As You Are (Leslie’s Review)

asyouareTitle: As You Are
Author: Ethan Day
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary M/M, romantic comedy
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Length: Novel (193 pages)
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

A guest review by Leslie

BLURB

Operation Danny…that’s all bartender and recent college graduate, Julian Hallowell has had on his mind the past year. Julian may have no idea what he wants to do with his life, but he definitely knows he’s in love with the boy next door: the next door down the hall to be exact, housing his roommate and used textbook store owner Danny Wallace.

While Julian has done his level best to make Danny fall for him, all his hard work has been in vain. Danny doesn’t seem to view Julian as anything other than a roommate and friend. So when new guy in town Andy Baker asks him out on a date, Julian can’t think of a good reason to say no.

Instead, he institutes a Reverse Operation Danny plan, which he’s positive will purge all thoughts of love and lust for his roomie out of his head. He’s ready to move on and start looking for his next Mr. Right, and Andy just might fit the bill. But has he given up too soon?

REVIEW

Sometimes I think I shouldn’t think.

I just finished As You Are by Ethan Day. If I had read it as a “normal” book, that is, not as a book for review, I would have said to myself, “That was fun,” set it aside, and in about three days, promptly forgotten most of the story. But since I read it with the intent to review it here, I focused more critically on the content. It does have flaws which I think are worth mentioning. Hopefully the author will take these comments constructively and use this information in his future writing endeavors and not make the same mistakes again. I say that seriously because, despite my low-ish rating, I would like to read something from this author in the future. I think he has potential.

Overall, this is fun book with a light, breezy writing style. The author includes a generous dose of “gay-speak” which is effective and amusing, and, I imagine, resonates well with the female readers in his audience (like me). Day has a certain audacity, too, in his writing that is not often seen. I loved the scene where Julian showed up for the pickup football game in skin tight jeans, a hot pink shirt with SWEET MEAT on the front and 69 on the back and glitter on his arms. Day is gay and he can pull this off—takes one to know one, as they say—and still keep his characters sympathetic and likeable, as opposed to becoming caricatures or stereotypes. Day has a flair for comedy and in a genre that is filled with angst and drama, something funny and sweet is a welcome change of pace.

That said, there are several areas where the story could be improved.

First and foremost, the book “reads” like a movie. While that works well to keep the action moving forward at a snappy pace, a film is not a book and this ultimately detracted from the story in a number of subtle, but crucial ways.

For example, important information about Danny is presented in the final pages of the book. We as readers should have known this earlier because it would have made him a more complex and interesting character. In a movie, his personality would have been conveyed by the actor and thus the actual information could have been saved for the reveal. But a book is not a movie and I think much more could have been done to make Danny (and pretty much all of the other characters) have a more well-drawn personality.

Continuing with the movie theme, I think the author pictured it as a broad comedy with visual humor as is seen in slapstick. He tried to convey these elements, ie, Julian being a klutz who is constantly tripping, falling, or bumping into things. While on the screen that would be funny, in the story, it took me a long time to “get it.” Likewise, there is a dinner party late in the story, which, visually could have been priceless but as written, it needed some work to truly convey the humor.

The book had a number of glaring gaps and unbelievable moments—for me, this is a personal pet peeve. Again, as an example: the story takes place over the course of a week. Julian is a bartender in a popular and busy gay bar. However, in the book, Julian goes to work just once. What happened to all the other evenings? No mention of taking time off…he just didn’t go. That sort of thing bugs me. Similarly, Julian and his friend Gabby have lunch five days a week at the exact same restaurant. Gabby religiously downs three martinis and then goes back to work at her job as a newspaper features writer. Seriously? Does anyone really live like this?

Granted, it’s fiction and maybe I worry too much about the real world intruding. However, if that’s true, then I really have a problem with the two character “flaws” that Day assigned to Andy, the man that Julian begins dating early in the story. I understand that to keep the plot moving forward, there had to be something “wrong” with Andy so that Julian would realize they were not destined to have a long-term relationship. Why not just keep it simple and say there was no chemistry between them? Or that Andy was a lousy dresser? Clothes-horse Julian would have hated that. The characteristics that were chosen were intrusively real, jarred me out of the story, and frankly, could be offensive to many readers. In fact, this is why I marked my rating down an extra quarter-star (I had originally planned on 4 and changed to 3.75). The error, to me, is that serious.

Julian smokes like a chimney, has a serious sugar addiction, and drinks Diet Coke by the boatload. In spite of this, I liked him as a character. Similarly, despite my criticisms, I liked this book. I see promise in Day’s writing and I think with some mentoring and support—and a few beta readers who aren’t afraid to be honest—he could easily move from good to great. As I said above, I am not writing this author off…yet. I look forward to his next book.

