Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue is one of my favorite books of all time, but the second book, One Last Stop, was a bit of a disappointment for me, so going into this book I was more than a little nervous. But right away I could relax, I Kissed Shara Wheeler was everything I’d hoped for! It was queer and witty in that special Casey McQuiston way with memorable, relatable and so loveable characters full of flaws and personality, and I loved every bit of it.
The plot’s concept was more than just a little similar to John Green’s Paper Towns, with Shara Wheeler as the mysteriously disappeared girl, and Chloe, Smith and Rory on a quest to find her. But compared to Paper Towns (which I didn’t like that much to be honest) the characters and the focus on them getting to learn who they were and how the place had shaped them, rather than just trying to understand Shara Wheeler, made it into its completely own story.
At a first glance this might seem like a fluffy teen romcom, but there was so much more going on in I Kissed Shara Wheeler than just the scavenger hunt for clues to finding Shara; there were several love stories and coming out stories, the rearranging of high school cliques and lots of realizations.
This story really examines what being queer in a small southern town and a private school means, and how difficult it is to be the authentic you in such an environment. But at the same time, it was such a fun and lighthearted story with an amazing humor.
I absolutely adored all of the characters. Casey McQuiston has a magic way of writing characters that you feel connected to and immediately root for. Chloe was such a fierce and wonderful main character. I loved how she kept breaking the rules to take control of the reason for people staring and talking about her, rather than the fact that she had two moms and for her sexuality. I also loved the way she realized that she had been kind of judgmental herself, when not seeing beyond Smith’s jock status and Rory’s slacker attitude. And it was so special with the discussions about what being non-binary means and how we got to follow one of the characters in the process of discovering who they truly were.
One of the themes was the rivalry between Shara and Chloe, but I wouldn’t really call it a rivalry-to-lovers trope. It was more of an obsession that had some toxic parts, and which made Chloe neglect her friends in a way I didn’t quite like. I also never truly warmed up to Shara Wheeler herself.
But apart from that, this was such a heartwarming and uplifting queer story about acceptance, finding your true self, love and friendship, combined with a brilliant humor and an addictive mystery plot and some good old high school rivalry. I’m so happy that Casey McQuistion brought back all the magic and wit from her first book once again!
4.5 stars rounding up to 5
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.F. White C.G. Drews Charli Meadows Chris Bedell Ciara Smyth Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens Deonn Tracy D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tamara Girardi Teagan Hunter Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez