ARC Review | I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

I Kissed Shara Wheeler

by Casey McQuiston

YA Contemporary, LGBTQ

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Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.

Fierce, funny, and frank, Casey McQuiston’s I Kissed Shara Wheeler is about breaking the rules, getting messy, and finding love in unexpected places.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

First and foremost, I have to start off by saying that Casey McQuiston completely understands the character assignment. This is a writer who consistently has such strong, well-rounded characters who literally feel like real people. And they don’t stop with just the main character, but they keep going with all the wonderful and hilarious side characters. This was the case for Red, White and Royal Blue and One Last Stop, and it was no different for their latest book, I Kissed Shara Wheeler. 

This is McQuiston’s first YA novel, and I thought it was splendid. It follows Chloe, after her arch-enemy Shara goes missing not long after they share a kiss, and when Shara leaves Chloe notes and clues, she is adamant to solve the mystery of classmate’s disappearance and get to the root of why she wanted to vanish into thin air. 

This was a great mystery, and I think what I loved most about this was all the queer issues McQuiston addressed, and ones that you don’t see enough of. The idea of found family, the idea of gender identities and sexualities, the total liberation that comes with exploring them. Very much begs the question, “why stuff yourself into a box your entire life when you don’t actually have to? When you can step outside and see what’s waiting on the other side?”

However, I do have to say this did not quite have that same verve as McQuiston’s previous novels, both of which I adored. I do not think Shara Wheeler was a bad novel, but in comparison to RWRB and One Last Stop, it just didn’t quite live up to the same standard. It reminded me a lot of John Green’s Paper Towns, and I felt there was an air of originality this book was missing unfortunately. I think I would have liked to see just something a bit different, because I did kept getting struck with a feeling of deja vu whilst reading this. 

Although saying that, I did enjoy it, and McQuiston really set the bar high with their first two novels that it will be a challenge to meet that bar again – but if they did it with One Last Stop after the phenomenal RWRB, then I have no doubt they can do it again. 


Review | One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop

by Casey McQuiston

Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ

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For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time.

I think like a lot of the book community, I had high hopes for McQuiston’s sophomore novel after reading and adoring Red, White and Royal Blue. As exciting as it is, it’s also a bit scary going into a novel with such high hopes in case it doesn’t live up to your expectations, but I can safely say that was not the case with One Last Stop.

This gorgeous book follows 23-year-old August as she moves to New York City and meets a gorgeous girl on the subway, Jane—only to realise soon enough that Jane is a punk lesbian from the 70s who’s been trapped on the same Q train for the last 45 years. With her new found-family and mess of roommates, she vows to help Jane get back to her old life, but doesn’t quite factor in the whole falling-in-love situation that she finds herself wrapped up in.

I thought the premise about this was absolutely amazing, and I really felt like it hooked me into the story straight from the first page. Just like Red, White and Royal Blue, the strength of this novel was the wonderful, wonderful cast of characters. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with August and Jane, but I also seriously loved all the several side characters, including Wes, Myla, Niko and of course Annie Depressant. This book was just so diverse and so easily diverse if you know what I mean? Often you see authors who try to make all their characters queer for brownie points, but with McQuiston this was not the case. It just felt so natural, and I can’t wait for the day where a cast of characters made up mostly of queer people won’t be something to hone in on in reviews.

I also thought the romance between Jane and August was done so marvellously. It had a stunning pace, and left me hungry at the end of each page to find out what was going to happen next. Also, this book was hilarious! I really love McQuiston’s prose because as much as it is gorgeous and poetic, it is also really witty and so easy to get invested in. I really felt like I flew through this because it was just so addictive. If you loved Red, White and Royal Blue, then may I introduce your newest obsession: One Last Stop. I’m not going to be able to stop thinking about this book and the amazing characters for weeks!

Review | Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston


Red, White & Royal Blue

by Casey McQuiston

Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQ

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First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

So. I don’t even know where to begin. This was book was just PURE JOY! I had a feeling I would love this (anything queer with the Royal Family?? Hell YES) but for some reason I was always so scared to pick it up in case I didn’t like it. Does that ever happen to you?

But let me just say, I am so happy I did. If you don’t already know from the incredible hype, Alex is the First Son of the President of the United States and Henry is the Prince of Wales. At first they dislike each other, but when their families make them play up an international friendship to keep up appearances, they begin to realise that it was never dislike they had for each other, but rather much deeper feelings indeed.

OH. HOW. I. SWOONED. I loved this so so much. I have to thank my friend Katherine for the countless messages/updates we sent back and forth to each other. These characters were all such a delight. Definitely my favourite thing from Casey McQuiston’s novel. They were all so strong individually and I found myself caring for them all – and I think that’s very important for a story to care about the characters and what’s happening to them. But of course I especially loved Alex and Henry the most.

The romance was PERFECT between these. If you’re looking for a book you can’t put down, then pick this one up. It’s so funny, it’s so fresh, the voices are so strong and I wanted to follow the characters from the very first page. Not many books make me physically cry, but I genuinely burst into happy tears at the end because I just loved the book so much. Can’t recommend this enough!

5 star