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 bre
akup 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.
Thoughts and Themes: I was so happy to receive an advanced copy of this on Netgalley and then have the publisher send me a physical advanced copy. I took a little bit to actually read if because I had just finished another boy band book and was worried that this would just be like that. I am so glad that I am wrong because I really enjoyed so much of the nuance in this book. This book covers a lot of themes and you would think that it would be overloaded but it isn’t, each theme flows with the other and they each wrap up well. This book touches on friendships, coming out, racism, fame, dating, queerness, and more.
Something I really enjoyed about this book was how Hunter has to navigate being gay and out while being famous. I think it was great to see how he navigates this and how he messes up with his relationships, friends, and more. Hunter spends a lot of time in this story figuring out what it means for him to be Gay vs what it means for the label. I thought this was a good thing that the book addresses in showing what the world’s expectations are of a famous out queer teen and what Hunter wanted.
Something else that I enjoyed that this book points out and Hunter struggles with throughout the book is Hunter is a White Gay male, Kaivan is a person of color and so are several of the band members. Hunter is so focused on him being Gay and how that affects his image and the things he has to do to preserve that image, that he fails to realize the racism that is affecting those around him. I think a lot of the conversations that Kaivan has with Hunter regarding this are so important to include and pause at to take in. I liked that Hunter just doesn’t get it and we know he won’t ever fully understand but I think its important that his friends call him out on this.
Characters: In this book you get to meet several characters through their interactions with Hunter. Something that I really enjoyed about this book was the diversity in the band and in the love interests. I thought that the diversity in race/ethnicities for the band members and Kaivan was something that was done well and a great addition as they interact with Hunter.
I really enjoyed all of the relationships in this story as I think they all showed different sides of Hunter. I liked getting to see his relationship with Kaivan develop even if I first thought that it was a little quick. I liked to see the way that Kaivan explained certain things to Hunter and didn’t let him get away with pitying himself and thinking that he was the only one going through things.
I also really enjoyed the relationship that Hunter has with his friends and most importantly his best friend, Ashton. I really would have liked to see more of their friendship as this seems to be affected every time Hunter gets into a relationship. I also would have liked to see more interactions between Hunter and Aiden since I think this is a huge part of the story.
Writing Style: This story is told in first person through the perspective of Hunter which is something that I really enjoyed. I think that the story is much more impactful because we only get to see Hunter’s feelings throughout all of this. We don’t get to see the way the other band members feel about certain things he says and does unless they share that with him. We don’t get to see how Kaivan really feels if he doesn’t share that with Hunter.
Something else that I enjoyed about this book were the snippets of articles online, interviews, and emails from others. I liked that this was included because it adds to the story. There were things that the reader knew that Hunter still hadn’t discovered which made me want to read to see if he would ever find this information out. I thought that was an important piece because of the information that is revealed throughout the story.
ADIB KHORRAM is the author of DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY, which earned the William C. Morris Debut Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature, and a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor, as well as a multitude of other honors and accolades. His followup, DARIUS THE GREAT DESERVES BETTER, received three starred reviews, was an Indie Bestseller, and received a Stonewall Honor. His debut picture book, SEVEN SPECIAL SOMETHINGS: A NOWRUZ STORY was released in 2021. When he isn’t writing, you can find him learning to do a Lutz jump, practicing his handstands, or steeping a cup of oolong. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where people don’t usually talk about themselves in the third person. You can find him on Twitter (@adibkhorram), Instagram (@adibkhorram), or on the web at adibkhorram.com.