't give the plot away but I will say that it moves fast enough to keep teens engaged while still allowing enough introspection to keep serious readers happy.
The characters, especially Matty, his grandmother and grandfather, are so real and flawed and brave and strong and awkward and stumbling and beautiful that you want to invite them all over for dinner. You want to order one of Grandma's cakes. You want to sit on the porch with Grandpa and hold his hand.
"There was no more mad at all in Grandma's face. Just a wide-eyed look that was way worse than the crying."
O'Leary ends the book perfectly, which is to say that the ending doesn't offer an easy resolution. Lessons are learned, relationships grow and evolve and yet, as in real life, there are still loose threads, still areas of sore spots in Matty's life.
And I suppose this is what made me turn back to the beginning as soon as I finished so that I could reread favorite passages. I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay in Matty's world a bit longer. And this, I think, is the highest praise I can give a book: The need to linger, to revisit scenes and conversations, to stay in a place that feels like home.
I highly, highly, highly recommend How to Be Manly, especially to teens, mothers of teens, aunts and uncles of teenage nephews and, most especially, to teachers. This is a great book for middle and early high school reading lists.
5 reviews1 follower
August 8, 2014
"How to be Manly" is a fantastic coming of age story. When faced with the prospect of another summer being the fat kid, Matt seizes the chance to change his life. Rising to the challenge of summer school, changing friendships, and a father who is more stranger than family, a boy finds himself turning into the young man he couldn't imagine being. Touching, challenging, and very real, "How to be Manly" is an amazing reminder of the challenges we all face moving out of childhood especially when it all happens at once.
Profile Image for Lynn Holland.
Author 1 book3 followers
December 4, 2014
How to Be Manly by Maureen O'Leary Wanket provides a delightful journey through the teenage life of Matty Sullivan. Matty’s wit and perceptions offer humor and insights that Mrs. Wanket presents through commendable writing and characterization. The story reflects the author’s clearly true understanding of teenager struggles. There are many enjoyable moments in How to Be Manly, including one in particular that involved Santa Clause. Very memorable!
Profile Image for Lina.
150 reviews31 followers
May 31, 2015
Not sure if I'm doing a full review, but this could change!

I loved the humorous moments in this book, and I was pleasantly surprised by how serious the book got as well. Matty is a great narrator and I definitely became emotionally invested in what happened to him. It was a fun read, and I think I might even recommend it to my younger brother (which is saying something -- he's pretty picky with what he reads).
Profile Image for Dorothy Rice.
Author 2 books20 followers
April 20, 2016
I loved this though I rarely read YA. The story and characters are engaging and well drawn. I was quickly invested in the outcome, stayed up too late to finish it and was not disappointed. Perhaps most importantly, for me, it's a book with a ton of heart. Well done.
75 reviews2 followers
April 12, 2015
A really fun and engaging coming of age story. Though the pitfalls that await the protagonist can sometimes seem like overkill, it's a super fun read anyway.
Profile Image for Mahra.
307 reviews40 followers
February 27, 2017
I read this because i wanted to read something similar to Attachments by Rainbow Rowell.
0. Rate: 3.5~4
1. writing is 5/5 maybe because it was the main’s character POV but i loved the writing.
2. the story flow was good, the ending was rushed, i felt like there were some missing chapters on how Matt & Jessica just became a couple out of nowhere.
3. i wish there was more about matt daily life, like visiting jester’s grave or something.
4. i didn’t see it coming that the neighbour was a the guy’s dad from the book.
5. its a good read, i finished it in a day.

I hope i can see more of the author’s work, i really loved the writing, i hope she writes an office work rom-com!!!!!
Profile Image for Becky Willis.
59 reviews4 followers
November 14, 2014
I am really happy to be able to do a "How to Be Manly" Book Review by Maureen O'Leary Wanket. When I started reading it, I could tell it was going to be a smooth read. The picture that was painted of Matt and his Grandma was believable and easy to become a part of. So many teenagers out there go through the exact same types of situations as Matt. Allowing your son or daughter the availability of reading "How to Be Manly" would be a great ideas; just as "Are You There God, it's Me Margaret" was to girls when I was in middle school. (although that is my opinion). The nice thing about this story is it wasn't all centered on hitting puberty, and delved more into the life of Matt and how those around him affected his life as well as his summer.

I not only enjoyed the relationship between Matt and his Grandma, but also between him and his Grandpa. You can feel Matt's love for them, but also Matt reminds you of what it was like being the 'kid' with your Grandparents.

The story is not complicated. Any early teen/teenager could enjoy it, realizing the underlying message since it isn't speaking at them, nor preaching to them.

I really enjoyed "How to Be Manly" by Maureen O'Leary Wanket; and I am sure you will too! You can read more about the author below.
Profile Image for Kate.
6 reviews2 followers
November 10, 2014
This book needs to sit on the shelf of every middle school and high school library. Fatty Matty is truly a hero, facing his demons head-on in the forms of friends, teammates, and family. The character Jester is so vile--the kind of kid a mother forbids her son from bringing home--yet his story is real and it tugs at your heartstrings. Matty's goal to win the heart of the beautiful girl reminds me of the After School Specials when I was a kid. Passion, action, and danger all keep the pages turning in this debut novel, but it was the love instilled in Matty by his grandmother that saved him. I LOVED this book!
Profile Image for Shelley Blanton-Stroud.
Author 2 books69 followers
April 27, 2016
I really, really like this YA novel. The main character, a sweet, lonely high school boy--Fatty Matty--is trying to reinvent himself as someone with more than two friends and maybe even a girlfriend. He turns to an old paperback self-help book by a former professional football player to remake himself, not just physically. He aims to be a good person. And he is. Though there is trouble in this book, as there needs to be, it is good to read about basically decent kids and adults doing the best they can, sometimes messing up but working through. The prose is so clean it seems like poetry. I recommend it to smart, sensitive YA readers.
Profile Image for Katrina Roets.
Author 25 books9 followers
November 3, 2014
Young Adult books aren't usually something that come across my desk, but when they do, I'm sure to make sure they get read because I'm always looking for good books to try to entice my teens to read. This is one that I'm sure they'd enjoy. It's funny, serious and entirely relatable. It has sports, family life and life lessons. It took very little effort for me to see this story unfolding in my head and the writing flowed in such a way that it was a very easy and enjoyable read. I'd say it's perfect for the middle school to high school set and heck, maybe a few parents along the way.
Profile Image for Steven Kirk.
84 reviews4 followers
December 5, 2014
I won a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.

This was a really good coming of age book. I read this book in two sittings because I could not wait to see what happened to Matthew next. The book makes you feel like you are right beside Matty as he copes with issues that are affecting him and his family during the summer months. Well written and definitely enjoyable and fun.
9 reviews
November 6, 2014
I loved this book. I won it in a contest here in goodreads and I couldn't wait to read it, so I also purchased it on Amazon. This book is so relatable. I myself and close to matty's age and where I'm not over weight I can relate to a lot of the situations that he is in. I highly recommend it.
129 reviews2 followers
May 20, 2020
Such a terrific read. As a heartfelt story with a cunningly crafted plot, book succeeds both artistically and mechanically. Four stars instead of five because there were quite a few spelling and punctuation errors.
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews

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