After hearing about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, I thought I’d celebrate with everyone by posting my opinion on a book I read last month, but never got the chance to say my opinions on it. The book I’m talking about is a quirky gay romance novel that caught my attention with the cover and didn’t leave me disappointed. It is called ‘One Man Guy’ by Michael Barakiva.
Alek Khederian is a fourteen year-old Armenian teenager that lives in an Armenian family outside New York City. As his freshman year has come to a close, Alek’s parents want him to go to summer school in order to raise his grades up. Reluctant to give up going to tennis camp and bound by the wishes of his traditional parents, Alek expects the worst of spending three months with the same bullies and the same weird looks from other students.
However, he never expected to become friends with sophomore Ethan, the ‘cool’ kid at his school. Ethan is described by Alek as independent, confident, and very willful in his life. He hangs out with the troublemakers at school, dresses in whatever he wants, and doesn’t care about breaking rules once in a while At first, it seems as though Alek is invisible to him, until Ethan suddenly coaxes him to come with him to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City. From there, everything changes.
After a wonderful day with Ethan, Alek slowly starts to come out of his bubble and hang out more with his new friend, despite the fact that he reveals himself he is gay. Not only that, Alek himself may be starting to fall in love with him.
‘One Man Guy’ is the name of a song made by the actual Rufus Wainwright, and it tells not only about homosexuality, but also pertains to the loner and individual in us all. ‘One Man Guy’ is basically a book about an Armenian teenager discovering he likes boys, and starts to become more independent because of his first boyfriend’s support.
Alek and Ethan are one of the most adorable and well-written characters I’ve seen recently in YA gay literature. Alek is presented as a meek teen that respects his parents and is proud of his heritage, but wants to be accepted among his peers and be involved with what other teenagers do.
Ethan is also a very likeable as a character as well. I expected him to be just an average ‘cool kid’ with no defining personality to him like in other novels, but ‘One Man Guy’ took me by surprise and made an individual out of him. Ethan is portrayed just as Alek said he is, but also has a sense of direction and street smarts to him, which can make Alek the perfect foil for when they first meet. Bottom line, both of them make this book. Still, out of all the side characters, my favorite would have to go to Alek’s best friend named Becky, whom reminds me of a lot of teen girls I remember going to high school. She’s the kind of eccentric girl that is supportive and caring, even if she can be stubborn and selfish at times.
The only characters I have mixed feelings for have to be with the parents. Don’t get me wrong; they’re well-developed with the dynamics with their son. It is obvious Alek loves his parents, and they love him and want what they believe is best for him. However, they often feel less like characters and more like the type of strict parents you’d see on a family sitcom. In fact, Alek’s parents almost remind me of Fran Drescher’s fictional parents on ‘The Nanny’, even though it is weird considering Michael Barakiva is an Israeli/Armenian himself, and he doesn’t take this opportunity to dive more into the Armenian culture than he could’ve.
That doesn’t mean it ruins the novel, far from it. Another fun element of ‘One Man Guy’ has to go to the writing and sense of atmosphere. I love the quiet and calm moments, the moments when Alek comes out of his bubble and opens up more whenever he and Ethan go out on dates. My favorite scene that involved Ethan and Alek is when they visit New York City again, and a couple chapters are solely dedicated to them interacting with residents and shopping for a new look for Alek. There’s no bullying, no awkward moments, or no social commentary. It’s just both of them feeling freely and being themselves.
So what’s my opinion on ‘One Man Guy’? It’s a really good gay romance novel both fitting for gay and straight people. This gives a good depth into a part of the culture wars that still happen today, with Alek’s parents wanting him to keep with tradition, and Alek wanting to be a part of modern America, yet they need to find a common ground in order for him to live a full life on his own. What keeps it from being great are the few stereotypes and lack of explaining Armenian history, but there’s more than enough substance and Armenian cooking culture to pull people into the depths of its pages.
If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!