Oy! Happy Wednesday!
Do you know what the best part of spring break is? (Besides the avoidance of forced human interaction at school and sleeping, obvi.)
Time to live my main character life. Yep. I am absolutely vibing. It involves getting dressed up and being fancy for no reason (and not having to commit to the outfit if I get uncomfortable during the day), driving to get boba (preferably mango flavored) or coffee (or chai lattes) just because I can, and visiting Barnes and Noble to browse and sniff the books. Check, check, and check.
In between my bouts of main character-ing, I’ve been trying to read and write a bit more as well. It has been, like, a month since I finished a full book that wasn’t for school. It has been even longer since I’ve been possessed by the ghost of inspiration and wanted to write something for myself. Sigh. Hopefully this week can be a bit of a turning point when it comes to that, but I’m not holding my breath or making any promises. Just vibing and doing what I can at this point.
K. Cool. Let’s actually get to the point of this post, shall we? Reveiw time *said with flourish*
*Biggest thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for sending me an electronic advanced copy to read and review! This did not impact my opinion of the book in any way!*
Book: Kiss & Tell
Author: Adib Khorram
Published March 22nd 2022 by Dial Books for Young Readers
online harassment, homophobia, mentions of parental death, fetishisation, mentions of sex negativity, racism, mentions of bullying, sexual harassment, alcohol, homophobic slur
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. (from Goodreads)
This one was not what I was expecting… like, at all. That is not a bad thing, but I would recommend not letting the synopsis set your expectations for this, because it will lead you astray. This book really isn’t centered around romance (more on that in a minute), but rather focused on what it means to be queer in the public eye and how Hunter is managing being shoved into a box of what he “should” be.
Ok. It’s been a minute. The romance, for me, was not the vibe. At first it felt really insta-lovey and then by the end it seemed like the characters lacked a bit of a genuine connection?? Were there cute moments? Oh, absolutely. But then there were other moments where it seemed like the characters just weren’t super compatible. Since it was more of a subplot, it wasn’t a huge deal, but it is still something worth noting.
At its heart, this is Hunter’s story. He was definitely center stage through it all and I enjoyed getting to know him and watching him interact with the other characters (who probs could have used a bit more development tbh). At times though, I felt like things became a little bit too Hunter-centric. There were so many issues that could have been resolved with communication (and many that were bigger than that), but instead Hunter made it mostly about himself. Like, dude, you are in a band, literally talk to the other bandmates about some of these things.
That being said, there were still many conflicts and situations throughout the novel that were handled with a lot of grace and nuance. Especially given that Hunter is famous, there were many problems amplified by that fact that had to be worked through, which were all handled pretty well.
Kiss & Tell harnesses a shorter and punchier style with bold humor, short sentences, and lots of emails, news clips and other assorted mixed media sprinkled about. Many of the clips and such did help the story unfold, but a lot of them felt unnecessary and even a bit confusing at times. They most certainly aided the storytelling at certain points, but I would have liked to see it used a bit more sparingly to keep the story going and less chunk-ified.
At the end of the day, even though I have quite a few qualms with the book, I am glad I read it. If you are interested in more character driven stories, a plot that is guaranteed to spark a lot of important conversations, or books related to the music industry (think: It Goes Like This, If This Gets Out, I Was Born For This), then this one might be worth checking out.
Do you plan on reading Kiss & Tell? If you have already read it, what did you think??