Sadie Hawkins Sunday #83: One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

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.

Sadie Hawkins Sunday #83: One Man Guy by Michael BarakivaOne Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on May 27, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 255
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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four-half-stars

A heartfelt, laugh-out-loud-funny story of romance, family, and self-discovery.

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.

Recommended by: Debby (Snuggly Oranges)

At the time of this review going live, I’ll be in Europe, celebrating my birthday. I’ve been treating myself with review books I’m really excited for, like One Man Guy. Basically, if Debby tells me something is fabulous and banterfluffy then obviously I am going to listen to her. Once again, Debby is right. One Man Guy is much like Mary Poppins, in that it’s practically perfect in every way, though obviously not otherwise much like Mary Poppins at all. (I saw the musical recently, in case you’re wondering why this randomness is happening.) One Man Guy is like the YA, LGBTQ+, Armenian version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, so basically it’s the cutest and the banteriest and all about culture.

Alek is Armenian, from the tips of his unruly, thick curly hair down to his feet. As a good Armenian boy does, he focuses on his studies, does his chores, wears clothes his mother picked out, and generally tries to follow every rule. Even so, Alek’s the bad kid. His older brother, Nik, is perfect, and Alek feels like he always gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop. Trying to be perfect and failing has Alek feeling inferior and unloved, especially when his parents announce that he has to take summer school to get his grades up instead of going on the family vacation.

Barakiva’s debut is one hundred percent banterlicious from the very first page when Alek’s family goes out to dinner and proceeds to judge the restaurant very harshly. I fell in love at sentence two: “He smelled marinara sauce and a trap.” The tone is light and funny throughout, even when the subject matter gets objectively heavy. The comparison to My Big Fat Greek Wedding lies primarily in this sweet spot of humor and love and frustration for both family and culture. Alek’s trying to find a way to be himself, both Armenian and American, without upsetting his parents.

One Man Guy really does get into the family issues. Due to the vacation, Alek’s parents leave him alone for most of a week, which obviously means shenanigans, but they are very present. His parents are obviously loving, but they have their own prejudices and back stories. For example, the refrain of These Americans cracked me up every time. The dynamic of the family just felt so real throughout. I talk a lot about romantic banter, but Barakiva has banter coming from parents, love interests and friends. I love it so.

Also, I thought it was wonderful how Barakiva worked the Armenian Genocide into the novel. I actually took a course on genocide as part of my history major, so I did know about it previously. I even have a book by Peter Balakian on my shelves. However, most teens wouldn’t have any idea; certainly my high school history text books didn’t mention it. More than just educating, Barakiva brings up tough ethical questions like how the Armenians should react to the Turkish now. That makes the book sound super depressing, but I swear he manages to work all of this in without making the tone too dark.

The romance is just the cutest. I mean, I won’t go down with this ship, but I think Ethan’s the perfect guy for Alek to first fall for. When they first meet, Alek doesn’t even know he’s gay, and can’t really identify that the feelings he’s having when he sees Alek are in fact lust. SO CUTE. It also gives me much joy how non-stereotyped they are and I love that Ethan is out and proud and accepted by the school badasses. Most LGBT books tend to focus on coming out or not being accepted, but One Man Guy really focuses on the positive. The fact that much of it takes place in New York City aids this. Oh, btw, this book is a total love letter to New York City on top of everything else.

Those of you who love adorable contemporary romances jam-packed with banter must read One Man Guy. Also a must if you’ve been aching for some LGTBQ+ fiction that will not make you sad. Instead, One Man Guy will leave you with a smile on your face.

Favorite Quote:

“Alek, not to be harsh, but I don’t care if you’re gay or not. Nobody does.” Alek started to say something, but Beck continued, not giving him a chance to respond. “Because anyone who thinks there is something wrong with being gay is like those people you read about in History who believed in segregation.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif my big fat greek wedding different life
Alek is basically Toula. If you love this movie, you will love this book.

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3 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday #83: One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva”

  1. “Basically, if Debby tells me something is fabulous and banterfluffy then obviously I am going to listen to her. Once again, Debby is right.”

    *fist pumps* HELL YES. bahahahaha so happy that banterfluff is going to be a legit term now. *rubs hands* *cackles*

    THIS BOOK IS SO THE CUTEST. All the banter. I loved the view of the Armenian culture – Alek’s family is a freaking riot. And I get the struggle of trying to balance two cultures. I get this. But yeah, all the characters and the relationship dynamics are just so real. I think my favorite part was Alek and his best friend… Becca? I want to say? UGH CHARACTER NAME MEMORY. I was laughing out loud all over the place.

    So glad you loved this one 😀
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerMy Profile

  2. Gillian says:

    Eeeeeeee well that’s just perfect because I watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding two days ago and obviously I love it and OBVIOUSLY I need a cute and fluffy m/m banterfluff romaaaaance in my life
    Gillian recently posted…Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra ClareMy Profile

  3. Thanks so much for this great review of my book. I’m so happy that you got it, and read it, and liked it, and took the time to write so many nice things about it!

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