One Man Guy

By Michael Barakiva
Published on May 27th 2014
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Source: Publisher
Funny and heartfelt, One Man Guy brings to mind 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.
Finally, a story about two boys in love where the focus is not on how terrible and awful coming out or being gay is.  Look, I know that it's realistic for coming out, especially as a young person, to be something challenging, but so many LGBT-themed YA books primarily focus on the drama being around coming out, rather than any of the other relationship hurdles that kids face.  I was so pleased to see that all the relationship drama in this one was due to kids being kids, and not because of unaccepting parents or friends.  It was no different than any other contemporary teen romance: miscommunications, weird relationships with your family, and mixed signals. So very refreshing!

Overall, I really enjoyed this story.  Sometimes, I found some of the characters annoying, but then I remembered that Alek and his best friend Becky are supposed to be only fourteen years old.  I'm pretty sure I was way annoying and melodramatic as a fourteen year old, so I don't think I have any room to talk about finding someone like Becky to be a little over the top.  (At the same time, contemporary YA books always seem to reinforce how completely boring of a kid I was, as I never would have dared to cut one class, let alone a whole day of school.) I think overall the characters will resonate with readers in the target age demographic.

Although I felt like some aspects of the book were a bit predictable, there are a lot of fresh, new things about this book that I think deserve to be celebrated.  Like I mentioned earlier, Ethan and Alek provide a same-sex romance with no angst about sexuality -- Alek just accepts the fact that he likes Ethan in a more-than-friends way, and gets on with having a crush on him.  I don't know that I've read anything about an Armenian family before, either, so the chance to get to read about the Khederians, their culture, beliefs, etc., was really cool and eye-opening.  It would have been easy to make them into a parody, but even when Alek's parents were at their overbearing worst, everything felt like it was written with love.

This wasn't a perfect read, but I think it's a great start for a debut author who I'm looking forward to reading more from.  Aside from a few make-out scenes, this book is a clean read and appropriate for teens and up.

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