Manny’s a jerk. That may not be the most academic of observations, but it comes from the heart. And it’s very, very accurate (if I do say so myself). But, to his credit, Manny’s character always reminds me of something very important. Esch is young. So, so young.
A lot of the things Esch says about Manny are very juvenile, teenager-y things to say. But that’s understandable. Because she’s a teenager. She’s only fifteen. That’s very easy to forget, considering all she’s going through.
Esch compares sex to swimming (pg 22) and condoms to chocolate coins (pg 30). It’s when she’s referring to most mature things that she seems the youngest.
The very first reference to Manny in the book is through Esch’s eyes. It’s very adorable and sweet. “Seeing him broke the cocoon of my rib cage, and my heart unfurled to fly.” (pg 5) It’s such a beautiful thing to think about someone else, but also something a child would write in her secret Barbie-pink diary. And it also makes things even more heartbreaking when we actually get to know Manny and find out he’s a jerk.
On pg 16, the very next time we see Manny, he forcefully has sex with Esch. On the next page, Esch describes how kind China is being to her puppies, especially when she expected her to hurt or kill them. Esch sees/experiences these two kinds of love throughout the book: one that’s expected to be kind, but is harsh and one that’s expected to be harsh, but is kind.