Summer school, a cute boy, and overbearing Armenian parentswhat’s a guy to do?
Alek Khederian was looking forward to a relaxing summer. But when his parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades, Alek is sure this experience will be just as hellish as his freshman year of high school. But he never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.
Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. When Ethan gets Alek to cut school and go to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City’s Central Park, Alek embarks on his first adventure outside the confines of his suburban New Jersey existence. 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 boyfriendhe’s barely ever had a girlfriendbut maybe it’s time to think again.
Michael Barakiva's One Man Guy is a romantic, moving, laugh-out-loud-funny story about what happens when one person cracks open your world and helps you see everythingand, most of all, yourselflike you never have before.
“A romantic comedy with Armenian flair . . . Don’t miss it.” E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars
“A kind and generous book about the loneliness of a young boy trying to navigate between a chaotic Armenian family and a school of bullying cliques. Alek Khederian deals bravely and inspiringly with the perils of learning to love your family, to love someone else, and most of all, to love yourself.” Eleanor Bergstein, novelist and screenwriter of the film Dirty Dancing
“Hand this one to those who’ve already gone through Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy and Kluger’s My Most Excellent Year.” The Bulletin
About the Author
Michael Barakiva is a theater director of Armenian/Israeli descent and a writer who lives in Manhattan with his husband. He is a graduate of Vassar College and the Juilliard School, an avid cook and board-game player, and a soccer player with the New York Ramblers.
Read an Excerpt
Alek stared at the menu suspiciously. He smelled marinara sauce and a trap.
“Welcome to Trattoria dell’Arte. My name is Lizzy. Can I start you off with something to drink?” The waitress was young, maybe a college student already home for the summer, with a kind, round face framed by bangs that curled up at the bottom. Alek pitied her. She had no idea what she was in for.
“What bottled water do you have?” Alek’s mother asked, while his father and brother inspected the menu like enemy drones searching for their opponents’ weak spots. Even though both of his parents were born in this country, Alek’s mom spoke with the slight accent she inherited from the Little Armenia neighborhood in Los Angeles where she grew up. Most of the time the accent just hovered in the background of her speech, elongating her vowels and giving her an untraceable European mystique. But when she needed to, like now, she turned it on the way a spider might weave an especially enticing web to lure its prey in for the kill.
“Bottled water, coming right up!” Lizzy responded cheerfully, misunderstanding.
“No, we’d like to know the brand of the bottled water,” Alek’s father specified.
“Oh,” Lizzy said, as if he might be kidding.
“You see, many bottled waters actually have levels of contaminants equal to or even higher than tap.” Alek’s mom informed poor Lizzy of this information as if doing her a favor.
Alek looked at his older brother, Nik, but he continued ignoring Alek. Alek turned back to Lizzy pityingly, futilely trying to telepathically prepare her for the ordeal about to transpire.
“We have Evian,” Lizzy offered.
“Evian’s good,” his father agreed.
Lizzy relaxed. “So, Evian to start?”
“Do you keep any at room temperature?” Alek’s mother asked.
“Excuse me?” Lizzy asked nervously. Alek suspected the full horror of the situation was slowly dawning on her.
Alek’s mom seized the opportunity to educate. “Digesting chilled water actually taxes the body,” she lectured, “because the body has to bring anything it ingests up to its own temperature before it reaches the stomach. That’s why we prefer room temperature water.”
“It’s easier on the system,” Nik added, as if this was something everyone should know.
“I can ask,” Lizzy offered weakly, succumbing to the three-person tag team.
“That would be great,” Alek’s mother continued. “And if not, would you ask someone in the kitchen to warm it to room temperature?”
Lizzy laughed, as if Alek’s mother was making a joke. But Alek knew she wasn’t.
“Not more than sixty-eight degrees, please. Seventy at most,” she instructed. “I don’t want it to be warm, because then we’d have to put ice in it, and that would just be adding contaminants, which would defeat the whole point. I’m sure you understand.” Alek suspected Lizzy was wondering what heinous crime she had committed in a previous life to get stuck with this table. “Unless, of course, you have ice made from bottled water.”
