Title: Kiss & Tell
Author: Adib Khorram
Genre/s and Tags: Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ+/Queer, Young Adult Fiction, Music, Realistic Fiction
A smart, sexy YA novel about a boy band star, his first breakup, his first rebound, and what it means to be queer in the public eye, from award-winning author Adib Khorram
Hunter never expected to be a boy band star, but, well, here he is. He and his band Kiss & Tell are on their first major tour of North America, playing arenas all over the United States and Canada (and getting covered by the gossipy press all over North America as well). Hunter is the only gay member of the band, and he just had a very painful breakup with his first boyfriend–leaked sexts, public heartbreak, and all–and now everyone expects him to play the perfect queer role model for teens.
But Hunter isn’t really sure what being the perfect queer kid even means. Does it mean dressing up in whatever The Label tells him to wear for photo shoots and pretending never to have sex? (Unfortunately, yes.) Does it mean finding community among the queer kids at the meet-and-greets after K&T’s shows? (Fortunately, yes.) Does it include a new relationship with Kaivan, the star of the band opening for K&T on tour? (He hopes so.) But when The Label finds out about Hunter and Kaivan, it spells trouble—for their relationship, for the perfect gay boy Hunter plays for the cameras, and, most importantly, for Hunter himself.
Thank you to Penguin Teen and Netgalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
This was really great! I feel like it could’ve been longer to really explore some of the discussions presented. Kiss & Tell follows the incredibly popular boy band “Kiss & Tell” and Hunter Drake, the only gay member in the band. Hunter has been an icon for queer youth everywhere, but after his breakup with his boyfriend and texts are leaked, his image is put into question. Hunter never wanted to be the Label’s perfect queer kid, but navigating the line between keeping the Label appeased and being himself is hard enough without thousands of fans and parents talking about his actions like they know him.
Then there’s Kaivan, the drummer of PAR-K, the opener for Kiss & Tell on their North American tour. Hunter and Kaivan start a flirty friendship when Kaivan comes out to him. Hunter thinks this could develop into something romantic, but when the Label gets involved, Hunter doesn’t know what to do.
This was such a great story about the pressure of being in the spotlight and how that affects people. Hunter is a white cis gay boy and he has a lot of privilege. It was very interesting to see all the things he dealt with and how he centers himself. Three members of Kiss & Tell are BIPOC, but when Hunter finally talks to them, he realizes that he’s not the only one dealing with stereotypes and microaggressions. Hunter is a bit selfish and closed off in the beginning of this, but we see him start to come out of his shell and begin to listen. I wish this book was longer so we could’ve seen more action from Hunter as he comes to all these realizations.
I do wish Hunter had taken a bigger role in educating himself. Maybe it’s because he’s Canadian, but I think it stems more from being white. But Hunter is constantly educated by the people of color in his life and I can’t imagine how tiring that was for them. I do like that by the end he’s finally more receptive to what their saying and how racism is different from queermisia, but is still just as damaging.
I did like Hunter’s character. He’s only a teenager and he doesn’t have everything figured out. Plus with private texts leaked by his ex, he’s dealing with a lot. His image and reputation are in question and Hunter doesn’t know how to navigate this, especially as a gay boy. The Label wants him to become more of a femme/twink persona even though that’s not him. He spends a lot of time internally debating how to navigate this and what he should do.
I really enjoyed Hunter and Kaivan’s friendship/relationship. Kaivan was so cute and I wanted more of him. The past interviews with him definitely made me worried. I liked how he did eventually talk to Hunter about all of it. There was so much interesting presence about heteronormativity, and toxic masculinity. We do get some discussions of it and I was glad for that. I would’ve loved more, but ultimately, I really enjoyed this book.
Last thing I’ll say is that this cover is RUDE and screams pansexual vibes and then there was no pan characters and I was sad. Oh well 😦
Rep: white Canadian gay cis male MC, Iranian-American gay cis male side character, white Canadian gay cis male side character, white Canadian cishet male side character, Vietnamese-Canadian cishet male side character, Brazilian-Canadian cishet male side character, Indian-Canadian cishet male side character, Black queer nonbinary drag monarch side character, white American gay cis male side character, various queer & BIPOC side characters briefly mentioned.
CWs: Body shaming, slut shaming, homophobia/homomisia, racism, sexual harassment. Moderate: alcohol consumption, sexual harassment, sexual assault, outing, consensual sexual content, grief, past death of parent. Minor: Car accident.