I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on May 27th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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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.
One Man Guy is absolutely adorable. It’s a hilarious, insightful story about figuring out who you are and what that means and aside from a few minor issues, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.
As per usual, the characters are my favorite part. Alek is fantastic, he’s just the right amount of principled and earnest to be admirable and endearing without getting irritating. He stands up for what he believes in and puts his heart into everything he does. It helps that he’s smart and witty, with a way of cutting right through an issue with no bullshit.
“I think, when you’re our age, it’s really easy to do the easy thing. I mean, what adults don’t understand, or maybe they’ve just forgotten, is that most of the time we mess up, we know we’re doing something stupid, but we chose to do it anyway because it’s easier. But you’re different. You’re not scared to do the right thing, even when it’s harder.”
As great as Alek is, my hands down favorite is Alek’s best friend Becky. She’s a snarky rollerblading champion and merciless tease with extreme fondness for movies. She’s an amazing friend and doesn’t hesitate to put her own feelings aside and throw herself into her best friend’s life with glee. She’s one of the best parts of the book (especially the way she convinces Ethan to go to Alek’s house for dinner, you’ll have to read it to see what I mean) and gets a place of honor in my YA BFF Hall Of Fame.
The love interest, Ethan, felt a little underdeveloped. Don’t get me wrong, I liked him but never really felt like I fully got to know him. That said, I shipped the shit out of this ship. Ethan functions as a bit of a manic pixie dream boy for Alec, pulling him out of his polite, reserved shell and indirectly forcing him to consider who he is and what’s important to him. Their romance is perfectly paced, slowly unfolding over covert stares, secret smiles and a series of incredibly charming adventures in New York City.
The biggest surprise for me was how much I ended up liking Alek’s family. I was extremely not sold at first. I found Alek’s parents and the pressure they put on him suffocating and Nik, his brother, seemed like a smug asshole. However, as I got to know the Khelderian clan and see their family dynamic come into play, I fell in love. They’re a beautiful, tight knit unit and the way they come together when it matters brought a tear to my eye.
Seeing the way their Armenian heritage was such a fundamental part of the lives was also really interesting. While my family celebrates its Irish roots, it’s not something that comes into play during my everyday life and I loved learning about the culture and traditions that make up such a huge part of Alek’s identity.
While I really liked the way the matter-of-fact, streamlined writing style allowed for the dialogue and events to shine, the book transitions from scene to scene with very little narrative downtime and the pace sometimes felt abrupt. It makes sense, One Man Guy has a lot of ground to cover and does so efficiently, but it occasionally felt like to accomplish everything, Alek’s character had to develop off camera. It was like he flipped a switch from quiet and reserved to outspoken and outwardly confident. A neat trick, but it threw me a bit. I also had trouble buying that Alek was only fourteen. I don’t remember being fourteen all that well, but I do not recall myself or my peers being anywhere near Alek’s level of self-possessed and articulate. That said, I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed reading a book about a bunch of people acting like I remember acting at fourteen, so take from that what you will.
Overall, two thumbs up. One Man Guy is delightful. It’s tons of fun while still managing to convey a number of serious messages about growing up, family and being yourself. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a sweet summer romance with equal parts depth and humor. You will not be disappointed.