Saturday 2 September 2023

CBR15 Book 41: "Never Been Kissed" by Timothy Janovsky

Page count: 334 pages
Rating: 3 stars

CBR15 Bingo: Hold Steady (Wren is in quite a rut at the start of the book)

Official book description:
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 Blue, Boyfriend Material, and What If It's Us.

I feel quite bad for authors whose publishers keep trying to sell their books based on what's been popular and sold lots already. Now, I haven't read What If It's Us yet, so I can't speak for this one, but pretty much the ONLY similarity between this book and Red, White & Royal Blue or Boyfriend Material is that it features a romance between two men. I adore the aforementioned books, they are both five-star comfort re-reads for me. I'm sorry to say that this book is nowhere near as witty, heart-warming, or entertaining as those books. Had I read the wildly misleading publisher boast before I picked up this book? No, because I tend to ignore stuff like that (cause it's ALWAYS lies) - but if I had, I would have been even more disappointed. 

I'm making it sound like this book was awful, it was not. The fourth of our  Hot Fun in the Summertime Book Club selection for June, I finished this a few hours before the Zoom chat was about to start. I had never heard of the author or title before I picked up the book, but one of my favourite things about book clubs, both the Cannonball one, and my RL fantasy/sci-fi/speculative fiction book club is that I am challenged to read books I wouldn't necessarily choose myself, and I have frequently found myself really enjoying books I would otherwise probably never have picked up, and discovering new authors. For the Cannon Book Club in June, I really liked two of the books (the ones I read way before the selection was even made, Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute and Georgie, All Along). This, and our cozy mystery, Arsenic and Adobo, were both fine, but I'm not exactly feeling motivated to run out and seek out more books by the authors. 

Our protagonist, Wren, is a bit of a sadsack at the start of the book, honestly. He seems insecure and aimless, the only thing he cares about is the drive-in where he works during the summer.  He's been promoted to assistant manager but keeps letting his personal life distract him from his duties, and letting both his crush on Derick and his friendship with his room-mate cause problems for him, and his boss. Wren doesn't seem to know what he wants to do with his life, and until he gets very drunk one evening, he has never had the courage to confess his feelings for any of his crushes. Then he impulsively sends out the e-mails he once wrote to each of the people he fancied (so far, so very To All the Boys I've Loved Before, except Derrick Haverford sure ain't no Peter Kavinsky). Because it wouldn't be much of a book if it ended there, of course, the universe conspires to have Derrick working at the drive-in with Wren all summer.

I didn't really engage with either Wren or Derrick or care much about their romance. My favourite character was the cranky old lady whose cult movie Wren was obsessed with. Do I remember her name? Nope. Can I be bothered to look it up? Also nope. 

This book was fine, but in no way knocked my socks off, and now, months later, I remember very little of it. I don't rule out other Timothy Janovsky books in the future, though.

Judging a book by its cover: A lot of the cartoony covers are getting rather generic, and I think this one is especially non-descript. The cars make sense since the plot is centred around a drive-in. I just don't think I'd ever have picked this book up if it hadn't been selected for book club. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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