One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva | Review

Posted May 25, 2014 by Tara Gold in Review /// 0 Comments

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva | ReviewOne Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
Series: standalone
Published by Macmillan on 2014-05-27
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, LGBT, LGBTQ, Love & Romance, YA, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Source: ARC from NetGalley

Funny and heartfelt, One Man Guy serves up the raucous family humor and gentle romance of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, as told with David Sedaris–style wit

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.

“all my life I’ve been eating frozen yogurt. And kissing boys is ice cream.”

Y’all, One Man Guy may not be a perfect book, but it’s an adorable gay romance. This is the story of an Armenian family, a best friend on rollerblades, and a rebellious love interest with a heart of gold.

For the first 80% of the book, I was on the fence. Ethan is a bad boy, and I’m not really a fan of bad boys. Ethan convinces Alek to skip school and do other things Alek does not agree with. Alek goes along with it all because he is entranced by Ethan, but Ethan’s cajolling made me uncomfortable. On top of it all, I felt Ethan’s “teen speak” was significantly dated (who says “whack” and “the bomb” non-ironically anymore?). I was worried about Alek compromising himself too much for the cool kid and that the book was promoting one ditching his studies, his friends, and his promises to family in the process. That did not sit well with me.

However, Barakiva does resolve this at the end. I left the story feeling optimistic about this relationship. And ditto for the family — I was worried about Alek’s parents being entirely one-dimensional, but Barakiva gave them some satisfying depth at the end of the novel. One Man Guy is a short novel that left me feeling warm and happy for all of the characters, which was a joy!

I enjoyed the romance, but my favorite element of the novel (and what sold me on it) was the characterization of Alek’s Armenian family and heritage. I actually learned a lot about Armenians, including their stance on the Kardashian family. The story was full of Armenian history, culture, and food. The inclusion of these elements was definitely purposeful, but so unique in a YA novel. I would love to read more novels about second and third generation immigrant adolescents straddling two cultures.

Oh, and the novel was inspired by this song:


I’ve been saying this a lot lately: this was an excellent book, but not a top 10 novel of the year. Top 20? Likely. I am definitely pleased to see such interesting additions to the world of LGBTQ YA literature in 2014. One Man Guy would be an excellent addition to a high school library and definitely a public library. I would recommend it to fans of New York City, Rufus Wainwright, Armenia, Audrey Hepburn, rollerblading, bad boys, and coming out stories. And can I fangirl over that cover for a moment? I LOVE THAT COVER AND WANT TO OWN THE BOOK ON MY SHELF, PLEASE. That is all.

Tara Gold

Tara is a PhD candidate studying education. Her dissertation is on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life...well, that's yet to be determined, but it probably involves getting kids jazzed about books or research. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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