Title: One Man Guy
Author: Michael Barakiva
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: May 27, 2014.
I have extraordinarily strong feelings about this book, so let’s dive right in!
A brief summary from Goodreads:
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.
Anyone who has been following my reviews knows how much queer relationships mean to me in YA. Representation is incredibly important, and in One Man Guy, representation takes a huge step forward. Alek and Ethan are, to be quite honest, really freaking adorable. Neither of them play into the typical gay stereotypes, both of them handle their sexuality in different yet realistic ways, and they’re just great characters. Not great gay characters, but characters who are great and also who happen to be in love with someone of the same sex. There’s a difference. (Gay characters, in my opinion, are too often included just because… they’re gay. Their whole personality is centered around their sexuality. I hate it when that happens. Are heterosexual characters treated that way? No. Anyway. Alek and Ethan are great. Moving on.)
Besides the book’s representation of queer relationships, it also contains a great sense of cultural awareness. Michael Barakiva really delves into Armenian culture and background through Alek and his family, and his family history. I’m ashamed to admit it, but before I read this book I had no idea that the Armenian genocide existed. I feel like non-white main characters are few and far between, and I’ve certainly never found a book with an Armenian main character in particular. POC representation is so important too! And One Man Guy does it well.
Other than my love for the characters, which I think I’ve covered fairly well, I adored the comedy in the book, I adored the book’s lightness, I adored how it didn’t end up like I was afraid it was going to. The non-main characters are still complex, Alek and Ethan’s adventures into NYC are a thrill… it was everything I’ve ever wanted in a book, really. Yes, there were some points where the dialogue felt somewhat stilted as if the characters were puppets for Barakiva to address the readers, but on the whole, One Man Guy thoroughly impressed me. I can’t wait to read more from this author.
5 out of 5 stars.