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ARC Review: Never Been Kissed by Timothy Janovsky

Publication Date: May 3, 2022


Dear (never-been-quite-over-you) Crush,
It’s been a few years since we were together, but I can’t stop thinking about the time we almost…

Wren Roland has never been kissed, but he wants that movie-perfect ending more than anything. Feeling nostalgic on the eve of his birthday, he sends emails to all the boys he (ahem) loved before he came out. Morning brings the inevitable Oh God What Did I Do?, but he brushes that panic aside. Why stress about it? None of his could-have-beens are actually going to read the emails, much less respond. Right?

Enter Derick Haverford, Wren’s #1 pre-coming-out-crush and his drive-in theater’s new social media intern. Everyone claims he’s coasting on cinematic good looks and his father’s connections, but Wren has always known there’s much more to Derick than meets the eye. Too bad he doesn’t feel the same way about the infamous almost-kiss that once rocked Wren’s world.

Whatever. Wren’s no longer a closeted teenager; he can survive this. But as their hazy summer becomes consumed with a special project that may just save the struggling drive-in for good, Wren and Derick are drawn ever-closer…and maybe, finally, Wren’s dream of a perfect-kiss-before-the-credits is within reach.

A feel-good summer LGBTQIA+ New Adult RomCom, perfect for fans of Red White & Royal BlueBoyfriend Material, and What If It’s Us.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was suuuuuuper cute. Wren does come across as very young at first, but as the story settled into its groove I felt like his reactions and thought processes were actually very accurate for a 22-year old. He starts the novel fairly immature and at loose ends, but through the course of the story he gains confidence in himself. This is helped along by his managerial position at Wiley’s Drive-in (where he has to find the line between working with his friends and being responsible for his friends’ mistakes), his blossoming friendship with reclusive former film star and director Alice Walker, and his rekindled friendship and burgeoning relationship with his high-school crush Derick.

What begins as a terrible drunk decision – sending emails to all his former crushes and almost-kisses – ends up with a real chance at happiness.

Wren’s friends are adorably quirky – sometimes a little too much so – and sweet. Reading the scenes of them together took me back to my college friendships. Derick is a bit of a mystery for pretty much the entire book and I think it could have benefited from some Derick POV chapters. The mystery does add drama and move the plot along in places, however, so I can understand why the author chose to do it this way. I also really appreciated how many of the characters were LGBT+ and how matter-of-fact it all was. There was a little bit of drama between Derick and his family but it wasn’t too much and didn’t detract from the sense of queer joy that develops throughout the book.

I listened to the audiobook version of this and really like the way the narrator chose to read it. His voices for all the characters were easy to tell apart and fit the characters very well.

I was fully invested in the story from beginning to end, and came away with a lot of nostalgia and also a real appreciation for how the author handled the story.

Also! It was SO nice to see demisexual rep in this story! Ace rep of any kind is hard to come by in fiction, and demisexual rep even more so. It was also explained really well without taking the reader out of the story and really fit Wren’s character and experiences. As someone who is demi, I really appreciated the rep. It made me feel that much more connected to the story and more sympathetic to Wren. Especially when he decides that “queer” is how he’s going to identify, with the knowledge that he’s also gay and demisexual. It was very relatable. Society doesn’t know how to handle asexuality for some strange reason, and it can feel very alienating.

The best parts of the story, hands down, were the scenes with Alice Kelly, reclusive film star and brilliant director – and cantankerous old lady. She really came to life in my imagination and quickly became my favorite character. The way Wren approached his friendship with her, slowly drawing her out while making sure she is always comfortable with what is happening, was wonderful to see.

I loved her story that was slowly revealed even more than Wren’s and Derick’s tbh. I would definitely read a book about her life. I’m glad she became such an important character and her story interwoven so thoroughly with Wren’s and Wiley’s Drive-in.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Casablanca for providing an e-arc for review.


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