I was so excited when Never Been Kissed was selected as one of the Cannon Book Club Hot Fun in the Summertime books. I hope you, dear reader, will join our discussion on June 23&24.
Timothy Janovsky has been on my list of authors I’d like to read for a while. In the large field of m/m (all male love interest) romances, he is one of a few men writing. Even rarer, he is a traditionally published author writing m/m new adult romantic comedies. To be clearer, he is one of a very very very few queer identifying men writing traditionally published romance at all*. I’m a Happily Ever Afters for Everyone person, so I’d like to see more of everyone writing romance (not everyone has to write romance, but everyone should be able to write what they want).
I thought Never Been Kissed was delightful. Wren is just graduating from college and ready to start as the newly minted manager of Wiley’s Drive In, a local institution that has provided his summer employment since he was 15. Wren is in a brief time where he is an adult, but not yet an adulty adult who has to worry about having a job that will pay his rent, bills, health insurance, etc. There’s a bittersweet haze hanging over the summer to come.
Wren puts a lot of pressure on himself. He thinks his first kiss needs to be perfect and has a list of parameters about what that looks like. As someone who has been adulty adulting for a long time, that seems silly and a bit precious initially. His feelings about not finding that perfect moment with the perfect person for his perfect first kiss set the stage for working with Derick, his could have been more friend from high school who ghosted him.
At the beginning of Never Been Kissed, Wren knows that he is gay. He is out of the closet to everyone (his best friends threw him a coming out party). What he learns about himself in the book is that he is demisexual (the Cleveland Clinic definition) which is on the asexual spectrum (a-spec). As Wren comes to understand how and why he feels sexual attraction separate from romantic attraction, he is able to navigate his relationship with Derick more honestly. He is also able to be kinder to himself.
Knowing yourself is a strength. Wren is able to accomplish the things he does by the end of the book because he is able to put the feelings he has into a larger context. Not understanding why he reacts the way he does has made him feel insecure and immature. When he understands why he has run away from first kiss opportunities, he is able to make a leap in emotional maturity.
This is why we need a diversity of books with all kinds of representations. I grew up with a very limited understanding of love and sex. You were either straight or gay, and you were either a woman or a man. If you were a woman who didn’t like sex you were a prude, and if you did like sex you were a whore. All men liked sex all the time. That simplistic understanding of how humans experience love and desire made my life worse in ways I am still coming to grips with. Humans are messy and complicated. I love reading books that reflect that complexity, and find particular joy in a-spec representation. I would have loved to have books like this as a teen and younger adult.
*other men writing m/m romance that I can recommend are ‘Nathan Burgoine, Alexis Hall, and Kosoko Jackson (who I have not yet reviewed). There are also non-binary and gender fluid folks who write m/m.