Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Reading Level: Young Adult, 13+
Pages: 272 (ARC)
Source: From Publisher for Review
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~*~Lili's Reflections~*~
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.
I've been looking forward to this book for a while because I don't think that there's enough LGBTQ fiction in the world. But, dang, does this book do the LGBTQ world justice. As a college student that has a gay best friend, I can honestly say that this is as realistic as it gets, and that makes me (and him) very, very happy. I may or may not have showed all of my gay friends this book, actually. Plus the straight ones. Let's get real for a moment...I've shown this book to everyone I know.
While this book is definitely a love story, I interpreted it as Alek's journey of self acceptance. Alek Khederian is our main character and he definitely goes down among my favorite characters of all time. Though very sassy with his strict Armenian parents, he wasn't himself in the beginning of the book. He wore what his mother bought him, did what his parents expected of him, and was never really a person that could stand out in a crowd. He didn't know himself because he was the person that his family had molded him into. And then he met Ethan. Ethan turned his world upside down and made him learn to be his own person. His journey to discovering his sexuality was done very lightly without immense focus, but it was done perfectly. It was not shoved down our throats, nor was it too much in the background of the plot. It was simply there as part of the story and when it happened it happened and he accepted it and moved on. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
Ethan, on the other hand, is Alek's complete opposite. Where Alek is very intelligent and does whatever his family says, Ethan is more relaxed and rebellious. Even his speech is littered with slang and cuss words whereas Alek is constantly conscious of what he says. Actually, Ethan's speech in itself is something that you have to adjust to, but it's very obvious that it is simply part of who he is. He is self-assured and comfortable with the fact that he is gay. He has nothing to hide from it and is out and proud to the world.
I found their backgrounds to be very interesting because, like them, I am from New Jersey and often take trains into New York City because it's an easy commute and New York City is so much nicer than Jersey. I'm very lucky to go to college
and live in NYC and because of this I often go out on my own exploring. While I read this book, I had a lot of fun noting the places that Barakiva mentioned when Alek and Ethan slowly began to fall in love in New York City. Of the 10+ places I noted from the book, I have visited over 2/3 of them. If you are ever in New York City you should definitely visit The High Line. And if you live in New York City, you definitely need to read this book.
I also found Alek's upbringing to be very interesting. I only know one Armenian individual and I know that two things are true: 1) the fact that the Armenian genocide is not recognized as an actual historical event enrages them and 2) they really hate that Kim Kardashian was chosen to represent their community. This book illustrated both of those aspects of Armenian culture, but also taught us so much more. To see the family dynamic and familial experiences play out is interesting. It makes me curious how much pride is involved in such a community. They have their own church, their own foods, their own everything. I find other cultures so fascinating, so this definitely interested me. It's a young adult cliche to have absentee parents which the Khederian's definitely are not. It was a change of pace to see overbearing parents, for sure.
And, obviously, I saved the best for last. The romance was superb. It was slow-going and perfect. Things were not too fast or too slow. They were simply there. There was no rushing or forcing to take it to the next level--it just happened, and I think that's the way a relationship should be. I was rooting for these two so hard. Heck, I even loved Alek's nerdy older brother and his girlfriend, Nanar. I'm a little upset that this book ends here because I desperately want a second book to see what happens in the future. I'm so satisfied with book one, but I loved it so much that I want more.
Full of laughs, simple writing, and a true story of love between two boys who are finding themselves in this world, I would recommend this to any romance lover who is looking for a unique tale about first love in New York City. This is doubly perfect for those who love reading LGBTQ fiction. In other words, you have to pick up this book.
FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any kind in exchange for this honest review.