Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: One Man Guy

One Man GuyAuthor: Michael Barakiva
Published: May 27th 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Hardcover, 272 pgs
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

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.
Try as I might, I can only think of several YA books with LGBTQ main characters that really took my breath away. In fact, I can probably count them on my fingers. (Not that I need my fingers to count, people! I suck at math, but not that much!) While this saddens me for so many reasons, it’s comforting to see more and more being written every day. And besides, the novels we do have are all pretty spectacular. Just think: Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz; Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff, the spectacular Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford; the Printz medalist Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secret of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz; and, (this I’m assuming because I haven’t read it yet) The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth.*

Naturally, when I discovered One Man Guy, I hoped with all my heart that it would find its place among these brilliant novels. Unfortunately, it fell just a little bit short. It was lighthearted, funny, but not memorable enough, and certainly not set to become a classic. A worthy attempt with something missing. In that, it reminded me of Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.

The plot is actually pretty straightforward: young Alek meets Ethan, a boy from school and his complete opposite, and starts having feelings towards him. These feelings lead him to conclude that he is not, in fact, straight. Alek doesn’t spend too much time struggling with this fact. He is open-minded by nature and once he connects the dots, he just accepts things for what they are. That fact alone made me like him very much. Overall, Alek is a fascinatingly realistic character – a bit younger than I’m used to, but honest, with typical teen anger issues and insecurities.

However, while I liked Alek very much, I found his relationship with Ethan just a bit too disappointing. Ethan influenced Alek in ways I didn’t particularly like and their dynamic, colored by Ethan’s previous relationship with an older boyfriend, wasn’t something my heart could get behind.

Actually, the LGBTQ theme wasn’t what I appreciated most about this novel. Instead, I was thrilled by the intercultural undertones and the lightly satirical portrayal of Armenian culture. System of a Down has been my favorite band for over 15 year so I’ve made it a point to learn as much as I could about the Armenian genocide, but their culture, things like Armenian cuisine and mentality, remain a mystery to me. It was interesting to see it through Alek’s eyes, colored by his mixed feelings of pride and teen rebellion.

Overall, One Man Guy is a noteworthy debut that left me determined to read whatever else Michael Barakiva writes. There’s room for improvement, sure, but his writing is filled with honesty and warmth one can’t help but appreciate.

*There are, of course, others like Boy Meets Boy or Pink - great books, but not personal favorites. Feel free to mention more in the comments.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.


  1. I appreciate how there are more books coming out featuring LGBTQ characters. This sounds like an enjoyable read and solid debut. Lovely review, Maja!

    Kris @Imaginary Reads

  2. I do really like LGBT books and films. It's great when you find some wonderful ones. I need to read some of the ones you mentioned...many ARE on my wish list. I'm still curious about this one - I'm glad you liked it overall.


  3. I'm glad that you were able to enjoy this book Maja, despite a few issues. It's awesome that you were able to take away a lot about Armenian culture from it too! Fab review!

  4. Love System of a Down! So it's incorporated into the story? I have to say that I like that, even though this is a LGBT story, that's not the *only* thing it's about.

  5. This is the first time I'm hearing of this book, Maja, but it actually sounds like something I would enjoy. I tend to struggle with LGBTQ books too, especially because I feel like many rely on cliches, but this one looks like it might be well-written. Alek sounds like an interesting and well-developed guy. I have to say that I'm mostly curious about the satirical Armenian culture though.
    Great review, Maja!

  6. Bummer this one wasn't just a little bit better but it sounds like overall it was an okay read, just not a stand out one.

  7. I am glad to see that in spite of your issues, you did enjoy this one. I've had my eye on this one but I wasn't too sure. I don't mind lighthearted books dealing with LGBTQ issues (Fan Art was a really fun light LGBTQ read) so I am hoping I'll have better luck with that side of things whenever I get to this book.

    Lovely review, Maja!! :)

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

  8. Sounds like an interesting lol! Lol at the counting on your fingers, haha.
    I really enjoy novels that promote diversity, not just sexual orientation but culture, lifestiles, etc, so this sounds really interesting!

  9. I loved this book a bit more than you did, Maja. Though, I can understand where your problems lie. I'm not very-well read on diverse books, but I like how subtle and honest it is.

    Great review, Maja.

  10. Interesting! I didn't know that this book had Armenian culture woven into the plot.

    Kate @ Ex Libris

  11. Well this sounds like a good one. Glad you enjoyed it.

  12. I remember Candace reviewing this one and liking it I don't usually read much LBGT but I should try it! I will have to consider this one.

  13. Hm... this one does sound pretty good. It seems like you really enjoyed it even without the major wow factor. You are right though... there are very few books with the main protag is LGBTQ. Usually they are the side character. I also like that this book portrays another culture we don't often see. Might really have to check this one out!

  14. Whenever people recommend me LGBTQ it's really hard for me to tell them that I really cannot connect with it. People probably think that I'm homophobic or something, but I'm not really. It's just that it's always something that pulls me off. Anyhow this one sounds really good. I'm glad you enjoyed it overall. Great review, Maja :)

  15. I'm a bit on the fence about this one, but your mention about the Armenian culture has made me want to read this one a bit more!
    Thanks for the fantastic review, Maja!

  16. I wasn't sure about this one, but it sounds like it would be worth a read.

  17. I loved Alek and I adored how they portrayed the family culture but I could never get on board about Ethan. I wish they explored his past of POV a little more so I could understand him or see him mature a little.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

  18. I've read a decent number of the LGBTQ books you mentioned, Maja, but not all. I think I'll probably check those out before exploring this one in greater detail and, like you, I'm definitely going to be keeping this author on my radar. :)

  19. Hi Maja!
    I want you to know that I love your reviews, not just because they are good at the description of the sense of the book and your honest opiniones, but because I have a similar taste in books and "pet pevees".
    Your Gone, gone, gone review made me want to read it so bad I just mention it and post the link in my video of YA books with LGTB main characters!! (It's in spanish). I havent read it yet because I'm waiting to June and get some money for my bday!
    By the way, i discovered this blog thanks a friend of yours that recommend this one in some post, but i can't remember who was!
    Have a great week!

  20. It's always tough to go into a book hoping for greatness and while liking it, discovering that something is missing. It sounds like I will like the MC but I might struggle with some of the details about Ethan as well. But glad that you did end up liking this overall.

  21. Im very weary of riding YA LGBT, not because im judgmental and close-minded, but because i think is a touchy subject and not everyone can portray it well. that said, i liked how you described Alex and i just might give this one a try!
    Boyanna @The Bookmaidens

  22. It's a shame when books are good, but not memorable. I like books that stick with more for years :) I don't read many LGBT books, but I might try this one out just to see if I like it. Most of the times I don't like the focus on LGBT. I like it more when it's just part of a story :)

  23. It's so difficult to find LGBT books especially in the YA genre. Thanks for your suggestions.

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