“No,” Lizzy said slowly, as if she were talking to a dangerous criminal. “I think all of our ice is from tap.”
“So let’s see if we can find some Evian at room temperature,” Alek’s mother concluded. Lizzy scuttled off.
Alek thought it should be illegal for Armenians to go to restaurants. Or that at least they should come with a warning like cigarettes: “Waiting on Armenians Might Be Hazardous to Your Health.” The problem was that Armenians prided themselves on being such good cooks that they resented paying money for something they felt they could do better.
“I wish they had zatar here.” Nik pitched his voice just loud enough that the staff could hear him complain about the absence of the Middle Eastern spice mixture.
“We can make some when we get home,” his mother said. Alek wondered if non-Armenian families spent their time at restaurants planning backup meals when the institutions they were patronizing inevitably disappointed them.
“So, Alek, your mother and I have to talk to you about something,” his father began.
“I know,” Alek responded. “And I know it must be bad since I’ve been begging you to bring me here for months.” He dunked a piece of bread into olive oil.
“You know, they might just be doing something nice,” Nik said. Alek could hear the implied Not like you deserve it trailing off his brother’s words.
“Well, spit it out and let’s get it over with,” Alek said.
“You’re going to summer school!” his mother announced, as if he’d just won a prize.
“I’m what?” Alek abandoned the glistening piece of bread on his plate.
“They said you’re going to summer school,” Nik repeated from across the table.
“It’s not that I couldn’t hear them, dimwit. It’s just that I didn’t believe it,” Alek snapped.
“Aleksander, please lower your voice,” his father admonished him, absentmindedly running his hands over the salt-and-pepper beard he’d grown this year. “We’re in public.”
If Alek had been in a better mood, he might’ve made a joke about Armenians’ deluded belief that, like royalty, paparazzi tracked their every action. But he wasn’t. “Why’m I going to summer school? It’s not like I failed or anything.” Alek’s mind began racing, trying to figure out what miracle he could perform in the last week of school that might alter this terrible fate.
“Honey, Ms. Schmidt said she’d be willing to make an exception for you,” Alek’s mom explained. “She said that if you retook English and math and earned high enough grades, you could stay on Honor Track next year.”
“You spoke to Ms. Schmidt behind my back? This is a total conspiracy.”
“Aleksander, you are fourteen years old. We are your parents. When we speak to your guidance counselor, it’s for your own good,” his father scolded him.
“Well, maybe I can still get my grades up—”
Alek’s mother cut him off. “Ms. Schmidt told us that even if you got the highest scores possible, it still wouldn’t keep you on Honor Track.”
“Well, who cares about that?” Alek fought back. “I’ll just take Standard next year. It’s not like that would be the end of the world.”
“You know, Alek,” his father started, “South Windsor has one of the best public school systems in New Jersey. Your great-grandparents fled Turkey during the genocide of the Armenian people almost one hundred years ago and ended up in this country with nothing. They gave up their land, their belongings, and their history to come to a country where they could be safe and where their children would grow up without persecution and receive the best education in the world.”
Alek knew that when his dad starting speaking “Old World,” things were bad.
“Their sacrifice means you have a responsibility to do the best you can,” his father concluded.
“But what about tennis camp?” Alek cried out.
His parents spotted Lizzy returning with a bottle of Evian and stopped talking immediately. God forbid an outsider be privy to the secrets of the Family Khederian, Alek thought.
“I have good news—we keep some Evian at room temperature in storage,” Lizzy said, naïvely opening the bottle.
“I wish you had mentioned that they were plastic bottles,” Alek’s mother lamented semi-apologetically before Lizzy could pour.
“What?” Lizzy asked.
“We don’t drink from plastic,” Alek’s mother explained, as if the words coming out of her mouth made perfect sense. “First of all, polyvinyl chloride distributes pollutants that are suspected to disrupt the hormonal balance. Secondly, bisphenol A has been linked to obesity and abnormal chromosomes. And you don’t even want to know what the plastic does to the water if it’s been left out in the sun!” Alek truly marveled at his mother’s ability to say insane things reasonably. “We’ll just have some green tea,” Alek’s mom concluded.
