One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva | Book Review

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.

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva | Book ReviewOne Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
Published by Macmillan on 2014-05-27
Genres: Gay & Lesbian, Homosexuality, Humorous Stories, LGBT, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

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.

I read Michael Barakiva’s debut: One Man Guy in one sitting. This really is not something that I do often, however, Barakiva’s debut merits reading all at once. Listen, if you like your books with meaningful family presence, budding romance, coming of age, and ALL THE FOOD, you’re going to enjoy One Man Guy. Like, I picked it up on a bit of whim, thinking oh, it’s short and the cover is totally adorable, it should be a fun read. AND IT IS. But, my love and appreciation for this book go beyond it’s cover and beyond my initial impressions. Honestly, this book, for me, was the whole package and was one of the BEST books that I read during the Dewey 24 Hour readathon.

One Man Guy opens with Alek going out to dinner with his family, who are Armenian. His family is very embarrassing and very particular about their food. In fact, Alek’s mom has all these requests for her food. It actually reminded me a lot of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which I love. Anyways, Alek is all suspicious, and also feeling sorry for the waitress when he finds out that his parents are sending him to summer school. You see, his grades aren’t good enough for the honor’s track and being Armenian means that he has to work hard and excel in school. This also means Alek is not going on vacation with his family to Niagra Falls, I think it was. So, Alek reluctantly goes to summer school and it’s there that he makes friends with this guy named Ethan. Ethan is a skater, he’s so cool and just does not care about anyone’s opinion. Alek begins to think that Ethan is into him, which confuses Alek because he sort of has not thought of guys that way. Nor, really, has he thought of girls that way. Ethan has Alek trying all kinds of new things — including skipping school to go to Manhattan WITHOUT PARENTS, and sure enough, Alek falls for Ethan. That’s totally not a spoiler if you read the back cover, by the way.

You guys, I love Alek’s character precisely because he’s so defined by his family. As someone who is really defined by my family — rabble rousers, FYI — I couldn’t help but feel an affinity for Alek. He’s the sort of kid who is timid and shy, he has few friends. His mom is totally overbearing, but you can tell she really loves him, but yeah she’s overbearing to the point of picking his clothes out for him. Anyways, Alek starts out the book being kind of judgmental of Ethan’s peer group because they are literally from the wrong side of the tracks. However, like many characters, he totally grows. OH OH AND I WANT TO PUT THIS OUT THERE TOO, he has this best friend named Becky who is so totally herself and confident and awesome. She calls him out on ditching her for his new romance and she makes damn sure that friendship is still a priority for Alek and I loved that. I also want to say that Alek grows too when it comes to independence and picking out his own clothes and standing up for himself in front of his parents. Also, in getting along with his perfect older brother. Just, yeah, I can’t talk about Alek without talking about his family dynamics.

Barakiva really excels with the relationship development in One Man Guy. I’ll be upfront and tell you that this is partially a coming out book, but that’s not one hundred percent the main theme in the relationship. No, it’s about exploration of identity. And also a whole lot of swoons. And really sweet moments. I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how Ethan and Alek would work because they are so different, but it’s like Ethan opens Alek up to all these new experiences and adventures and it’s really superb. What I  can tell you about the romance is to look forward to train rides, Rufus Wainwright, shopping and ALL THE THINGS. Oh, goodness, I am so excited for you guys to swoon with this book.

A few final elements I want to discuss before sending you on your merry way to read One Man Guy. First off, Alek’s heritage plays a very prevalent role in this book and it was the first time I read about a character who is Armenian. Let’s just say there’s a lot of food, church, and tradition here as well as learning about history. It’s not at all hokey or saccharine, instead it’s totally natural and enhances the book. Next, there are parts of the book that read like a love letter to New York City and I am all over that. Trust, it’s great. Third, the writing here is completely enjoyable. If you’re looking for a good beach book with character development and growth and first love, then you need to read One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Yes! I loved this book so hard! Too cute!

    It totally made me crave some Armenian food, which I’ve never tried before. 🙂

  2. Thanks for writing such a great and loving review – I love it when someone who doesn’t know anything about me or the cray-cray Armenian family I grew up in gets this book!

  3. I have the audiobook of this one on hold at the library. Glad to see your rave review. New York, culture, food, and an lgbt theme- all sounds great to me!

    • The audiobook is going to be awesome – a friend of mine from Juilliard, Michael Chernus, whose voice embodies the kind of perennial dissatisfaction and irony that is Alek to me, was kind enough to do it. I hope you enjoy it!

  4. As someone who also grew up in an Armenian family, I was disappointed this book portrayed all Armenians as a whole. Your line “You see, his grades aren’t good enough for the honor’s track and being Armenian means that he has to work hard and excel in school” kind of exemplifies that; my husband and I grew up very differently than the author did (the two of us each had different experiences as well), and a lot of the cultural aspects felt a little off to me and my experience. For example, my husband grew up in the Armenian Protestant church, not the Orthodox church as I did. I don’t know anyone who orders at a restaurant like Alek’s family–mostly we are just loud, but not super particular. So, while I don’t doubt this is all genuine as far as the author is concerned, to me it is not, and I just wish that had been clear in the writing. That these experiences and details are normal for some Armenians, but not for all.

  5. UGHHHH, you’ve made me want to read this IMMEDIATELY. Why is my library’s waitlist so long?! Oh well, probably for the best, because if it had been available right away I would’ve abandoned my review books and no one wants that. 😛 Seriously though, excellent review. I cannot wait to read this!!