Book Review: Boys Come First


Boys Come First by Aaron Foley

Aaron Foley’s debut novel tells the story of three black gay men in their thirties. Set in Detroit, a city Foley knows well, the book is both about the three men and about their city, as it changes around them.

For much of a year (the book is broken into sections named after three of the four seasons) we follow Dominick, Troy and Remy. Dominick has left his long-term boyfriend in New York after their relationship has grown stale and his successful marketing career takes a sideways turn.  Returning to his hometown of Detroit after years away, first for college and then in pursuit of his career, he reunites with his best friend Troy, a schoolteacher. Troy introduces him to Remy, a successful real estate agent who Troy befriended in college. The three quickly become friend-family, and their relationship forms the backbone of the book.

Detroit is a character in the book, and all three men relate to it in different ways. Remy has positioned himself to take advantage of the influx of new, white, Detroiters and is hustling to make the most of his real estate career, marketing himself for his knowledge of the city and its neighborhoods as “Mr. Detroit”. He has landed a weekly radio show and is about to make a big deal as agent of record for a new development. 

Troy’s current boyfriend is militant about resisting the changes happening to the city, and the gentrification of black neighborhoods. Troy agrees for the most part, and finds himself suddenly facing the loss of his job as his privately funded magnet school may sell out to the same development Remy is tying his career to. 

For his part, Dominick is glad to be back in Detroit and has his sights on establishing himself as a marketing force in the city. 

But most of the book is devoted to the sex lives of the three - the hookups, the relationships and the “situationships”. Foley has said that he wrote the book specifically for black queer men and that he’s taken all the stories he’s heard from other black gay men and “thrown them in a blender” to create the love lives of Dom, Troy and Remy.

And it’s all there - the dating apps, the remembrance of life before dating apps, the place that race plays in gay relationships, the prevalence of hookup culture at the expense of long-term relationships, the men who can’t commit, the men who batter. And the sex. Its a funny and raunchy (okay sometimes really raunchy) blend. 

Along the way careers develop, family relationships evolve, and the three men overcome differences to form an ever tighter connection. 

I preordered this book before it was published at the end of May and was pretty excited at the prospect of a story of gay friendship with a Michigan setting. Even though I’ve never been a Detroiter and am not black, I really loved the book. Of the three men, I found Troy to be the most “real”, and I felt like he’s the one who goes through the biggest arc of change in the book. He’s a bit of a lost soul throughout most of the book. And when he finally starts to find himself it's gratifying that he brings his friends along with him. After all, boys come first. 

RATING: Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Title: Boys Come First

Author: Aaron Foley

Publisher: Belt Publishing

Publish Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN-13: 9781953368256

Publisher’s List Price: $17.95 Trade Paperback (as of 09/2022)