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 received One Man Guy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Alek is a great character, funny and easy to relate to. He’s at the age where it’s natural to want to break away from his family and do his own thing but because of his upbringing and his personality, he can’t. He really struggles with not wanting to disappoint his parents, while at the same time wanting to experience things they didn’t want to let him do, like explore New York City on his own.
Alek’s best friend Becky saves him from being a loner and gives him someone to bounce the idea of being gay off. They have a good conversation about that. Becky has a good sense of humor, and I like the way she deals with Alek putting off plans with her in favor of spending time with Ethan. Isn’t that something we all have to deal with at one time or another? Becky takes it in stride, but makes it clear that she’s not going to be disappearing just because Alek has a boyfriend.
Most YA I read is from the point-of-view of girls, so it’s a little different to get a peek into a sibling relationship between two brothers instead of sisters or even a brother and sister. And so many YA chars seem to be onlies. I really like the existence of Alek’s older brother Nik, especially near the end of the book when they spend a few hours together making a meal. Up to that point, Nik only serves as a background character, the perfect Armenian son with the perfect Armenian girlfriend. It’s this part of the book that Alek learns that Nik has difficulties, too.
I don’t know anything about Armenians, so I liked that glimpse into the culture and the food. In addition to the hilarious opening scene (the restaurant scene mentioned in the book synopsis above), there’s a very funny scene later on with Alek introducing Ethan’s friends to soudé fruits that had me laughing out loud.
The book’s one main weakness is, unfortunately, Ethan. While I like him, I don’t love him. He’s a little rough around the edges, unable to understand Alek’s feelings of obligation and loyalty to his family. Alek is 14 to Ethan’s 16 or 17. There can be a big difference between those ages, and the two boys have grown up in very different families and lifestyles. Ethan has been much more independent from a younger age. He talks about wandering around NYC from the age of 11; Alek’s 14 and his mother still picks out his clothing. You can argue that Alek’s parents aren’t doing him any favors by sheltering him so much, but it is what it is and I don’t think Alek would give up his loving family (and the extended family of other Armenians) for Ethan’s single father, a mother he sees yearly, and the independence Ethan enjoys.
I intended to read One Man guy for LGBT Month in April, but I put it off because I wanted to wait to post this review closer to release date. (Tomorrow! Go buy it!) Now I wish I’d read it earlier because it was such a fun book.