“Can I tell you about the specials?” Lizzy asked, taking a step back in preparation for the anticipated assault.
“Actually, can we ask a few questions first?” Alek’s dad countered.
“Sure,” Lizzy responded wearily. Alek’s parents wound up for the interrogation.
“What farm do you get your mozzarella from?”
“Which of the vegetables are locally sourced?”
“Are the tomatoes organic?”
“Are the pickles boiled before they’re brined?”
“Are the peas fresh or frozen?”
“Is the rack of lamb domestic or international?”
Lizzy consulted the notes she’d frantically taken on her little pad. “Um, let me see. The mozzarella is generic, I think some of the squash and cucumbers are local, and I don’t know about the tomatoes. What else did you ask? Something about pickles?”
Lizzy did her best as the tag-team barrage continued, but by the time it ended, her spirit had been broken. Nik’s not-so-subtle sneers every time she failed to answer a question didn’t help.
“Do you know what you’d like to eat?” she asked meekly, holding her notepad like a shield. “Or do you need a little more time?”
“I think we’re still deciding,” Alek’s father said.
Alek swore he heard the formerly kind Lizzy muttering obscenities under her breath as she left. “At least with tea, they’ll have to boil the water, so we know it’s safe,” his mother confided to the table. “Now, what were we saying?”
“I was asking how I can go to summer school when tennis camp starts in two weeks. Remember tennis camp? That thing you promised I could do because you wouldn’t let me try out for the team this year?”
“We didn’t let you try out because we thought that time would be better spent on improving your grades. I’m afraid tennis camp is going to have to wait as well,” his father informed him.
“But what about the deposit? You know they’re not going to give that back,” Alek pointed out.
“We know, Alek,” his mother responded. “But it’s a loss we’re willing to bear. Academics come first in our house.”
“This sucks,” Alek hissed.
“Don’t use that word,” his father said reflexively. Alek remembered the first time he heard one of his friends curse in front of his parents—a real curse, not damn or suck. That would never fly in his home.
“Well, if you find the work too challenging, I’d be happy to help you with it.” Nik smirked.
Alek kicked his brother under the table.
“Alek, stop that!” his mom reprimanded him. “People will talk!” She looked around to see if anyone had witnessed the inexcusable faux pas.
“God, Mom, don’t you understand, nobody is looking at us. Nobody cares what we do. I can stand on top of this table and throw bread at him and they wouldn’t care.” To demonstrate his point, Alek picked up the piece of now-soggy bread, drenched in oil and balsamic vinegar, and aimed it across the table at Nik.
“Aleksander, that’s enough,” his father scolded him. “Now put that bread down, sit at this table like an adult, which is how you’re always asking to be treated, and enjoy the meal we’re paying for.”
The meal Mom’s paying for, Alek thought to himself. But he knew better than to say that out loud. Ever since his dad got laid off from his architectural firm last year and his mom had to return to work full-time, Alek’s dad had been especially sensitive to the money issue.
“Well, thanks, guys,” Alek said, the saccharin pouring off his voice. “Let’s see—you think I’m an idiot, you tell me one week before school ends that I’m going to have to spend the rest of my summer in the den of despair that is my high school, I can’t go to tennis camp even though you promised I could—is there anything else you want to lay on me?”
“Well,” Alek’s mom said, fidgeting with her napkin.
“Oh my God, are you kidding me? What else can there possibly be?”
His mom looked at his dad for help, but he was scrutinizing the menu as if it were the Ark of the Covenant.
“You don’t have to be in the top five percent of your class like I am to figure it out,” Nik observed. “If you’re doing summer school, you’re not going to be able to go on the family vacation.”
“Now, Andranik, we’ll handle this,” his father said, finally looking up. Nik, who’d sprouted another four inches his junior year, had the decency to shut up for once. “You see, Alek, when we committed to going to Niagara Falls with the other families from church this summer, we bought into a group deal. If we pulled out now, we’d jeopardize everyone else’s vacation.”
