As Wren Roland celebrates his 22nd birthday with his best friends and roommates, Mateo and Avery, he begins to lament the fact that he has never been kissed. He’s been close, but has yet to experience what his degree in film studies has convinced him will be a life-altering and incredibly romantic experience. As the evening progresses, and the drinks flow, Wren finds himself more than a bit drunk in front of his computer. He clicks on the email folder labeled “tentacle porn” (It seems like the perfect hiding place! Who would ever look in there?) where he has four email drafts to the four guys in his past that he believes he ALMOST kissed. And, without thinking (or maybe thinking a bit too much), he clicks send.
The next morning, Wren is faced with two responses to his emails. One is from Mateo, who remembers the evening Wren references, questions some of Wren’s recollections, and is, ultimately, a bit flattered but agrees that they are better friends than possible boyfriends. The other response is from Derick. Wren and Derick grew up together. For a long time, they were almost inseparable, until graduation, when Derick went off to the college chosen for him by his family and Wren went to Rosevale College, which is located in Wren’s hometown of Willow Valley. Wiley’s Drive-In is also located in Willow Valley. Wren has been going to Wiley’s since he was a kid and this summer will be his eighth season working there. What Wren is about to learn is that Derick has returned to Willow Valley. He too recently graduated and has just been hired to work on Wiley’s social media presence this season to boost sales and attendance.
Wren is hoping to convince Earl, Wiley’s owner, to allow him to pursue a special screening at the drive-in. Wren wrote his capstone paper about a local legend, Alice Kelly. She made a single film, Chompin’ at the Bit, a zombie romance that was decades ahead of its time. Her film was supposed to have made its premiere in Willow Valley, but after a single screening, and a series of harsh reviews, both Chompin’ at the Bit and Alice Kelly disappeared, and were never seen or heard from again. Wren is hoping to resurrect Chompin’ at the Bit and provide it with a second chance for a Willow Valley premiere at Wiley’s this summer. If only he can get Kelly’s permission to do so.
Could this summer be a summer of second chances? Will Wren be able to get Alice’s permission to screen Chompin’ at the Bit, giving it a seond chance at the attention it deserves? And can Derick and Wren rekindle their friendship (or maybe more)? Will Wren have a second chance for his first kiss with Derick?
In Never Been Kissed, debut author Timothy Janovsky tells a sweet coming of age story filled with hopes, dreams, film trivia, and summer nights spent at the drive-in. Janovsky has populated this story with likable and recognizable people, from Wren, the relatable protagonist, to Alice, the feisty former filmmaker who returned to her family home when Hollywood discarded her; Mateo and Alex, Wren’s roommates and found family; and, finally, Derick, the “one who got away” but has come back into Wren’s life at just the perfect moment.
Never Been Kissed, like almost all summer past-times, is light and immensely enjoyable. Readers will also find the interview with Timothy Janovsky very interesting.