It's the night of senior prom, and eighteen-year-old Julia has made a pact with her friends. (Yes, that kind of pact.) They have secured a secluded cabin in the woods, one night without parental supervision, and plenty of condoms. But as soon as they leave the dance, the pact begins to unravel. Alex's grandmother is undergoing emergency surgery, and he and his date rush to the hospital. Zoe's trying to figure out how she feels about getting off the waitlist at Yale--and how to tell her girlfriend. Madison's chronic illness flares, holding her back once again from being a normal teenager. And Julia's fantasy-themed role play gets her locked in a closet. Alternating between each character's perspective and their ridiculous group chat, The Night When No One Had Sex finds a group of friends navigating the tenuous transition into adulthood and embracing the uncertainty of life after high school.
About the Author
Kalena Miller is a teacher, editor, and writer of books for children and young adults. She studied Religion and Gender Studies at Carleton College before receiving a Masters in Creative Writing from Hamline University. She currently lives in Hopkins, Minnesota with her husband and lovable, if slightly neurotic, dog. Website: www.kalenamiller.com Twitter: @itskalenamiller Instagram: @itskalenamiller
Review by Louisa Onomé
The cool thing about Kalena Miller's THE NIGHT WHEN NO ONE HAD SEX is that even though the title tells you about its major plot point, the story never feels stale or unimaginative. On the contrary, Miller's debut is fresh, exciting, youthful, and hits all the right buttons like a contemporary YA novel should.
THE NIGHT WHEN NO ONE HAD SEX follows friends about to embark on the night of their lives after prom. Friends Julia, Alex, Morgan, and Zoe have a sex pact: tonight, on the night of their prom, they each plan to have sex (not with each other) at a cabin in the woods. It immediately sounds like a premise meant for a horror movie, and in some ways, it fulfills on that promise. As you can imagine, no one ends up actually having sex, but for reasons that aren't what they seem.
Alex's night with his date Leah is cut short when he hears his grandmother might have to have emergency surgery. Suddenly, they're both at the hospital instead of cozying up at the cabin. What begins as an awkward scenario turns into a deep character exploration that Miller handles beautifully.
Zoe and her girlfriend Morgan are in a good place, but when she gets off the waitlist at the university of her dreams, she realizes that accepting her dream school means leaving behind a relationship that grounds her.
In trying to spice things up, and in some ways, in trying to present a way that she's not, Julia's night ends up with her stuck in the most unlikely, unsexy place after a role-playing game gone wrong: the closet.
Madison always feels like she's being left behind, by her boyfriend and her family, and she's sick of it. It doesn't help that her chronic illness begins to flare up at the worst possible time.
In THE NIGHT NO ONE HAD SEX, each character has their own motives and personality, as well as very distinct voices. It was easy to get to know the characters through their POV chapters because of the depth of their development. Not to mention, the scenes with the group chat were excellent. A good group chat scene can do wonders in contemporary YA for character development, and the scenes in this book delivered.
The subplots were also very compelling. For example, Alex and Leah's story touches on the nuances of a family dynamic. In fact, all of the characters dealt with such adult issues in a realistic way. There was never a point where I felt like the characters were written too old for their age; it was very cohesive. The story itself isn't very heavy-handed. Readers will still enjoy the lessons and the humour, and will come away feeling satisfied by the end.
THE NIGHT WHEN NO ONE HAD SEX is a stunning contemporary about friendship, togetherness, and making memories. It's great for those who love realistic teen voices.
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Louisa Onomé is a Nigerian-Canadian writer of books for teens. She holds a BA in professional writing and is an all-around cheerleader for diverse works and writers. When not writing, her hobbies include picking up languages she may never use, crying over her favourite video games, and perfecting her skincare routine. She resides in the Toronto area. Twitter: @louisaonome_