Young adult, LGBTQ+ fiction is really not my preferred cup of tea. I am a 28 year old ordained Southern Baptist preacher and therefore, the farthest away from the target audience of Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram. However, I do not shy away from this genre as many might assume someone like me would. Last summer, I was sent a copy of Isaac Fitzsimmons' The Passing Playbook to review and I was actually impressed. The Passing Playbook is about a trans teen trying their best to fit into their new school, identity and the boys soccer team. Its a book I personally would never have even picked up in the bookstore, but was overall an enjoyable reading experience. Of course, The Passing Playbook had its shortcomings, which I address in my review, but it is still a book that I appreciated reading. Kiss and Tell, on the other hand, is best left closed on the shelf.
From the Publisher:
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 drummer for 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.
My First Impressions:
Kiss & Tell is a queer book and unashamed of that moniker, and I mean that in a friendly way. Adib Khorram wastes no time with getting the story started and discussing his primary themes. The book is technically well written, albeit in a style that I find unappealing. However, what I found most offensive was the forced intersectionality of this book. Every character's place on the spectrum of oppressed people groups is clearly stated and discussed. I do agree that this topic should be broached in young adult fiction, but it seems to be at the center of the story in a disingenuous way. Rather than serving the story with his agenda, Adib serves his agenda with a story. I think he would have been better off writing an essay of his thoughts on the struggles of LGBTQ+ individuals rather than this book. I only had 60 pages to write my review from, and I couldn't finish half of that. Perhaps these bookishfirst reviews may be able to communicate what I'm trying to say more concisely:
In contrast The Passing Playbook approaches its themes in a much more organic way. It is a story first, and its message comes in close second. I still have several grievances with that book, but I would recommend it over this one any day.
Kiss & Tell is unfortunately scheduled for publication on March 22, 2022. If you wish to pre-order this book, please do so in a way that your local reading community will at least benefit from your purchase. Get your copy from a locally owned bookseller or from bookshop.org. Bookshop.org is an alternative to Amazon with a mission to financially support independent book stores.
Corey D. Evans received an advance excerpt of this book and was not financially compensated for his review. Any quotes are from an unedited advance reader copy of the book and may differ from what will appear in final printed editions.