Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram
if you want a queer pop-celeb story with some really nicely written lines
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.
I can’t really place why — maybe by the end of this review — but something about this didn’t totally hook me. I feel like I ended up reading it all with a slightly disinterested or maybe disbelieving air. There was some kind of lack in it for me, and let’s see if I can pinpoint why.
Note: I did figure it out, so keep reading. 🙂
What worked for me about this was the humor of each of the main boys in the band. Things that were shockingly accurate and somehow so incisive that they caught me off guard for never thinking of it before, like “One of the hardest things about being on the road is eating healthy, because no city ever has “vegetables” as their can’t-miss local specialty.” Or the lines that were just sweet and funny like “We tried to figure out a show in Antarctica, but it didn’t work out.”
What worked for me was some of the really sweet moments. Some lines I felt like I needed to bookmark in case I ever needed to really reassure someone in a moment of fear, like ““Are you jealous?” “A little. You have all this history with him, and I—” I take [his] hands. “But I have a future with you.”
And what worked for me were lines that felt like they were echoing out of my own heart. Reading this one stopped me for a moment: ““You feeling all right?” I hate it when people ask me if I’m okay. It’s like they’re poking at the cracks in my walls. If they’d just leave me alone, I’d be fine.”
So the writing itself was lovely in a lot of ways. I guess what the lack was that I was trying to find earlier was the plot itself, and to some degree Hunter as well. The plot is very straightforward so you know what to expect from pretty early on. There are some kinks thrown into the mix, bad decisions and bad luck, but overall I just didn’t really care. Hunter’s worries and fears never really affected me enough to have me worry for him or desperately wish him well. I felt very much like a reader, rather than transported into the mind and life of the character(s). There wasn’t much I could relate to him about besides being romantically interested in men.
At the point of writing this, it’s been about three months since I finished it. When I think back on the book, I make this face: 😕 (and if you can’t see the smiley, it’s approximately). That face was what I made when I started this review, and my added memories of it after re-reading my notes and highlights still match that. It was just… it was okay. It was fine. If it sounds interesting to you, give it a read. But for me, it didn’t blow me away. I read it on a train when I had finished my current book and had no other available and that feels like a good assessment of my overall experience.
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