I came across Hold My Hand by Michael Barakiva when I was browsing Netgalley, and the blurb piqued my interest. My request was accepted, and so I added the book to my reading queue.
Alek is an Armenian-American high school student. He has been dating Ethan for almost six months. Things are getting pretty serious, but Alek has reservations. He loves kissing Ethan, but he’s not sure if he’s ready for things to go further physically. Alek measures his life in terms of Before Ethan and After Ethan; he’s changed so much for the better because of this relationship, and he can’t imagine what would happen if it ended.
I grew up in Glendale, California, so I am well-versed in Armenian culture, and the over the top antics of Alek’s family had me laughing and laughing. They love Alek and accept that he’s gay, but they’re still pretty strict.
I have mixed feelings about Ethan, but maybe that’s because I’m a mother and I immediately saw Alek as my precious baby, and was thereafter suspicious of Ethan’s motives. I will give Ethan credit: for the most part, he is very respectful of Alek’s boundaries. Ethan is a little older than Alek, but he’s still a teenager, and teens can be impulsive. Ethan does seem genuinely remorseful for his mistakes, and makes a genuine effort to fix his mistakes. He definitely grew on me by the end of the book.
I would like to note that the blurb didn’t mention that Hold My Hand is a sequel to One Man Guy. I didn’t find out that there was an earlier book until after finishing this one, but Barakiva does such a wonderful job that I didn’t feel as though I was missing any information even though the book begins six months into Alek and Ethan’s relationship. Readers don’t necessarily have to start with One Man Guy, although I’m sure it would be more impactful to experience the whole emotional arc from Alek and Ethan first meeting and everything that happens thereafter.
I would absolutely recommend Hold My Hand. It’s going to resonate with the target demographic of YA readers because it captures the angst of growing up and first romance so well. This book has a nice blend of humor and angst, and I enjoyed my reading experience so much that I bought One Man Guy.
At the end of the book, Barakiva notes that he was inspired by a reader who proposed a sequel. I humbly submit that I would love to see Arno get his own book so that he can have his very own happily ever after.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book.