“Not to mention that I had to ask special permission to get those days off from camp,” Nik added.
“You’re telling me that you’re choosing the people from church over your own son for our family vacation?” Alek asked incredulously. “And I’m sure the fact that Nik’s girlfriend is one of those people is a total coincidence, right? I mean, I’m used to you choosing Nik over me, but choosing Nanar over your own flesh and blood? That’s a new all-time low.”
“She has nothing to do with it,” Nik interjected.
“Alek, Nanar’s family is just one of the many families we’d be letting down if we backed out now,” his mother explained.
Nik flipped through the menu, the disdain with which he turned the pages making it clear he wasn’t impressed. “Besides, all of us from Armenian Youth are planning on researching our heritage projects in the Toronto Archives.”
“Not to mention losing all of our money,” his father concluded.
“I still don’t understand why we didn’t just take a normal family vacation by ourselves,” Alek asked petulantly.
“Well, if that’s what you want to do next year, that’s what we’ll do. Your father and I decided that because you can’t go this year, you’ll get to choose where we go next summer.”
“If I don’t have to go back to summer school, you mean,” Alek rifled back. “Because who knows? Maybe I’ll get another”—he gasped for dramatic effect—“God forbid—another C, and they’ll threaten to kick me off Honor Track again, and I’ll have to sacrifice another summer of my life to the cruelest institution in the history of mankind.”
“Be reasonable…” his father began, but stopped when he saw Lizzy walking back slowly, balancing a pot of hot water and four mugs with tea bags in them.
Alek’s mother smiled at the waitress when she reached the table. Lizzy took it as a good sign, but Alek knew better. “Do you have any loose tea?” his mother asked.
“Loose tea?” Lizzy asked meekly.
“It’s just that some studies show that the paper in tea bags—”
“Oh my God!” Alek exploded. “Why are you torturing this poor girl? She’s not even related to you! And nobody gets cancer from drinking tea in bags. Do you hear me? NO ONE. And no one gets cancer from drinking Evian in plastic bottles!” The way the other customers in the restaurant were looking at Alek told him he was probably using his outside voice, but he didn’t care. “This is supposed to be my meal? My consolation prize for being betrayed by my parents to a summer of hell? Then we’re going to do it my way.” He looked at Lizzy, whose befuddlement was quickly morphing into gratitude. “The tea is great, thank you.” Alek slammed the menu shut. “I’ll have the pasta carbonara. They’ll split the grilled steak. And that jerk with his mouth gaping open like a fish in the corner will have the lasagna. And make sure the meat is well-done, okay?”
Lizzy nodded yes, furiously scribbling into her little pad.
“Now quickly, go before they have a chance to say anything!”
Lizzy didn’t need any further encouragement. She sprinted away, her apron strings flopping behind her.
The moment Lizzy was out of earshot, Alek’s mom leaned in. “I do hope they cook the meat all the way through,” she confided. “Otherwise I’ll simply have to send it back.”
