ARC Review: I Kissed Shara Wheeler // A YA romcom debut to look out for

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Title: I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Author: Casey McQuiston
Genre/s and tags: Young adult, contemporary, romance, LGBTQ+, mystery
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication date: May 3, 2022
Content warnings: homophobia, religious trauma
Goodreads synopsis: 

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston Book Cover

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.

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A big thank you to Macmillan International and Fully Booked PH for the e-ARC!
(This, of course, did not affect my overall opinion of the book.)

Hello book nerds! I am back again with another book review. And it seems like another top 2022 read for me. I am talking about I Kissed Shara Wheeler! This is the much anticipated YA debut from Casey McQuiston. Now, because I enjoyed RWRB, I can’t help but be excited for this one as well! I have to say though, I started reading without really knowing much about what I was getting into. I ended up enjoying it way more than I thought I would!

I Kissed Shara Wheeler is a funny and heartfelt journey of queer identity, of finding love, and realizing that there’s more to the people around us. This is a YA romcom debut to look out for!

My thoughts on I Kissed Shara Wheeler

This was quite a ride, if I do say so myself. If I were to explain it very simply, I would say it was about gays trying to navigate high school, gays getting together, gays leaving cryptic notes, and also there’s a lot of gay panicking here and there. 😂

Jokes aside though, this book is so much more. It was also about queer identity, about survival, about love we haven’t really noticed before but found, about the people around us and the multitudes they hold. It was about the pressure people and even places put into us, and us trying to cope and/or overcome that in our own ways. I always love it when books surprise me and show me how much more significant they are, and this book did just that.

The writing style here in I Kissed Shara Wheeler is one of my favorites! It was funny, it was light, but it was also earnest. Best of all was that, McQuiston knew how to get your attention and make you keep reading. As a reader, I was hooked in the first chapter to the very end.

It also helped that the characters were interesting, captivating. Chloe, Rory, and Smith, who all seemed so different from one another, found friendship and common ground. Shara, who Chloe thought she already knew well, was turning out to be mysterious and compelling. The minor characters also added life to the narrative, and even Chloe started to realize that the other people around her also had their own stories.

I also loved that apart from Chloe’s perspective, there were also bits and pieces of notes and essay drafts and conversations from various people. It showed a lot of sides to the story, and it also showed us a bit of these characters and their personalities. I just loved that.

The plot, of course, was intriguing. I appreciate the intricacy of it all, especially with Shara’s disappearance and the clues she left behind for Chloe and the others. But also, I appreciate the way the author showed how hard it is to be a teen, a young adult, living with the constant pressure from parents and peers, and living in a town where they don’t want you to be different. Queer identity was also very much part of the plot and I just loved that queerness was explored and highlighted in different ways and in different characters.

When it comes to the romance, I started out a little conflicted. At one point, I started thinking it would be better to see Chloe, Rory, and Smith in one polyamorous relationship because they were having great chemistry! But then I got to know Shara and her motives, and her actions towards Chloe. And then it all made sense.

Overall, I Kissed Shara Wheeler book was funny, and heartfelt, and it was definitely a delight to read. Now I need to read Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop next!


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