Estranged childhood friends Oscar and Sebastian-both too young to have a personal relationship with the AIDS crisis but too old to have enjoyed the freedom of an out adolescence-spend a year grappling with cultural identity, generational change, and what they see in, and owe to, each other.
This poignant and poetic debut novel brings together Sebastian and Oscar, two long-lost friends who have a chance meeting at a wedding, as they sort out their conflicting views on relationships, settling down, and, ultimately, what it means to be queer ... Though Sebastian and Oscar’s perspectives sometimes lack nuance and are at points hard to empathize with, in their juxtaposition readers will find a compelling exploration of the experiences of queer people from different generations as two modern-day gay men figure out whether they want to conform to traditional views of relationships and marriage or break free entirely.
Let’s Get Back to the Party’s opening decision to jam its characters into outdated and mutually exclusive gay roles—instead of exploring the overlap between them—sets up the book for an inevitable failure ... None of Oscar’s literary cruising is handled with any nuance or depth; at one particularly embarrassing moment ... While a successful first-person point of view is a unique opportunity to interrogate a character’s interior world, in Let’s Get Back to the Party it cockblocks the novel from developing a political consciousness of its own beyond the wooden ideological dyad of its leading men. As Oscar’s internal monologues veer into offensive cliché and caricature, he becomes a monstrous hodgepodge of the worst gay men have to offer ... So what does it mean to be a gay man today? Let’s Get Back to the Party doesn’t offer any clear or compelling answers, but perhaps the larger issue is that the book’s fundamental question isn’t all that interesting. Who still believes in a world where one can talk about a unified, homogeneous gay subject? ... Unfortunately, the reader is given superficial characters slotted into a contrived plotline, resulting in a politically shallow book that devolves into utter nonsense.
We flash between the hot, sticky months of summer 2016, when Sebastian marvels at the ease with which the younger generation proclaims their sexuality, and memories of his adolescence, when as an insecure boy he found solace in the beauty of paintings and sculpture. His only friend was skinny, quiet Oscar Burnham, another boy questioning his sexual identity ... Zak Salih’s first novel is a gorgeously written meditation on being a gay man in America now. He imbues Sebastian and Oscar with complexity and flaws, two men unsure about the path their life is meant to take. Salih offers a cleareyed exploration of the sometimes fine line between friendship and romance, and how past slights can rear their heads in the most unexpected ways. A raw and captivating debut.