Review: I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
I actually read I Kissed Shara Wheeler right before it was released on audiobook (provided by Macmillan Audio, and this in no way influences my thoughts) and wow I loved it! I can solidly say Casey McQuiston can write anything they want, and I will read it and probably love it. So far it’s 3 for 3, all 5-star reads for me!! And I really hope they continue to write across genres and age groups! Not one book has been the same and I devoured each and every book!
I Kissed Shara Wheelerby Casey McQuiston
Published by: St. Martin's Press
on May 3, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Young Adult
From the New York Times bestselling author of One Last Stop and Red, White & Royal Blue comes a debut YA romantic comedy about chasing down what you want, only to find what you need...
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.
I Kissed Shara Wheeler is a coming-of-age story about finding yourself and allowing others to find themselves along the way, even if you had to push them into the truths you wanted them to see. Casey McQuiston has written this YA contemporary brilliantly as part mystery – part slaying oppressive religious patriarchy.
Two things I am realizing you can depend on in a Casey novel; one is strong characters and character development. Second, a wonderful ensemble cast of queer characters. Since this was YA, I thought the discovery of the characters queerness was definitely more of the story, and less of them already being queer, like their previous two adult novels.
Shara Wheeler, the most popular girl in school, the one who is top of their graduating class, unexpectedly kisses the only queer girl in school, Chloe, leaves her a note, and then disappears just a smidge before graduation. What happens next is Chloe follows the clues Shara left, meets up with Shara’s neighbor, and boyfriend, who all kissed Shara and received notes too, to end up working together to find her … just like Shara wanted all along.
As some might think the plot is slightly unrealistic, to that I say sure, but also who cares! These teens are finding out who they are in a heteronormative society AND taking down a restrictive religious learning environment, while having fun and that’s fine with me!
One thing that I thought was slightly exhausting about Chloe & Shara was their need to defeat each other in school achievements, which I think closely relates to the young lesbian ways of the world. Hear me out, this was clearly the situation where either character can’t decide if they truly adore each other, worship them, loathe them, want to be them, or really it just takes you a tab bit of extra time in figuring out all that energy you’ve spent, really means you’re in love with them. So add in a restrictive religious environment and you can barely tolerate yourself trying to figure out your feelings. Cue “GAY PANIC!”
The audiobook was narrated by Natalie Naudus (who also narrated, One Last Stop, Cool for the Summer, She Who Became the Sun), is becoming one of my favorite voices to listen to, with a range of character voices and expert tone and inflection you really get lost in her storytelling. Absolutely loved listening to this one!
I Kissed Shara Wheeler is a mystery wrapped up in a coming of age story, about pushing the boundaries of a religious learning institution with a heavy dose of identity, survival, and a book full of humor with a side of Be Gay, Do Crime.
Many thanks to the publisher for sending me an audiobook to review.
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