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Kiss & tell
2022
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Publishers Weekly Review
Euphoria--that's what white Canadian Hunter Drake, 17, feels when he's singing with band Kiss & Tell, and what he used to feel playing hockey before an injury. But bliss, and his lyric-writing, become less accessible when the ethnically inclusive boy band starts an arena tour just as Hunter's first relationship ends and his ex reveals intimate details about their sex life. Though Hunter is publicly out, the record label goes into damage control mode, updating Hunter's wardrobe to embrace "a more... femme look." The label also suggests he date Iranian American Kaivan Parvani, whose band opens for Kiss & Tell; the two genuinely like each other, but it's difficult to start a relationship mid-tour and with the label stage-managing. Showing how Hunter's fame increases the spotlight, Khorram (Darius the Great Is Not Okay) incorporates fictional news ranging from celebrity gossip to think pieces about gay representation as the media weighs in on Hunter's life. Khorram deftly makes the story work, calling on readers to empathize with Hunter's pride and embarrassment, questions about how he should look and be, and maybe even his belated realization that the band's other members also receive public scrutiny. Ages 14--up. Agent: Molly O'Neill, Root Literary. (Mar.)
School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up--The popular boy band Kiss & Tell started out as a joke with a song about poutine. They quickly became a sensation, were picked up by The Label, and are headlining their biggest tour to date. Just a few weeks before heading out on the road, front man Hunter Drake and his boyfriend of two years, Aidan, break up. To make things messier, Aidan is the twin of band member Ashton. While drunk, Aidan tweets out screenshots of private conversations between the two where it's clear that they have been having sex. It's a PR nightmare, and in an attempt to smooth things over, Hunter's publicist suggests that he fake dates Kaivan, a member of PAR-K, the other band on tour with them. The two have been hanging out, and Hunter has started to develop feelings, so it's a no-brainer to go along the idea. Through Hunter, Khorram shows what it's like to be queer and proud, while simultaneously living your life under a microscope. While this story is Hunter's, outside perspectives intersperse the narrative via snippets of interviews, gossip column articles, emails, and text messages. However, the relationship between Hunter and Kaivan feels rushed and unrealistic in the fast-paced time line. The book touches on racism and homophobia in the music industry. Kiss & Tell has Vietnamese-, Brazilian-, and Indian-Canadian members; Hunter and Ashton present as white Canadian. Kaivan and his bandmates are Iranian American. VERDICT An entertaining read that feels a bit like One Direction fan fiction.--Alicia Kalan
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