16 comments

  • Leslie
    I understand where you were coming from and that you were not slamming Ethan’s editor who from all accounts is pretty good at her job.
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    I’m not on Facebook. Does that mean that I’m outside the “friendship ring”?
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    Ethan, when is the next Gay Day?
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    No hugs to you from me until you stop throwing things at me. I can still see you in my rearview mirror:-D

    Reply
  • And just a note to anyone who is reading this — Ethan and I have publicly acknowledged that there is no fight here since we have just become friends on Facebook. In 2009, what higher arbiter of friendship exists? LOL (I say that seriously…)…
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    Big hugs to you, Ethan.
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    L

    Reply
  • Thanks Leslie!

    No…I never took your comments to be derogatory in terms of my editor. I understood the point you were coming from which was not meant as a slam, but merely as idea’s you thought I may find useful in the future.

    Each author does have to answer to themselves at the end of the day. You have to trust yourself enough to know when things feel right, yet be malleable to the extent that you can work with others. A good idea is a good idea, whether it comes from you, your editor, or a beta reader.

    I too would be interested in other peoples opinions who’ve read the book. Mainly because I made a crack in the book where Andy states on their first date that their political differences sounded like the tag line to a romance novel. I kinda thought that might make for a fun book. But — maybe not? LOL!

    Wave — I’ll stop throwing the mud if you quit shoving me back into the puddle. ; ) LOL!

    Reply
  • It was interesting for me to read both perspectives.

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    We had a long “discussion” on the old blog about Ethan’s first book Self Preservation where there were also duelling reviews, and a few comments about the role of his editor. Unfortunately many of these comments are lost because the other reviewer, Emmy, took her reviews down when she left. However, if you care to, you can check out the remaining comments
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    I think you will understand that we have all been over this ground before with a great deal of laughter. It’s too bad that all the comments are no longer here but you’ll get a flavour of what was said just from reading what is on the remaining SP post where everyone, even Treva, got into the action.

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    As I said before, Ethan marches to a different drummer and his books are certainly unique. They may not be The Great American Novel but his characters sure are fun even though they may give you, an editor, nightmares.:)

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    He’s still throwing mud at my windshield!! Damn it Ethan – you have to stop that now, I can’t afford the cleaning bills. :-DDD

    Reply
  • For the record, I was speaking about editor/beta reader in general, and not commenting that I thought the whoever worked with Ethan on this book did not do his/her job. So if it came across that way, I apologize, that was not my intent. Also, I should clarify: I am speaking from the perspective of a developmental editor, not necessarily the editor from a publisher’s office.
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    As my friend Mark says, authors can get input from a variety of people but at the end of the day, the author needs to remain true to his/her vision, and I respect that.
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    L

    Reply
  • Hi Ethan,
    Thanks for your reply and thoughtful comment. I appreciate it!
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    Re: the dance club…no, I didn’t know that about their schedules (I don’t get out much these days…LOL). But that could have been an easy fix, make some statement about “As Julian helped the others close up for the night, he sighed to himself. “I’ve got such a great schedule…I don’t have to be back to work until Thursday,” and then some mention that the club is only open 3-4 days/wk. That would do it.
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    Re: the R&R…yes, that was it. I didn’t want to be specific as to spoil it for others but I am glad you brought it up. First off, I am here in Ground Zero (Maine–same-sex marriage is on the ballot) and right now I am ready to eviscerate all fundamentalist religious types, so you won’t get any argument from me about their hatefulness and hypocrisy. That said, I have heard from many readers that they really hate it when an author interjects political commentary, a personal agenda, etc. into a book. Now…to your credit, you did it with a light touch and yes, you made it amusing. And no, I didn’t take offense, but I could see how someone else might, and I was trying to point that out in this review. I think in the context of a very light, funny book assigning these “flaws” to Andy were just too intrusive. I completely understand where you are coming from and yes, I completely understand the act/art of writing as cathartic and liberating. I think that if I were your editor/beta reader I’d say, “Okay, Ethan, nice job…have you gotten that out of your system? Good, now rewrite it,” and then have you turn Andy into a lousy dresser. And then you would argue with me and we’d go back and forth and eventually find the right balance of what exactly should be Andy’s “flaw.” That’s the process of writing and the part I like (yes, I’m an editor so of course I like it!).
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    Now, granted, I may be totally off the mark here (although I really don’t think I am) and I’d actually be interested if others have any thoughts on this issue. But, I will stand by my point that I have had many readers say to me that they don’t like intrusive agenda stuff, and that is the place where I am coming from with respect to this comment.
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    Overall, I did enjoy the book and I think the vast majority of people who are regulars on this site would enjoy it, too. (Except Erastes. She doesn’t read contemporaries. LOL). I have no problem recommending it (unlike some of the other books that I have given the same rating too. For those, I think readers need to be more selective as to whether they would like it or not). I intended my comments to be helpful for future writing endeavors because I really think you have a knack for light comedy and I would like to read more.
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    L

    Reply
  • Hi Leslie

    First, let me say thank you for both reading and reviewing my book. Regardless of the outcome, I’m flattered you actually took the time to begin with.