Text copyright © 2014 by Michael Barakiva
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a novel that starts out as one thing, a boy being suppressed by his family to the point that he can't even buy his own clothes at the age of fourteen and then becomes a novel about growing up and falling in love for the first time. About no longer allowing himself to be controlled by his family and about taking back his life while still hanging on to his Armenian family with both hands. Characters- Alek- A fourteen year old boy who has had tennis taken away from him, the one thing he loved, and his summer usurped by his parents who have decided to send him to summer school to improve his grades so he can get into the Honors track next year. He suffers in silence for the most part, but has a sarcastic wit that can't help coming out from time to time to make his embarrassing family a bit more bearable. Becky- Alek's best friend. She is obessed with movies, Diet Dr. Pepper and roller blades. She and Alek have certain rituals that make their friendship unique. It is with Becky's help that Alek discovers that he likes boys. She is so matter of fact about things that it leaves room for no doubt. They have a couple of rough weeks in the beginning, but she will not be ignored, even if Alek has a boyfriend. Ethan- Alek's first boyfriend. He shows Alek the world. Helps him loosen up and become more comfortable with himself. He guides Alek in love, how to be free and how to handle himself in a world where people may or may not accept him. Alek's Family- Family plays an important role in Alek's life. He comes from an Armenian family who stick very close to their roots and believe in their traditions and customs. With all of these rules ingrained in Alek since he was a little boy, it's hard for him to be comfortable with himself and with others. Especially his family. But they love him and want only what is best for him. World/Setting- Present day NJ and NYC, high school The Story- An uptight rule abiding boy who doesn't get who he is or where his place is comes to find out the answers to those questions over the course of a summer when he is forced to go to summer school. My Take- I loved this story. Alek is funny and a very believable character. His mother is overbearing but doesn't realize it. He is treated like he's eight instead of fourteen. All his decisions are made for him. He and his older brother Nik are in constant battle to be the favored son. I loved how family played such a big part in the story, how Alek loved his family and didn't want to shut them out, even after he understood his relational preference. Instead of being afraid of coming out, he asked for advice about it. Alek didn't want to keep it a secret. I loved that about him. He felt secure enough to want to tell his family. In the end, this is a novel about self discovery, growing up and a romance. Ethan is nothing like Alek and yet Alek discovers he is everything Alek needs in his life. The two are a perfect mix and it's such a great summer romance. Not too heavy on the life lessons, and plenty of humor, lots of romance, perfect for the beach!
A great book about blooming young love and the weight and wonders of culture.
Super cute romantic book. You should buy this book.
This book was such a gift to my day! Whether in my room, in my gym or in my local coffeehouse, this book provided endless laughs and heartwarming reads. This love story about two teenage boys turns out to be so much more: a coming of age story that is about a love affair with New York, with cooking, with an ethnic heritage, and with witty firecracker friends. It took me back to high school and forward to the kids I wish I had. Bravo to the author for this beautiful heart opening tale. It made my day. Heck, it made my month!
I am immensely happy that I got to read this story within a month of its release date. I personally was not informed about anything regarding Armenia and I'm so glad this book brought so much information and interesting things to know about the place. I hadn't read much about gay couples either and going into this quick read that way was so nice. I loved everything and everyone. From Ethan's open minded way of living to Alek's parents' strict character. The humor in it was also great. Everything worked out just fine for me. Barakiva has proven, in my point of view, to be a promising author and I now look forward to his future work.
I loved thus book so much!
This book was probably one of the best LGBT themed books I've read. I'm a big ally and live in the suburbs of NJ along the NJ transit, and for all I know, this could've taken place in my hometown. So the local-NJ culture was defiantly spot on! As for the story, it was great. I loved seeing the relationship between Alek and Ethan develop. A lot of times, I feel like LGBT novels cut short or end suddenly before showing any major development in a relationship. Here, we actually see them meet, kiss, and develop a relationship in the beginning. We get an actual story. The story itself was very upbeat. I loved everything about the city (again, it was spot on with the attitude we get when we go into the city- we aren't tourists, but we're not New Yorkers). Plus, it was great to get a cute story that didn't end with suicide or depression. I feel like a lot of LGBT books deal with those heavy topics, and while that is a very important issue, not all people face that. To have a book where the people are accepting is just nice to see.
I could not put this book down. Alek's character was beautifully depicted. His point of views and experiences around his sexuality are so tender. I've recommended this as a great summer read to all my friends. The book speaks to the heart. Regardless of age or sexuality, you'll be moved by this story beyond believe.
