Having survived his freshman year of high school, Alek Khederian looks forward to summer until his parents tell him he will be attending summer school. They insist he retake some classes because his grades weren’t good enough for the honors track, but Alek thinks his parents’ Armenian ideals of perfect academics are ridiculous. Even more upsetting, he won’t be able to attend a trip to Niagara Falls with his family and church.
Resigned to his fate, Alek plans to keep his head down at summer school and get his work done, comforted by his friendship with spunky and outgoing Becky who works at the Dairy Queen. His life changes when he is drawn to skater-boy Ethan, in their algebra class. They start spending time together as Ethan shows Alek around New York City and teaches Alek to be more carefree and confident. Ethan wants to be more than just friends, but Alek had never considered having a boyfriend.
Even though this is a predictable romance about how two people find their way to each other, it is equally about Alek figuring out what he wants for himself and discovering that he is gay. Throughout the novel, he develops an understanding of how his culture, family, and friendships influence his character. Many parts of the narrative are laugh-out-loud funny, and well-written descriptions immerse the reader in Alek’s world. Portrayals of food make the reader’s mouth water. The chemistry between Alek and Ethan is outstanding as the boys’ differences bring out the best in each other. They build each other up emotionally in a steamy physical attraction.
Alek and Ethan are both refreshing and original characters that do not conform to stereotypes. Ethan’s confidence and openness about his sexuality is something not found often enough in YA books. The book features Alek learning about his sexual identity, but it is more a coming-of-age story than a coming-out story. The focus on strong family relationships and friendships is also welcome.
One Man Guy is highly recommended for teens searching for a book that will put a smile on their faces, make them laugh, and touch their hearts.
Reviewer: Jenna Goodall
Youth Services Librarian, Deerfield (IL) Public Library