Tag Archives: Casey McQuiston

Queer YA Spotlight: I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Finally, finally she gets it.

Shara isn’t a monster inside of a beautiful girl, or a beautiful girl inside of a monster. She’s both, one inside of the other inside of the other.

And that truth—the whole truth of Shara—leaves no room to pretend anymore. Neither of them did all this for a title. That’s what Chloe was afraid of her friends seeing. That’s where the trail led. That’s why she couldn’t let it end.

“Oh my God,” Chloe says out loud. Her brain is overheating, probably. “I’m in love with a monster turducken.”

Premise: Chloe Green has survived her high school years at Willowgrove Christian Academy fuelled by pride, spite, and the desperate desire to beat her academic rival: principal’s daughter, prom queen, church sweetheart, and all around insufferable overachiever Shara Wheeler. Shara throws a spanner in these plans when she kisses Chloe and then vanishes from town. As if the situation needed to be any more baffling, Chloe—alongside Shara’s boyfriend Smith and neighbour Rory—start finding cryptic notes written on pink stationary in Shara’s dainty handwriting…

Rainbow rep: a very tangled main f/f romance between a bisexual protagonist and a lesbian love interest; the protagonist’s two mothers; a friend group composed of a gay guy, a lesbian gal, and a non-binary pal; various members of the ensemble cast figuring out or tentatively revealing that they are not as cis or straight as we first might believe, including a romance between a gay guy and (most likely) a second non-binary character

Content considerations: the stifling experience of being queer in a small, religious town in the American South; casual homophobia from antagonistic classmates; institutional homophobia from the school; crummy conservative parents

Gay Geography 101: small towns? Bad. Big cities? Good! If you’re in the US, you want to hit the ground running as soon as you graduate and make your way to LA or New York, where your queer future will begin. If you’re in Australia, you want to hit up Melbourne or Sydney (what? You live on the west coast and don’t want to travel that far? Tough luck! Enjoy your sprawling desert of backwards bigotry! These are the only two options!).

This is a narrative that will be familiar to many people, I’m sure, and while it has its truths, it’s also one worth… unpacking.

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Filed under Alex Reads

One Last Stop and the Magic of Queer History

Someone will remember us
I say
Even in another time

Sappho fragment

She lets Jane’s memories transpose over here, now, like double-exposed film, two different generations of messy, loud, brave and scared and brave again people stomping their feet and waving hands with bitten nails, all the things they share and all the things they don’t, the things she has that people like Jane smashed windows and spat blood for.

[…] August can’t stop thinking how much Jane would love to be here. Jane deserves to be here. She deserves to see it, to feel the bass in her chest and know it’s the result of her work, to have a beer in her hand and a twenty between her teeth. She’d be free, lit up by stage lights, dug up from underground and dancing until she can’t breathe, loving it. Living.

McQuiston 2021, p. 267 – 268

It’s very easy to become detached from a sense of queer history. 98% of my knowledge about queer theory and history is self-taught, following recommendations from supervisors and reading lists and otherwise diving down research rabbit holes. I know there are holes in my knowledge base, and I frequently think how impossibly cool and helpful it would have been to have been able to take a class on this. But even if we’re not talking strictly academically, I think it’s easy to feel like you’re scrambling to “catch up on the homework”, so to speak.

There are gaps in the mainstream understanding of queer history, of queer writing, of queer activism, of queer life. From censorship, of course, and from the tragic loss of an entire generation of people who might have carried that information into the twenty-first century. But also from it being cluttered away in the margins, posed only as something hypothetical and weird and over there and not for you. As many benefits as the Internet has, experiencing queer community entirely online (and through uniquely online Community Discourse, good heavens) can leave you without a tangible, humanised sense of what’s come before, and its significance. A lot is rendered invisible and intangible, falls through the cracks. It can all feel a bit… nebulous. Abstract. Ghostly.

Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a novel about history and memory. August, a cynical and practical twenty-three-year-old, moves to New York looking for a fresh start, and quickly develops a crush on Jane, the handsome and charismatic woman August shares a commute with. But Jane doesn’t just look like a cool butch punk-rocker from the ‘70s, she is a cool butch punk-rocker from the ‘70s: somehow unstuck in time, and trapped on the Q trainline for eternity. Jane doesn’t remember how she got stuck here, August doesn’t know how Jane is possible, yet here they both are in a metal tube speeding along electrified rails, their weird little liminal space where the past and the present collide.

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Filed under Alex Reads, Fun with Isms