Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
Series: Standalone
Published: May 27th, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
272 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary young adult
Acquired this book: From the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Warning: May contain spoilers
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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.

One Man Guy had me laughing from the first page. It was a really cute, different coming-of-age and coming out story.

Alek was funny, smart, sarcastic, and for the most part, he knew what he wanted. He wasn’t afraid to stand up for the things he believed in, which I liked. His parents were pretty old school and he had a seemingly perfect know-it-all brother he had a lot to live up to, and while he tried his hardest, he also wanted to have a normal life with some fun and some of the things he wanted. He was realistically flawed, making him easy to root for.

There were some really great aspects of this book: diverse characters, a unique LGBT storyline, and New York City. I really enjoyed learning about Armenian culture and food. I liked how Alek’s heritage was a big part of the book because it was such a big part of who he was. I loved that this wasn’t a typical LGBT story. A lot of the LGBT books I’ve read seem to have similar storylines, mostly best friends suddenly discovering they have feelings for each other. The coming out process is either really easy or super angsty, but One Man Guy was somewhere in between, and I liked that. Everyone’s coming out experience is difference, and I thought Alek’s journey of self-discovery was realistic and well done. As for New York City…I love books set there. One Man Guy wasn’t actually set there, but Alek and Ethan ventured into the city a few times, and I felt like I was right there with them.

When I found out Alek was only 14, I had reservations about reading One Man Guy. I love YA and most of the books I read are YA, but 14 is a bit young for my taste. It’s a long time since I was 14, plus my nephew is almost 12, which isn’t that much of a difference, and I don’t like thinking about my nephew dating (even though he does) and getting serious, and maybe doing some of the other things characters do in books. Most of the time, it was hard to believe Alek was that young, and at times when I remembered he was only 14 I would shake my head. I know kids are advanced these days, but it felt inconsistent because Alek would act like a sullen 14-year-old one minute and then he’d act much older.

Despite enjoying the LGBT storyline itself, I didn’t really feel the relationship between Alek and Ethan. For some reason, I had trouble investing in it and connecting to it. I liked Ethan for the most part, but I would have liked to see more from him than just the gay skateboarder kid who liked music and NYC. I appreciated that he drew Alek out of his shell and made him take chances, but there’s a difference between drawing someone out and being a bad influence, and I could never quite decide which side of the line Ethan fell on. Also, some of the dialogue between the two was awkward, and the slang Ethan used was distracting at times.

Overall, I enjoyed One Man Guy. It was laugh-out-loud funny, mostly realistic, and at times touching. I would recommend it for fans of YA, especially those looking for a good LGBT book, diverse characters, and a unique storyline.

Have you read One Man Guy? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to?

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