“I like celebrating love, in all shapes and forms.” These were my comments on the Fierce Reads Facebook page giveaway post for One Man Guy. How I wish there were more who agreed with me. Sadly, it appears we still have a way to go. While other recent giveaways garnered upwards of 150 entries, when Fierce Reads essentially asked, “Who wants a gay love story?” only 35 raised their hands. I don’t know if it’s fear of the unknown or a need for something familiar that makes readers hesitate to try something different. If you’re not ready (or willing) to pick up One Man Guy, here’s what you’re missing: For starters, the book begins in uproarious fashion. The demands of Alek’s highly opinionated, hard-to-please mother are torturing the poor waitress attempting to serve them. The quirkiness of the characters causes them to jump off the page. I was laughing so much at the family that I fell instantly in love with the book. John Green fans will eat this up. You are able to identify with Alek from almost the moment you meet him. He’s been set up as a kind of good guy underdog, trying to please his parents while living in the shadow of his “perfect” older brother. Alek’s family soon leaves the scene, but they were well-enough defined before leaving that you feel you got to know them. You see Alek with his best friend Becky (who is hilarious) before any of the summer love begins. This is good in that you meet, know, and understand Alek before any feelings or sexuality questions come into the picture. This is like life. Though not always the case with outward appearances like race or ethnicity, we don’t generally walk around with labels like “straight”, “gay”, “bi”, or whatever we may identify as tattooed on our foreheads. Others get to know us as people first rather than defining us by our sexuality. That’s the way it should be anyway. At the novel’s outset, Alek doesn’t know he’s gay. Though he does eventually share something from his back story that he can better understand in retrospect, it’s not until he’s magnetically drawn to Ethan that he starts to examine his feelings. And he doesn’t try to define things right away. He just knows he finds Ethan captivating and irresistible. It’s refreshing that Alek’s discovery of his sexuality isn’t accompanied by angst, self-loathing, and torment. I also appreciated that the love story develops slowly. My only quibble is that Ethan is a little too much of a bad boy. I understand that he’s helping Alek stretch his wings, find himself, and loosen up a little, but it’s hard to love his facility for petty theft (riding the train into New York City without paying, or “returning” a book off the shelves at the store for store credit). One of the reasons I’m fond of Alek is that he’s got integrity; he stands up for what he feels is right. And I couldn’t help but wish that he had insisted on buying tickets for his second trip into the city. Still, by the novel’s end, Barakiva has resolved some of my issues with Ethan. Setting, particularly New York City, plays a big role in this book, giving the guys a place to explore where anything seems possible and people are free to be whomever or whatever they want. The music of Rufus Wainwright (whose song, composed and first performed by his father, inspires the title) comes into play and helps lend atmosphere. Behind all the humor, there are many serious topics for discussion in the novel: sexuality, self-expression, prejudice, the Armenian Genocide, family heritage, and the changing construct of family. None of the weighty topics overwhelm or predominate the story, but they do inform it and lend realism and depth. Chances are you’ll learn something! Situations get sticky near the end, and some might feel things are too tidily and easily resolved, but I’d like to believe that the conflict is handled in the manner Barakiva feels families should — he’s modeling a best possible outcome scenario. Verdict 4 of 5 hearts. Funny and Heartfelt. This is a feel-good summer love story from a different angle, and there are readers out there who may see themselves in these pages. One Man Guy should give them hope that, surrounded by people who love and respect them, everything will be okay. *Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank MacTeen’s Facebook page, Fierce Reads, for their giveaway in which I was awarded an ARC. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trad
I lived and breathed this book since getting it in the mail. After reading about this book on Fierce Reads, I knew I had to read it and then when I found out I won it, I was thrilled beyond belief. I don’t know what it was about it but something hit a cord with me and Michael’s words won me over just the same as I started reading it. The opening chapter lays the novel’s foundation and it had me in stitches as Alex’s family is out for dinner and his neurotic mother has the waitress frazzled as she makes ordering dinner and water a nightmare. Since Alex comes from a long line of Armenians, his family believes that the Armenian way is superior over American thinking which reminded me of the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I found myself laughing at the references comparing American and Armenian things and how these details were affecting the two boys and their family. Sometimes the effort to make the point was so ridiculous, you just had to laugh. Alex is informed that his summer vacation would be replaced with summer school since his grades were not the best that he could get according to his father. His family however will take their planned summer vacation without him. There is bright side; Alex was able to talk them into him staying home by himself. His best friend Becky and he share everything, Becky would like to take the relationship further but Alex likes her just as a friend. It’s freedom as last when his family leaves. Summer school turns out not to be so bad, as that is where Alex meets Ethan. An innocent relationship begins for the two of them and they run off into the big city for some fun adventure. Two guys hitting the town, nothing else. The writing was perfect, the relationship was carefree and the conversation that followed opened up the world to possibilities that were enjoyable. The more I read, the more I loved the relationships that followed, the communication, the possibilities, the honesty and the ability to just be yourself. The teens are dealing with some big issues and the realization as certain situation present themselves it made them more aware of themselves. It made them more aware of their own beliefs, their nationality, and their way of life and as they came to face these issues they had to deal with them, they couldn’t ignore them or pretend they didn’t exist, it all mattered now. I really enjoyed this book, such a great book dealing with life as it presents itself to each person, as unique as the person we all are.
