Review: American Fraternity Man by Nathan Holic

Title: American Fraternity Man
Author: Nathan Holic

Genre: Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Beating Windward Press LLC

Length: 436 pages
Original Publishing Date: June 3rd, 2012
Series: Standalone
Where I got it: NetGalley

Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"Charles Washington, a college grad brimming with energy and idealism and promise, is swept up in the Compassion Boom. At the height of the financial meltdown, he spurns the prescribed job market to take a job with a not-for-profit, sacrificing salary for the selfless mission of his first post-college employer. Charles is out to save the world - the world of fraternities! Charles is an Educational Consultant with the Nu Kappa Epsilon National Fraternity Headquarters. He's making no money, but he's on a noble mission: he will crisscross the country to clean up the corroded culture of fraternity life, driving from college to college, fraternity house to fraternity house, conducting leadership development workshops and serving as a 24/7 role model for his NKE brothers. Charles will whisk away the alcoholism and drug abuse, and put an end to the hazing. He will help transform 21st-century fraternity life into a leadership experience just as enriching as the Boy Scouts. The only problem: Charles isn't nearly the clean-cut role model he wants to believe he is, and he's about to learn that he is ill-prepared for the true demands of leadership. Very quickly, he finds himself caught in a whirlwind of alcohol, parties, hazing, and sex, a series of events and decisions which will test his new values and threaten his entire future. "American Fraternity Man" is an intimate portrait of a young man struggling to become the right kind of professional, while coming to terms with the harsh financial and political realities behind the ambitious mission statements and corporate philosophies. Set within a broad panoramic of the national fraternity world, American Fraternity Man offers a humanizing look at the individuals who live and breathe Greek Life, while also giving an unrivaled glimpse at the power, potential, and absurdity of the National Fraternity/Sorority business. Through both text and illustrations, Nathan Holic offers the very human story of one young man's longing for morality and purpose in a world he simply has not been prepared to understand."

Blogger's Note: 
This novel elicited a lot of responses from me as a reader. I am currently a sorority woman and I've been on my chapter's executive board for two years. I would like to be a sorority consultant after college. So, there was a lot in this novel that really affected me and while I hope that my review is unbiased, it is something to keep in mind. 

Main characters: 5/5
Charles seemed like he could be one of my guy friends. He's a smart guy but a little idealistic at the beginning and I think that was part of his downfall. He was so eager to change himself to fit the image of a role model that I knew he was headed down the wrong path. By the middle of the novel, I really didn't like Charles and as much as I think I wasn't supposed to, it was hard to fight through when I didn't like the main character. Ultimately, I think Charles was just really lost and in any young adults' life, that is realistic in the most heart-creaking way. For Charles it was especially difficult because I think he really did want what was best for his national fraternity but he went to the furthest extremes to do so. More importantly, Charles was well-developed and thought-out so I give Holic some major props on creating a character that I hated at points and loved at others but ultimately was incredibly realistic.

Secondary characters: 3/5

Jenn was the voice of reason at the beginning, but she becomes a little flat and one-sided. Ultimately I didn't find Jenn that likable. Unfortunately, whether it was because of the lack of attention compared to Charles or not, Jenn was less developed a character. Fabre was particularly distasteful and left me wondering if there are actually people like him out there. I try not to be too idealistic about greek life but I was shocked by his character and some of the other alumni and it was tough for me to move beyond that. I would have liked some more engaging characters. I felt like most of the secondary characters had extreme flaws and therefore it was hard for me to relate to them.

Writing style: 3/5

Holic's writing style was thoughtful and detailed. His ability to get into Charles' head was especially wonderful and he really found the college feel on so many different campuses. I was disappointed that my ebook version didn't include a lot of the illustrations! Another plus for Holic though was his attention to detail. There were times when I just had to smile because Holic painted some of the things I feel about greek life perfectly. I did feel that the book seemed unnecessarily long. I got the picture pretty early on and I felt like Holic was beating a dead horse at some points. There were also some paragraphs with excessive detail that, although I appreciated, were a little tough to read through.

Plot: 4/5
When Charles started telling Jenn how he wasn't going to change, I knew exactly what was going to happen. I wasn't thrilled with how obvious that plot twist appeared. While I pointed out above that Holic got a lot of details right for a reader currently in greek life, some of it did feel over the top. To be fair, I'm not sure if this is fraternity versus sorority differences but some of the politics about shutting down a chapter and some of the dare I say corruption seemed unrealistic to me. Further, some of the plot points as Charles visited the fraternities seemed repetitive. While Charles did fall into a rut where the universities ran together, I would have liked either that section have been shorter or gotten more details about each school. Another bonus point for the unique plot! I've never read anything like this book before.

Ending: 4.5/5

The way that American Fraternity Man ended was funny, ambiguous and yet wrapped everything up perfectly. I love the way that Holic made it so clear without having to specifically tell the reader what would happen after the book ended.

Best scene: The scene in Mexico

Realistic and well-rounded main character, the ending, the balanced view of fraternities and sororities, Holic's attention to detail

Negatives: The secondary characters (particularly the way that some were extreme one-sided or flawed), the length, the excessive details and repetitive nature of the plot

Cover: I'm in love with this cover; it depicts the realities of college life all in one image. Plus the font is huge and can either stand out or fade away depending on how long you look at it.

Verdict: Although sometimes long and tough to get through, American Fraternity Man is a journey through fraternity life of epic proportions with a narrator whose complexity and realism is astounding. 

Rating: 7.8/10 (4 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!


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