    I also appreciate that there were details you felt were missing, like the fact that Julian only worked one night. From my perspective, many of the larger Dance clubs – at least in the part of the country I live in – are only open three or four nights a week. Mainly because the crowds just aren’t there to justify the cost of being open during the week. Probably something I should or could have added to the book, which just didn’t occur to me because I suppose on some level I thought it was like that everywhere. That being said, I understand how details such as this can become distracting and I appreciate you pointing them out to me.

    On a second note, I can with all certainty tell you that no amount of beta readers or mentor’s would have convinced me to remove the bits you found possibly offensive about the character of Andy (I’m assuming you’re referring to the Baptist & Log Cabin Republican bits).

    The main reason for this is because — well for many gay men — these would be legitimate subject matters they might have issues with. That isn’t to say that every Baptist or every Republican out there is anti-gay. But the organizations themselves aren’t exactly known for their glowing support of the LGBT community. Nor am I saying every gay man would take issue, but a good amount of us would at the very least have second thoughts.

    I in no way intended these things to be taken in an offensive way. To be perfectly honest with you, being gay and having been raised southern baptist myself — I can assure you I have plenty of particularly heinous memories with which I could have chosen to pull from. Of course that would have made for a very different book.

    For anyone who may have taken offense, let me assure you it was most definitely unintentional on my part. I hesitated even bringing this up at all, since I felt it made up such a tiny bit of the book. But since you seemed to genuinely take offense I felt I needed to address it.

    If anything my hope would have been for people to look at these issues from the perspective of a person like Julian, to put themselves in his shoes and maybe see them in a way they’d not considered before. Above all, they were intended to make you laugh.
    We all carry around our personal demons. And writing is sometimes more than simply the construction of plot, character and foreshadowing. Sometimes for the author, it is as well, part therapy. It was a little cathartic for me to take something which was anything but fun for me growing up and turn it into something that made me laugh. Helps take some of the sting out those memories and allows me to let pieces of it go — lightens the baggage. : )

    In terms of the few political jabs I took license with — I seriously doubt anyone would need to gird their loins over them. Taking into account the shenanigans of our last presidential race, I sincerely doubt they’d raise much of a blip on the harsh meter.

    So, I’m sorry if you feel these things were truly that much an error. But for me, they’re simply part of what makes me who I am. Things that affected my life and aided in constructing the person I am today. Tiny bits of me that made it into Julian.

    I do again, sincerely appreciate hearing your point of view and I hope you feel the same about what I’ve written here. Thank you again for reviewing my book and I certainly hope it won’t be the last.

    Ethan

    Reply
  • Hi Guys
    Having read both reviews I can see where your differences in rating are because of your points of view.

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    Lynn, I think you’re looking at As you Are the way I would, strictly as a reader, though with no less of a critical eye than Leslie.

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    Leslie I think you reviewed the book from an “editorial” background which gives the author a few more points to ponder, and perhaps work on for his next book if he feels so inclined.

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    On reading both reviews it seems that each of you hit on the points in the story that struck you as being either very funny, or were too in your face and therefore grated a little.

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    Ethan has his own style and the reason I love his books is that he writes the stories he wants to tell. I think he’s very talented but he definitely marches to a different drummer, which could be good or bad depending on perspective.

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    You guys did a great job on this duelling review and I hope Ethan is pleased.

    Reply
  • Hi Lynn,

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, this is the first book of Ethan’s that I have read. I was familiar with the others–I think he posts on a mailing list that I am on–but I just hadn’t gotten around to reading them.
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    I did enjoy this book. I feel a little like a teacher grading a paper. I didn’t want to give an A because I think the author can do better. But this is certainly an entertaining book and I would recommend it.
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    L

    Reply
  • Hi Leslie. Great, clear review. As I often say about us readers, I love how we all take things differently. As you can see in my review of this, many of the things you said didn’t bother me at all and added to the overall charm of the book, but I can see how some of the things that you mention could bother some readers. I, too, visualized it as a movie (as I did his last one).
     
    Question: is this the first book of his that you read? I ask because it’s a little different than the other two in that it is much more…in-your-face comedic.

    Reply

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