KISS & TELL by ADIB KHORRAM
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
I have a well-documented past with loving boy bands. I loved the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC when I was younger and I’m obsessed with the likes of NCT and BTS today. So when I heard Adib Khorram, author of Darius the Great Is Not Okay (one of my favorite YA contemporaries), was writing a book centered around a boy band, I knew I needed to read it. Kiss & Tell is about Hunter Drake, the openly gay singer of the boy band Kiss & Tell. Hunter and his best friends made a song as a joke in high school and ended up gong viral in the process. They’ve since skyrocketed to fame and are now on their North American Tour. When Hunter’s ex-boyfriend leaks some damaging texts about their personal lives to the public, things get messy. Hunter must confront himself and the industry he’s apart of while also fake dating the drummer for their opening act.
I loved Khorram’s writing in the Darius books. It’s simple and flows well. It’s the same sort of thing in Kiss & Tell. The book is easy to get through and the pages really flew by. I loved the boy band aspects, of course, and enjoyed all the fun Canada references (seriously, poutine sounds so good now). This book also tackles a lot of nuances about what it’s like to be openly gay in the entertainment industry, especially as a member of a boy band. his isn’t a coming-of-age tale about homophobia, however. Hunter is gay and everyone is fine with it, even if is label’s microaggressions toward his sexuality get on his nerves. These matters are discussed on page, however, which I appreciated.
Even so, I found myself a little disappointed at how heavy this book felt at times. The issues Khorram brings up are important ones and need to be discussed, but at the same time, I’m not sure this book knows what it wants to be. It’s cover screams YA rom-com, but it’s more of a contemporary than anything else. Hunter himself is going through a lot in this book and as a result, he’s kind of…miserable. This isn’t to say I need all my characters to be happy and have nothing wrong with them (that is very much not the case), but Hunter is constantly beat down through the entire book and it felt a little exhausting to read about.
This book is also told in a mixed-media format. There are interviews, tweets, blog posts, and transcripts scattered throughout the text. Usually I don’t like this kind of things in books, but it worked here and I really enjoyed that extra layer characterization for Hunter and his love interest, Kaivan. Kiss & Tell isn’t my favorite Khorram book, but it’s still a fun read if you’re looking for a boy band themed book! Pick it up at the Argenta Library today!