Written by: Michael Barakiva
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Pages: 255, hardcover
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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.
Special thank you to ARCycling for providing me with a free ARC of this book!
I am smiling so much right now. One Man Guy is one of the cutest books I have read recently. I don’t think I realized just how much I needed an adorable queer romcom with a fun setting and a family and cultural backdrop giving it additional depth until it was in my hands. (Bonus points for delicious sounding descriptions of Armenian food, and for avoiding some frequent coming-out story cliches–Alek’s parents are 100% okay with him having a boyfriend as long is it doesn’t impact his schoolwork.)
The book is a fairly typical summer romance. Alek is forced into summer school by his strict parents, who want him to be able to make the honors track in school. He meets a free-spirited rebellious boy named Ethan. Opposites attract, the characters take life-changing field trips, kissing happens, valuable life lessons are learned, everybody lives happily ever after. Alek is a very easy character to like–slightly awkward, sarcastic, balancing his parents’ expectations with what he wants, and willing to stand up with what he believes in. The book goes by really quickly, and I was laughing and whispering “aaaawwww” on every page, and Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” was stuck in my head for hours afterward. If you ever need a mood lifter, One Man Guy is definitely on my list of books to recommend.
The dialogue often felt very stilted and awkward, and though I got used to it eventually, it sometimes took me out of the moment. Some of Ethan’s dialogue and slang felt particularly contrived. (I find it hilarious that, according to the acknowledgements, Michael Barakiva had a consultant for Hip Young Gay Speak).The book also felt a little bit preachy at times, a little too obvious with its Big Messages. (Fun game: count how many times someone mentions “the right thing”.)
I like the dimension that Alek’s family and Armenian heritage added to the story, and that it was joked about but also treated seriously. One of my favorite moments is Alek telling his friend Becky about the Armenian genocide and realizing it’s not just his parents who feel passionate about it–he does as well. In the first chapter, I worried that Alek’s parents would adhere to the over-the-top-strict-parents stereotype and never go beyond it, but that wasn’t the case. They’re flawed, but the book allows us to see situations from their perspective, and they are eventually willing to listen to Alek’s point of view and be more flexible with their children. Alek challenges his parents frequently throughout the book, but his respect for them is always obvious. All in all, it’s one of the most realistic teen-parent dynamics I’ve seen in fiction. Similarly realistic is Alek’s relationship with his older brother Nik. They argue a lot, but are able to band together when it really matters. (I also loved Alek’s friend Becky, who is blunt and loyal and has awesome taste in movies, though I did not love the references to her being Not Like Other Girls.)
And as I’ve said before, multiple times, CUTE CUTE CUTE. My favorite parts were Alek and Ethan’s New York dates–the setting of the book highlighted the romance and character interaction in a way similar to Stephanie Perkins books. They both mostly influenced each other in a positive way; Ethan reminds Alek that there’s more to life than following the rules, while Alek reminds Ethan the importance of taking responsibility for his actions. The book was filled to the brim with heart-melting moments (I particularly enjoyed strangers pointing out what a cute couple Ethan and Alek are) and I had so much fun reading seeing the relationship develop.
Definitely pick up. It takes only a few hours to read and will make you smile like an idiot for the next couple of days.