Coming of age story I received an advance reader edition of this book from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review. 3 Stars This was an OK book. When I saw this book on Net Galley, I checked the reviews on Goodreads and saw that everyone seemed to LOVE this book. I was so excited to get the chance to sit down with it myself because I wanted to love it too. I love a good coming of age story as much as anyone else. I did not love it. To be perfectly honest, this is probably going to be one of those books that I have read that I will not even be able to remember much of in a few months. Alek is a 14 year old Armenian boy. I loved the fact that Alek's Armenian culture played a huge role in this book. I would actually say that this aspect is the strongest point of the book. Alek's parents decide that he will have to attend summer school because they want him to be on the honor track in high school. During summer school, Alek crosses paths with Ethan. Alek is best friends with Becky, whose character I found to be the most interesting in this book. Becky is a free spirit who is not afraid to go for what she wants, and she thinks she might want Alek. During an awkward encounter, Becky learns that those feelings are not mutual. It turns out that Alek has never thought about whether he might be gay but he is attracted to Ethan after spending some time with him. The pair spend a lot of time together over the course of the summer and become a couple. Alek's very traditional parents are very supportive of the fact that their son is gay. While I think that this is wonderful, I do not feel that it fits in with their personality as written. These are parents who have not allowed their son to pick out his own clothes in the past. I just do not see this type of parent being as supportive as they were in this story. This was a book that left me wanting a bit more. Alek was able to come to terms with his sexuality with no issues. I think that in most cases, there would have been a lot more difficulty in coming out. Everything in the book wrapped up quite easily in the end. In my opinion, it was a little too easy and not authentic. This book had some strong points and some not so strong points. I ended up finding it a somewhat enjoyable quick read.
Thank you, Michael Barakiva. One Man Guy was a beautiful story that I was so happy to read. An issue so close to my heart was handled perfectly. Too often, I seek out QLTBG books and don't find what I'm looking for. The genre is over-run with erotic stories. The QLTBG books that I want are ones that I can identify with. Ones that reach out to youth who are realizing that they like someone of the same sex. Ones that let it be known that it's okay to be gay. Ones that let youth know that it's okay to experiment and wonder. Ones that allow the former youth to reminiscence and say, "damn, I wish that would have been around whenever I was younger." And that's what One Man Guy is. It's a story that I would put into the hands of every teenager if I could. This isn't a book that is just about being gay, though. It's about finding yourself and loving yourself. Gay, straight, or in between, that's something that we all need to be reminded of. Whenever I finished this book, I truly felt like something had clicked inside of me. One Man Guy has definitely affected me in the best way possible. The exposure to another culture in One Man Guy also deserves mention. Barakiva handled it perfectly. I felt like I learned a lot about Armenians, and I enjoyed it immensely. I had heard of the Armenian genocide before, but I never realized how harsh it truly was until I read One Man Guy. The theme of acceptance ties into this element effortlessly, too. I cannot tell you the ways in which I think this book is a beautiful story. There are too many. Every mention of New York City had me grinning from ear to ear as I remembered my own times spent exploring that concrete jungle. The self discovery and acceptance that happens with Alek reminds me of my own. I said it earlier in this review, and I meant it. If I could, I'd put this book in the hands of every teenager (and adult) if I could. This is a book that needs to be read. For me, it was a quick read. Set aside a few hours, and experience One Man Guy. You won't regret it. **I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Michael Barakiva and NetGalley.