For What It's Worth

For What It's Worth

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review: One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva


18465591A heartfelt, laugh-out-loud-funny story of romance, family, and self-discovery.

Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshman year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.

Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again.

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Source: ARC provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux for an honest review

Review:
One Man Guy was such a refreshingly sweet and hopeful coming of age story. I absolutely adored how Barakiva showed the Khederian family pride in their Armenian culture and how that conflicts with a 14 year old boy trying to fit in at high school. Bringing stuffed grape leaves to lunch isn't always the kind of friendship ice breaker you're looking for. This was probably my favorite part of this book, even more so than the romance, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Alek’s parents are proud, and insistent that Alek get a good education and follow the old traditions of their country. They’re also prejudice, overbearing and sometimes embarrassing. Like when they lecture a waitress about the temperature and toxins of bottled water or how to make Armenian food the “right way” but I think that’s how it is with all families when you’re growing up and Alek’s parents are concerned, present in their children’s lives and very loving. 

Alek’s best friend Becky thinks she likes him more than as a friend and makes a move, which he doesn’t reciprocate. Alek instead finds himself attracted to the enigmatic Ethan. Alk’s realization that he’s gay comes very easy to him and he just accepts it. I’m conflicted about this. I’m sure things don’t go as easily for most people coming out in the LGBQT community – but why not show a positive example as well? I don’t know. Has anyone else read this and have an opinion?

As for Ethan as the love interest…it just didn’t work for me. Alek is 14 years old and just starting to explore his sexuality. He hasn’t even kissed much. Ethan is much more experienced in life and love. Alek is such a sweet, innocent type of character and I can see his being drawn to Ethan who is a skateboarder, cuts class, takes Alek for day trips exploring NYC. He was almost a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (Guy) type character. Wild, experienced, HOT and free with a bit of an edge. I sensed there were darker depths to Ethan and his background but this wasn’t that kind of book and it wasn’t his story so it felt out of place to me. He sometimes influenced Alek in ways that weren't good for him but to be fair, Alek helped change Ethan for the better in a lot of ways.

Overall a really sweet story with a protagonist you can really root for. A little younger on the YA spectrum than I usually read but I liked the lighter approach. I enjoyed it more for the family interactions and Alek’s straightforward, stand by your beliefs, approach to life than the romance. I would have liked to know more about Ethan or have that relationship developed more for that aspect to have work for me.

I’m looking forward to see what Michael Barakiva writes next. He has a very unique writing voice.

18 comments:

  1. Sounds good. Not a book I will rush out to get, but still, it sounds good

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  2. Sounds like a sweet story...but I can definitely see that I would have some of the same questions and doubts about some of the story as well.

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    1. It was good. I just felt it needed to be a little darker because of Ethan or Ethan needed to be less wordily to balance fit out.

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  3. I could easily see this as a contemporary Disney/Nickelodeon/ABC Family TV movie

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    1. It should be!!!! It has a Zach & Cody feel :-) A little day but very sweet.

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  4. Ethan does seem a but out of place, but the story still sounds great. Thanks for the review!

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    1. Yeah it was cute despite my issues with it.

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  5. That really is younger feeling then I would have anticipated. Glad you found it so sweet and enjoyable. Unfortunately not for me.

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    1. IT was odd because it had a younger feel but then he would throw in more mature topics. The balance wasn't quite right but still a good book.

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  6. The stuffed grape leaves makes me think of My Big Fat Greek Wedding's moussaka scene, which always makes me laugh/grimace for the poor girl. Love when a character's culture plays a big part in the book and their lives. Alex does sound like a MPDG-type character but the whole story sounds sweet.

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    1. What I loved is that Alex was kind of embarrassed but went with it and ended up making friends because of his uniqueness. It was a sweet book.

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  7. The writing voice has me intrigued but sorry to hear that Ethan didn't light your fire, he would probably be a problem for me too

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    1. I liked Ethan but he felt too big almost for this book. A little out of place - like he had issues that needed to be explored more. Still worth reading though.

      The author had a very different YA voice that I really enjoyed.

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  8. I can see the problems you had with this book and I have a feeling that I would feel the same way. I may library book this one, but I might check out to see what else he has out there. I do like the sound of his writing.

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    1. The library seems like a good bet for this one. It's super cute - even with the flaws and worth reading.

      I believe that this was his debut novel.

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  9. Wow, this books sounds really interesting. All the diversity campaigns & stuff bring so many good books to light, not just cos they're LGBT or whatever but hey- we should all read a little bit of everything!
    Ah, the pixie girl stuff... I've heard of that, but it may work with a guy- in fact, aren't SO many guys in YA like that or is it just me? :P They're not really the best book boyfriend material (no matter what their sexuality is) but eh. Of course, this sounds a bit idealized but endearing, funny & easy to read. If its all that I'm sure it should be worth it as the end of the day. The US culture is interesting, I'm not used to that, so it'd be a weird, but good, thing to see extreme Americans as Americans see them.
    The best friend thing hardly ever works. Maybe in CoG but eh, its rare. What did she expect? XD But it'd probably take the edge of if you knew the reason why was cos they just weren't attracted to ANYONE of that gender, right? Its a real example of "it's not me, it's you" :P Anyway, fab review & happy reading! :D

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  10. I have this one on my tbr, although I'm not really a fan of the younger-ish YAs. I don't know why! I always tend to get frustrated. >-<
    Thanks for stopping by @ Notebook Sisters!

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  11. I probably wouldn't read this one, but it sounds cute and yes, maybe for younger teens. I also agree that I love seeing other cultures not just represented but embraced in books.

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