This was such a special, refreshing, thought-provoking and entertaining book about what it’s like to be a queer member of a boy band. There were so many meaningful discussions and insights on homophobia, racism, bottom-shaming, and expectations put upon queer celebrities from the queer community as well, but it was also such an adorable coming-of-age story with lovable characters.
Kiss & Tell follows seventeen-year-old Hunter Drake, who is an out and proud gay member of an international sensation Canadian boy band, who has recently broken up with his long-term boyfriend Aidan Nightingale. Aidan is also the twin brother of the bandmate, Ashton Nightingale, which makes things extra complicated. Especially as Hunter starts to get feelings for the drummer in the opener band, Iranian-American Kaivan Parvani. When a jealous Aidan leaks some sexting tweets between him and Hunter, Hunter will learn the hard way the limits to what level of queerness that is respectable to heterosexual fans and media, but also the homophobia and pressure to be masculine even in the queer community and bottom shaming. As damage control, the record label set Hunter and Kaivan up for some public fake dates that might not be as fake as the label thinks though…
I really loved the coming-of-age parts and the way Hunter had to grow as a character to break free from the expectations put upon him from both the label and fans and not the least the queer community, to find a balance between the public persona forced upon him and trying to live his life authentically. Hunter was such a lovable character, who truly wanted to make a positive difference to the LGBTQ+ community, and who had to struggle not to lose himself despite constantly being told how to act and how to dress, then criticized by the public for every little thing. He was a little ignorant and selfish at time, not understanding that his band members also had struggles on their own with racisms, but I rooted so much for him from the very start.
I also really enjoyed the extra content with tweets, interviews and news articles, which added to the understanding of what Hunter had to deal with in the form of media, fan opinions and the record label’s cynicism.
The romance part of this book was not as strong as I’d hoped for and I basically think this book is more of a coming-of-age story than a YA romance. I never fully trusted Kaivan and couldn’t fully invest in his and Hunter’s relationship, which felt lukewarm all the time to be honest. I also had some problem relating to the other band members, who weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been. Especially since there were a lot of potential in their culturally diverse backstories as well. But I truly enjoyed the aspect of the story where Hunter realized that he was not the only one struggling, but that his bandmates were also facing bigotry and discrimination.
All in all, this was a thought-provoking, yet sweet and adorable, read about finding out who you are in the spotlight! I adored the main character and appreciated the way Adib Khorram addressed issues like bottom shaming and how Hunter felt the pressure to conceal his identity even after coming out, in order not to be “too queer” and how not only conservative fans and media but also the queer community put expectations upon him. Highly recommended!
Get your own copy:
All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.G. Drews Chris Bedell Ciara Smyth Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Rhiannon Wilde River Braun Roan Parrish Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Saundra Mitchell Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophie Gonzales Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tamara Girardi Teagan Hunter Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez