I’m a huge fan of Adib Khorram and the Darius series is heart wrenching in the best way. Khorram has such a way with characters, vulnerabilities, mistakes, and hopes. Kiss & Tell is no exception, I knew I’d love it and – spoiler – I did. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: homophobia, panic attack, slut shaming
Kiss & Tell is a thoughtful and emotional book about fame and the line between our public and private lines. For Hunter, as not only a boy band member, but also as an openly gay singer, his life seems to be on display. His character journey as he navigates this line between expectations and dreams is one of my favorite elements of Kiss & Tell. As an openly queer celebrity, Hunter feels this pressure to always be doing more to realize that his time in the spotlight seems already fragile.
Full of news pieces, quizzes, and tweets, Khorram expertly weaves us into Hunters world, to the constant echo chambers he can’t escape. Almost like being stuck under a magnifying glass. The pressure only mounts. All the ways you want something you love to always be the best, to have to perform and manage the art with the money. Kiss & Tell is a book that examines the way the media treats celebrities in picking apart their lives, the taboos of open queer sexuality, and racism.
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Hunter’s character development in Kiss & Tell is my, hands down, favorite element. How he has to sit with his own privileges and biases while also recognizing he cannot carry the burden alone. The world wants a piece of Hunter. And he has to figure out how to guard himself, to keep the ones he loves close, and to live as authentically as he can. It’s been days after I finished and I cannot get over how obsessed I am with Kiss & Tell. It’s not only thoughtful, it’s heart wrenching in our mistakes and love, and but also charming and endearing.