Friday, November 14, 2014

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva~★★★★

Author: Michael Barakiva
Title: One Man Guy
Release Date: July 3, 2014
Publisher: Macmillian Young Listeners, read by Michael Chernus
Genre: Fiction

Audiobook Cover: "Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Why bother, when their home cooking is far superior to anything "these Americans" could come up with? 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 freshmen 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. When Ethan gets Alek to cut school and go to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City’s Central Park, Alek embarks on his first adventure outside the confines of his suburban New Jersey existence. 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. Michael Barakiva's One Man Guy is a romantic, moving, laugh-out-loud-funny story about what happens when one person cracks open your world and helps you see everything—and, most of all, yourself--like you never have before."

Taryn's Review: I selected this book for an upcoming road trip after its cheery yellow cover jumped out at me from the bookshelf. The blurb on the back interested me, especially since the book was focused on the topic of a relationship between two teenage boys who fall for one another.

My favorite part of the book was Barakiva's discussion of Alek's heritage as an Armenian and how Alek's background and family history was a fundamental part of his upbringing. I don't know much about Armenians apart from my limited knowledge that a famous reality star with the initials of KK is also Armenian (which Barakiva brings up in a book). Alek was a great vessel for bringing attention to Armenians and their collective history to ignorant readers like myself. I even felt proud of Alek as he became more comfortable with his identity as an Armenian as the book developed.

While the book focused on two young men falling for one another, it didn't really feel all that different than if a young woman and young man had fallen for one another. I have element of appreciation for Barakiva for his ability to de-sensationalize (in a positive way) a love that is very natural to many people. Not only did Alek develop an appreciation for his background as an Armenian-American in his growth journey, but he developed a sense of self throughout the book. I actually really enjoyed Alek's parents and their role in the book; the relationship between the parents and Alek was strained at times, but I think Barakiva did a good job of capturing the complex relationship that teens and their parents have at times.

My only complaint about the book was that the teens' word choices seemed out-of-place in their conversations with one another: they either used really dated phrases or they spoke about really complex ideas and issues very eloquently. I would have thought that both boys were in their early-20s and college educated from their discussions, not fourteen and seventeen. My other issue with the book was the complete lack of technology used by the teens in the development of their relationship and in relation to others. Cell phones and computers are mentioned, but Alek never mentions texting, email, messaging, or online forums, which left me a little perplexed. Wouldn't Alek, especially given how astute he was, maybe do an online search with some terms like "maybe gay" once he began to suspect he had feelings for Ethan? Teens gravitate to the internet to answer questions that are big and small, so I wonder if it would have been a resource for Alek. Its lack of presence in the book unfortunately made Alek's world seem a little less valid to me. 

I enjoyed the book and think it's a great resource for all teens and adults, LBGTQ or not. Alek's shift from indifference to dating to absolute excitement about dating was a sweet shift to see, and my heart was happy that Alex was able to find out something about himself. The book is a somewhat idealized (little conflict with Alek's pronouncement), but overall a read that I hope will become more normative in the available book selections.

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