“Shame is a way of life here. It’s stocked in the vending machines, stuck like gum under desks, spoken in the morning devotionals,” (McQuiston 288).
Four years after moving with her moms from sunny California to False Beach, Alabama and attending Willowgrove Christian Academy, Chloe Green is so close to winning she can almost taste it. All she needs to do is beat her rival, prom queen, principal’s daughter, THE GIRL Shara Wheeler as valedictorian. But a month before graduation Shara kisses three people: her jock boyfriend Smith, her bad boy neighbour Rory, and rival Chloe, and then disappears. Leaving a scavenger hunt of notes and clues on pink monogrammed stationary, Chloe is determined to find Shara, even if it means joining up with two guys she would never hang out with in a million years. As they search for clues, the three find out secrets about Shara and maybe (but probably not) Shara isn’t as bad as Chloe thought.
I Kissed Shara Wheeler is Casey McQuiston’s debut into YA and one of the most hyped-up released of the summer and I was…nervous. I might be the only person in the world who didn’t love Red, White, and Royal Blue and really wasn’t sure what to expect from a book that sounded like a queer Paper Towns. I’m glad McQuiston actually acknowledges the John Green nod in the book because NO ONE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE SIMILARITIES AND IT WAS DRIVING ME MAD!
Anyways, this is a fantastic YA debut and I hope McQuiston has more to come. While Chloe and Shara weren’t exactly my favourite characters, and I had some issues with the whole attitude and caring argument at the end, I did enjoy Chloe as a protagonist. She’s driven and a touch mean, but I thought she was a great person to follow on this story. I also liked Chloe’s friends, especially Georgia and Ash, and would have liked to see more of them in the book. Smith was probably one of my favourites, he was so well-developed and I was so curious about where his story was going as the book went on.
As McQuiston says in her Acknowledgements, this book is for queer and questioning kids and it’s so clear in the text. McQuiston is telling her reader’s that it is okay to be who they are, that they are loved and that life is hard but that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there who loves them. She’s written a story where these kids can see themselves in, see love existing and winning, and especially letting them know that queer rom-coms are just as worthy as straight ones.
I Kissed Shara Wheeler was worth the hype and I’m so glad I read it during pride, because this story is about pride, about being proud of who you are. I can’t wait to read more of McQuiston’s works!
Publication: May 3 2022
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 356 pages (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction, LGTBQ*, YA, Romance, Comedy, Mystery
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤
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.