Title: I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Author: Casey McQuiston
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook Listening Copy
Narrator: Natalie Naudus
Length: 9 hrs 24 mins (356 pages)
Publisher: Macmillan Audio; Wednesday Books
Release Date: May 2, 2022
Content Warnings: homophobia, religious bigotry, racism
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 know this is an unpopular opinion, but I did not like this book. It was not all bad. It kind of felt like a mash up of John Green books, particularly Paper Towns. I loved the side characters and their side plots (especially Chloe’s theater friends), and the overall queer love was amazing, especially against the setting of a Southern small town that emphasizes traditional religious values.
However, I thought Chloe and Shara were both unbearable characters. Chloe was constantly blowing off her friends to obsess over finding the clues Shara left behind in her manipulative runaway stunt. Their dynamic was extremely toxic, and I didn’t see enough character growth on either side until too close to the end of the book for me to ever root for their relationship.
I almost DNF this book because Chloe was such an insufferable main character, but I was curious enough about Shara’s whereabouts (which turned out to be anticlimactic) and invested enough in the side characters to finish. It was worth sticking with the book for the graduation plot line toward the end. The audiobook narration was well done, and I definitely would not have finished this book if I read it physically.
I’m thinking that Red, White, and Royal Blue may have been a fluke, and otherwise Casey McQuiston books are not for me. I felt similarly about One Last Stop where I loved the side characters and their found family dynamic but did not care too much for the main couple. I really wanted to love this one, but it just wasn’t for me.