Book Reviews

Review: Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih

Let’s Get Back to the Party is a fantastic and thoughtful book about queer identity and characters. While I certainly thought Sebastian and Oscar would interact more in person – more on that later – I ended up enjoying how these characters orbit and echo their lives. Keep reading this book review to hear my full thoughts.


What Does It Mean to Be a Gay Man Today?

It’s just weeks after the historic Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, and all Sebastian Mote wants is to settle down. A high school art history teacher, newly single and desperately lonely, he envies his queer students their freedom to live openly the youth he lost to fear and shame.  

So when he runs into his childhood friend Oscar Burnham at a wedding in Washington, D.C., he can’t help but see it as a second chance. Now thirty-five, the men haven’t seen each other in a decade. But Oscar has no interest in their shared history. Instead, he’s outraged by what he sees as the death of gay culture: bars overrun with bachelorette parties; friends getting married, having babies.

While Oscar and Sebastian struggle to find their place in a rapidly changing world, each is drawn into a cross-generational friendship that treads the line between envy and obsession: Sebastian with one of his students and Oscar with an older icon of the AIDS era. And as they collide again and again, both men must come reckon not just with one another, but with themselves.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: slut shaming, homophobia, emetophobia

Let’s Get Back to the Party is a book that examines how queer identity changes from generation to generation. How our ideas of freedom and choice shift. All the things we want to have achieved evolve and the fights we find most important change. With focuses on both characters, Oscar and Sebastian, Salih examines how what we hold as ‘queer’ or ‘gay’ shift. For Oscar, his friends getting married is coded as abandoning what he sees as the soul of gay culture. Whereas for Sebastian, he wants to have that security and domesticity.


Throughout Let’s Get Back to the Party, Sebastian and Oscar not only look at each other – and what’s changed – but also reflect on their own memories. So even in the scenes where they aren’t even together in the same room, their ghosts and illusions remain with them. We’re able to see how much Sebastian wishes he would have had a childhood where he could be open, where acceptance was more forthcoming. At the same time, Oscar reflects on how his image of Sebastian has changed and even the tinges of their memories.

And that’s got to be one of my favorite elements of the book – how Salih is able to bring each of the characters to live from the perspective of the other. How Sebastian sees Oscar’s idea of a gay culture that embodies triumphant and open sexuality. Of living the very life people would kill, censor, critique for. And at the same time, how Oscar reflects on what Sebastian wants from his life, his own gay identity. I was transfixed by the character development. How Salih has Oscar question his own judgements with his new friendships, while also using a student of Sebastian’s to have him reflect on the beginning of his queer questioning.


(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

Let’s Get Back to the Party is character driven with a healthy dose of action to propel the plot. But what kept me reading were the characters. How Oscar sees gay culture as being co-opted and normalized, but also commodified and opened. It’s about their lives and mistakes, but also about their continual journey navigating their identity. About how a person can feel like they fall in and out of our lives in the moments that on the surface don’t seem like fate, but end up being at the right moment.

Find Let’s Get Back to the Party on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


Do you have a favorite adult fiction book with a gay MC?

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