I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
LGBTQ+ Romance for Teens
May 3, 2022, Wednesday Books
Review by Jen
This book was such a delight! I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston brought tears to my eyes in the very best way. I’ve had Red, White, and Royal Blue on Kindle, and while everyone loves it, and I want to read it, I just haven’t yet. Now, I will. Same author as this gem.
Set in a small conservative town in AL, the story follows senior queer girl, Chloe Green and her quest to solve the mystery of where popular girl Shara Wheeler disappeared. The entire student body of Willow Grove Christian Academy is riveted and gossiping over Shara’s mysterious whereabouts. But, none are as intrigued as Chloe, Shara’s boyfriend Smith, and Shara’s bad boy neighbor, Rory. They’re all three invested because Shara kissed them. The boyfriend is expected. But, no one was more surprised at Shara’s surprise kiss than Chloe. And while Rory has always had a crush on Chloe, he’s also shocked at her kiss. She just kissed them all and left.
Shara throws them into a huge scavenger hunt of sorts by leaving pink envelopes with clues to her location in meaningful spots around their small town. A bit more backstory, Chloe moved with her two moms to AL when her grandmother was sick. They ended up staying and she’s an outlier in their town. A queer girl from California with two moms and a side note- she and Shara are the two best students in school.
Smith, Chloe and Rory go about interpreting Shara’s cryptic notes. They’re an unlikely trio and in a Scooby Doo-esque pursuit of the truth, they become friends. From breaking into the principal’s office (the principal is Shara’s dad!) to awkward parties, stage makeup, and dark secrets, the friends learn more about each other, their small town, and Shara Wheeler’s truth.
Each character is unique and struggling with their own identity. They go about it in very different ways, finding themselves and where they want to be in life, and who they want to be there with. It’s one of the sweetest, most inspiring coming-of-age stories that I’ve read maybe ever. I liked it that much. I LOVED Chloe Green. Her fierce competitive spirit shined. Her fellow students feared her a bit. She’s different, a bit exotic, and a badass. In the middle of all that armor, she’s just a vulnerable young woman with dreams and worries like everyone else. I also loved Smith. Here’s a tough QB who’s college bound to play football, going out with the homecoming queen, Shara. Seemingly perfect. Good looking, nice, a star for the in-crowd. And, not at all who he projects himself to be.
Romance themes were light and friendship themes were heavy. It was such a positive message, like at the end of The Breakfast Club when Bender (Judd Nelson) raises his fist and walks off to Simple Minds “Don’t You Forget About Me”, that’s how good it felt.
The audio was great, and the narrator Natalie Naudu was terrific! Highly recommend giving it a listen!! In the crappy world, we’re all experiencing now, this book has so much heart and hope.