I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
Publication Date: 03 May 2022
Once again Casey McQuiston has brought us a complete joy of a book. They’ve had me completely under their spell since my first read of Red, White & Royal Blue (and through many subsequent re-reads). McQuiston has a knack for bringing us uplifting queer stories with universal appeal. I was beyond excited for this, their first foray into YA literature, and I was not disappointed.
I Kissed Shara Wheeler is a wonderful enemies-to-lovers tale against the backdrop of a small, ultra-conservative Christian high school. Our main character, Chloe, was transplanted four years ago from her life in Southern California to the hometown of one of her moms, deep in the heart of Alabama. But over the years Chloe has adapted to being the only openly gay student in her very repressed and homophobic high school, and now has her sights set on being the valedictorian of her class. The only person standing in the way of that goal is her mortal enemy, Shara Wheeler. Shara is pretty and popular, prom queen and girlfriend of the star quarterback. And she’s smart, always keeping Chloe on her toes in their battle for being number one in their class.
Shara unexpectedly kisses Chloe one day and then mysteriously disappears from prom the next. What follows is a scavenger hunt, with Shara’s location as the final prize. Following a series of clues left by Shara on her signature pink stationary, Chloe joins Shara’s boyfriend, Smith, and neighbor, Rory, as they try to solve the mystery that is on everyone’s mind: where did Shara go?
I Kissed Shara Wheeler is billed as a rom-com, but that’s not completely accurate. The two people we are supposed to be rooting for to get together are actually both kind of unlikeable. I was far more invested in the developing romance between Chloe’s compatriots than I was in her changing feelings for Shara. This story is part mystery, part romance, but mostly it is a lovely coming of age tale about finding love, finding your identity, and finding your tribe. It features a dazzling array of spectacular supporting characters, and I want each of them to get their own book. Especially Smith. I love Smith with my whole heart. With his flowers (the flowers!) and his journey of identity and his emerging feelings…I just wanted to wrap him in a big mama bear hug and tell him how beautiful he is.
I definitely recommend adding I Kissed Shara Wheeler to your TBR if you’re looking for something with humor and heart, but be aware of some content warnings before you do. This book deals with a lot of homophobia, as well as religious trauma. Definitely be sure you are prepared for that before diving in.
Thank you to NetGalley and to Wednesday Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.