Wednesday, March 5, 2014

One Man Guy

Barakiva, M. (2014). One man guy. Farrar Straus & Giroux.
Expected publication May, 2014
Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ

I gave this 2.5 of 5 stars.

Maybe I am just too jaded, but this story seemed completely unrealistic.  On the other hand, I am not a fourteen-year-old boy, nor am I gay, nor am I Armenian, so perhaps this story would make perfect sense if I was any of these things.

What worked for me was the Armenian angle, and it was interesting to me to get some insight into that culture -- though was it stereotypical? I don't know, but it did at times seem quite critical of the Armenian culture. The story does bring to light the Armenian Genocide that took place in Turkey after World War I, and I imagine that many readers would otherwise be unaware of that history. I am appreciative of how Barakiva made that a part of his story, and that storyline was effective. What also worked was that it was a quick read at 278 pages, which is a draw for reluctant readers.

What didn't work for me was how easily things happened for our main character, Alek. One day he doesn't know he's gay, the next day he does, and he's immediately fine with it -- as is everyone else in the world, including random little old ladies commenting on the cuteness of him and his boyfriend.  I just don't believe it. In this strict household, where his parents are constantly concerned about appearances and what others think, they're okay with their son being gay as long as his grades are good? Again, I don't believe it. It was just too easy and normal. More like how things SHOULD be, but how they aren't -- at least not in my experience, though it's getting better.  So maybe that's what the story was supposed to be -- a picture of what should or could be?  If that was its intent, then okayyyyyyy, but it still doesn't work for me.

Another problem is Alek's insta-love with our second most prominent character, Ethan, who I never can quite get fully developed in my mind. The problem isn't really the insta-love, rather the lack of definition of Ethan. There is gay-with-Alek Ethan, who seems to be a bit stereotypical with his boyfriend talk, hair stylist, and blowing of kisses. Then there's skater Ethan, who is rough and tumble, tough talking, fighting, hanging with the guys Ethan. Barakiva attempts to bridge these two versions, but they never quite connect and the reader is left unsure about Ethan. One excellent character was Becky, Alek's BFF. She was well drawn and really easy to imagine, and she was the best character in the story.

There is also a focus on Armenian food, which in itself isn't a problem, but the better part of an entire chapter is devoted to spelling out the preparation of several dishes. This bored me to tears. I just flipped through it to get to the point of the chapter.

I'd say this is appropriate for ages 13-17.  There's some language, a little bullying, and kissing with the suggestion of heavy petting. Some reference to underage partying as well, but overall, fairly innocuous.

Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for the ARC, which I received in exchange for an honest review. 

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