ARC Review: Kiss & Tell // Romance, boybands, and queer people in the limelight

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Title: Kiss & Tell
Author: Adib Khorram
Genre/s and tags: Young adult, contemporary, romance, LGBTQ+, music
Publisher: Dial Books/Penguin Teen
Publication date: March 22, 2022
Content warnings: homophobia, leaked privacy/private texts being leaked, slut-shaming, body shaming, racism, sexual content
Goodreads synopsis: 

Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram Book Cover

A smart, sexy YA novel about a boy band star, his first breakup, his first rebound, and what it means to be queer in the public eye, from award-winning author Adib Khorram

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.

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A big thank you to Dial Books/Penguin Teen for the e-ARC!
(This, of course, did not affect my overall opinion of the book.)

Hello book nerds! I feel like it has been a while! I’ve been struggling with some reads recently. However, I’ve still been blessed with great reads. This book? It’s one of them!

Kiss & Tell is another novel from Adib Khorram everyone should look out for. Romantic, inspiring, and socially-conscious, this book is a journey of queer love, identity, and pressure under the limelight.

My thoughts on Kiss & Tell

This book just confirmed something for me: Adib Khorram is now one of my favorite authors! This book, just like his other works I’ve read and loved (Darius the Great books), is beautifully done. It’s a whole new different writing style, but the purpose and the meaning are evident and it is wonderful.

This book might seem simple, but it was anything but. Kiss & Tell tackled romance and boy bands, racism and privilege, the pressure towards queer people in the limelight. As well as the way people think they can dissect or stereotype celebrities and their lives, especially queer and people of color, and the way some people equate being gay to being promiscuous (it’s not), and then thinking sexual promiscuity is bad (it’s not). Even the unfair treatment of boy band fans and reducing them to teenage girls was briefly mentioned (as another fangirl and a part of the BTS ARMY, I know full well how this is). I was actually so surprised when I realized how much social issues this book highlighted, whether it be in a small or big way. It was poignant and relatable and thought-provoking in its own.

I also remember feeling so frustrated while reading this book. Not because it was bad (the total opposite), but because it showed perfectly how some people have a lot of ideas on the “proper” way to be gay and if you don’t meet that idea in their heads, you’re the horrible kind of gay and you’re now setting up a bad example for others. It was frustrating, yes, but it was an important discussion and I was so glad the author chose to point this out in the book.

Hunter, as a main character was both relatable and compelling for me. He is a character in the limelight, who has so much pressure and judgment on his shoulders, who still tries to do more in the best of his ability. I couldn’t help but feel for him and everything he went through, and everything he wants and aspires to be.

I also loved the way the author’s storytelling in Kiss & Tell. Not only did we have Hunter’s perspective, but the story can also be followed through the media articles and gossips, emails exchanged between music label executives, the social media reactions from both fans and the general public. This, for me, offered various other perspectives that added much more to the story. It provoked readers to think so critically, especially on how people think and act because of their own biases and prejudice.

As for the romance, I wasn’t completely sold yet with Hunter’s love interest, Kaivan. I wanted to see more moments with the two of them and see their relationship fully bloom. Still, they were cute, and Hunter deserves another shot at love.

Overall, Kiss & Tell is a beautifully written YA novel meant to capture hearts and make people think. It’s a well-thought out book and it deserves a lot of love.


Buy Kiss & Tell

Amazon | Book Depository | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble


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One thought on “ARC Review: Kiss & Tell // Romance, boybands, and queer people in the limelight

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