Thursday, June 26, 2014
Review: One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
A 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
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.