New York Times bestselling author Casey McQuiston is known for their transportive and often extraordinary queer romcoms. Her first two novels, Red White and Royal Blue and One Last Stop, are both over the top, tender and incredibly detailed queer love stories that feature a refreshing cast of LGBTQ+ characters. McQuiston’s new book gives their readers all of that and more in I Kissed Shara Wheeler. McQuiston’s first Young Adult Novel features a group of high school seniors who attend a cultish, private Christian school. The plot follows Chloe Green as she navigates the final months as a senior in high school, trying to reach her ultimate goal: being Valedictorian.
Only one thing stands in her way: the ever popular, saintly Shara Wheeler. Chloe and Shara are pinned against each other from the start; Shara the perfect Christian girl, daughter of the school principal, and Chloe the smart, feminist new girl. While they’ve been jockeying for the top spot in the class Chloe knows Shara inside and out, and she knows that Sarah won’t give up the crown of Valedictorian without a fight. That is until Shara traps Chloe in the elevator on prom night, kisses her, and then vanishes into thin air. From there Shara leaves a trail of clues for Chloe to follow, leading her down a treacherous path and forcing her to make unexpected alliances, all of which threatens her chances of reaching valedictorian status.
I Kissed Shara Wheeler deviates from McQuiston’s other bodies of work in that the story focuses on one of the most important milestones that queer people experience: coming out. McQuiston said that this choice was intentional, that she wanted to write a novel about queer kids who are still figuring themselves out, who are allowed to make mistakes and have over the top High School Musical type love stories. Set against the backdrop of Christian ideology in the deep south, this novel aims to show that you are not where you come from. This book stretches genres, from coming of age to romance to thriller. McQuiston’s imagery will transport you through the trials and tribulations of high school, and the growing pains of first love. The most impactful part of the book, however, is the underlying message to queer youth that no matter where you are or how stuck you feel, you belong, and you are loved just the way you are.