Title: I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Author: Casey McQuiston
Publication Date: May 3, 2022
Genre: Young Adult
Sub Genre(s): Romance, LGBTQ+, Mystery
Summary: 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.-From Goodreads
What I Liked: It appears Casey McQuiston can’t miss. This is her third release in as many years (although this is her first for young adults) and each one has been unique, complex, and entertaining. While I am not the intended audience for this book, the emotions in the story are universal and will appeal to anyone, especially those that are questioning their identity or their place in the world. I don’t know if this is a trend, or I happen to have picked up a few of these stores in a row but I am HERE for books featuring mean girls (or are they?) and showing different sides of their personalities. And showing that they deserve love too! Perfect protagonists are getting old, and McQuiston has created intriguing, realistic, imperfect characters. Like her previous books, one of the best aspects of this story is the theme of found family and the relationship between Chloe, Smith, and Rory is such a beautiful part of this book. Honestly, the main story could have been about anything and I would have read it as long as their relationship stayed the same.
What I Didn’t Like: All of McQuiston’s books seem to drop the reader right into the action, which can sometimes feel disorientating. It took me some time to familiarize myself with what was going on and who the characters were and who they were to each other. I also found the mystery itself to be a bit confusing and not in a good way. I didn’t see the point behind Shara’s letters because I didn’t understand the connections between the characters until further into the story.
Who Should Read It: Any teen or young adult will find something to like about this book, but adults will enjoy this one as well. Fans of McQuiston’s previous books will not be disappointed.
Review Wrap Up: I had high expectations for this one based on McQuiston’s previous books, and I was not let down. This story isn’t just about identity, it’s about ambition, internalized hate, and religious trauma. It’s a story about finding love in unexpected places and opening your heart to someone even though it can be scary. It’s a story about how people can let you down and how people can surprise you. It’s a story about being unapologetically yourself. This book filled my heart with joy and I love that these are the kinds of stories teens and young adults are reading and having access to.
Favorite Quote: “It’s not much—Chloe knows this. It’s just car windows rolled down, the blue-and-white glow of a Walmart in the distance, the smell of wet pavement under the tires, the hum of neon from a passing Dairy Queen, the same radio station as always blasting a rotation of the same fifteen songs. But she thinks she’s starting to understand what it means to be from here, because she could swear the bright red burn of artificial cherry is the best thing she’s ever tasted. She leans out into the wind and tips her head back, opening her eyes to the stars, and thinks maybe everything in the world really can fit inside False Beach city limits. Shara has that effect.”