© 2022 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Do You Remember Your First Kiss? Local Author And Journalist Explores A Webster Groves Kid’s Attempt

(Courtesy of the Author)

It’s likely that you remember your first kiss. And at a certain age, it can be an obsession – a source of worriment and intrigue.

In his new novel, “Try to Kiss a Girl,” KMOX reporter Kevin Killeen shares what he calls a “kind portrayal of a quirky family.” The story is about Patrick Cantwell, a fictional 11 year old from Webster Groves, who makes a bet with a friend to see who can kiss a girl before the end of the family’s vacation in Grand Haven, Michigan.

The book takes place during what was a busy time for the nation. “I set the book during the week in July of 1969 where the whole nation is straining towards the monumental goal of going to the moon as sort of a backdrop to how it’s just as monumental for these boys to be trying to kiss a girl,” Killeen said.

Killeen delves through what life was like for a kid 45 years ago and says the main character, Patrick, is a fictionalized version of himself and some of the things he went through.

One of the many differences between then and now was travel. Killeen describes traveling with limited technology and without air conditioning.

“We were like the Potato Head family, just driving across the cornfields baking in the station wagon … there was no GPS, no cell phones, no in-car video camera, you’re kind of left to 20 questions and your own wits,” Killeen said.

Travel wasn’t the only thing that was different. Killeen reminisced about things in the past that have since changed.

“You don’t go into a drug store in Michigan anymore and see a Coppertone display with a dog pulling a little girl’s pants down and the ad encouraging you to get as tan as you can. Now it’s all sunblock,” Killeen said.

While the book is mostly lighthearted, it takes a look at other facts of life, including mortality. Killeen describes the boys doing dangerous things such as jumping off a pier during a storm. He said he felt “there was always a little bit of death on the horizon when you’re up in Michigan having fun as a kid.”

Expanding on death, one of the issues explored is how quickly life goes by. Killeen liked the metaphor of a week-long vacation mirroring a seven decade life, close to the average life expectancy back then.

“You start out the vacation thinking this is going to be great, it’s going to last forever, you are going to do a lot of things, but all of a sudden, it is Wednesday and you’re 40.”

Killeen says it was important to put some life lessons in the book because unlike the news cycle which “lasts a day and a half,” he hopes his books will last a little longer.

In the coming week, Kevin Killeen will be talking about his book at the following places:

  • Wednesday, July 9 at 7:00 p.m. - Left Bank Books in the Central West End
  • Thursday, July 10 at 7:00 p.m. – The Book House in Maplewood
  • Saturday, July 12 from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. – Webster Groves Book Shop

St. Louis on the Air provides discussion about issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.

Stay Connected

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.