ARCs · Reviews

ARC Review: I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

Today I’m bringing you a very exciting post for me, an ARC review of Casey McQuiston’s upcoming YA debut I Kissed Shara Wheeler. Getting and ARC of a book by one of my favourite authors was an incredibly exciting moment for me, to the point that it’s been months and I still can’t believe it. So writing this review does really feel like a privilege.

About the book

Thanks to the publisher for sending me an eARC.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Genre: Contemporary, mystery, romance, YA

Representation: Bisexual main character, most secondary characters are queer, BIPOC secondary characters

Content warning: Homophobia

Release date: May 3rd

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.

Add it on Goodreads. Add it on Storygraph.

Review

I had been really looking forward to reading I Kissed Shara Wheeler so I was beyond excited when I got sent an eARC by the publisher. Now, although Red, White & Royal Blue is one of my all-time favourite books, I didn’t love One Last Stop nearly half as much, so I was definitely nervous going into this. I’m happy to report that overall, I did really enjoy it, but there were still some aspects that I found quite lacking.

Going into this I knew I was going to love the humour, because Casey McQuiston has never let me down in that regard. I really loved the banter between the different characters and their varying personalities. Casey proved to me once again that their comedic voice is very in tune with my own, and their jokes always hit their mark. The humour felt very realistic and modern, with lots of pop culture references, but it wasn’t cringey or over the top. Rather, it was a faithful representation of what teenagers sound like today.

My favourite part of the novel was, predictably, the characters and especially, the secondary characters. This is something that I already experienced with One Last Stop, so it didn’t take me by surprise. Despite having less time on the page, you could really feel every single one of these characters’ personalities shine through. Everyone from Rory and Smith—who have the most appearances—to Chloe’s friends Georgia, Benjy, and Ash and even to Chloe’s mums. We get to see this very diverse array of characters with different interests and fears each get their moment.

This, however, didn’t apply to Shara Wheeler, which was a real shame and my main issue with the book. Shara is introduced as a bit of a mystery but I didn’t find her appealing or intriguing at all, not even after we uncover more and more of her little plot. I just found her quite bland and uninteresting, and while I loved seeing Chloe, Smith, and Rory run around trying to get more clues and uncover her plan, I enjoyed it because we got to see more of these characters interacting and forming bonds and not because I wanted to know about the plan itself. Additionally, I didn’t see any real chemistry between Chloe and Shara. Although I usually love the rivals-to-lovers trope, this one in particular lacked depth to me, and I couldn’t see any appeal in it.

As for Chloe’s character, I enjoyed having a protagonist that is far from perfect. Actually, Chloe is a pretty bad friend for most of the book, which genuinely drove me up the wall but it’s realistic. She is also not nice, and that’s a point that’s reiterated in the book quite a few times. It is refreshing to see a queer main character being unapologetically themselves, especially when that self is very far from the nonbelligerent stereotype that’s expected.

This book also explores Christianity, which is something that I personally do not have any wish to read about as it’s not my cup of tea at all. However, it was relevant in this instance because of the setting and the problems that growing up in such a community might cause in queer teenagers. It wasn’t a deep dive into the topic, but it’s touched upon a few times as Chloe, an outsider in this regard since she has been brought up in LA by two mums, sees the people around her struggle with their queer identities because of their upbringing.

Finally, the mystery. Like I mentioned, I liked the first part of it where Chloe, Smith, and Rory would go around collecting clues, but I never cared much about the actual stakes or what Shara’s entire plot was about. Additionally, I didn’t like the way it was resolved. It didn’t feel satisfactory at all, and the whole thing was simply unimportant.

All in all, I did enjoy my time reading I Kissed Shara Wheeler. The characters and their interactions was what kept me hooked from the start, but I did find the romance and the mystery lacking in their execution, which derived some enjoyment from the overall experience. I would still recommend this book to any contemporary or YA readers as I feel it has the potential to connect with lots of people, even if it wasn’t the most perfect of matches for me.

About the author

Casey McQuiston is the New York Times bestselling author of One Last StopRed, White, & Royal Blue, and I Kissed Shara Wheeler, as well as a pie enthusiast. Born and raised in southern Louisiana, Casey now lives in New York City with Pepper, a poodle mix and semipro personal assistant.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | TikTok

Have you read any Casey McQuiston book? What is your favourite? Are you planning on reading I Kissed Shara Wheeler?

10 thoughts on “ARC Review: I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

  1. Great review! It’s great to hear that you enjoyed this one despite the issues you had with one of the MCs. It’s hard to get invested when you don’t feel the chemistry between the ones you’re meant to be rooting for! There were some points you brought up that make me question whether this’ll be the book for me but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more reviews before making a decision. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really loved reading your review of this book. It was a book that immediately got my attention by how open to fun the premise was, therefore I am very happy to hear the characters solving the clues had great interactions and made the book for you. As well as the humour, the addition of humour can really make me love a book. It is a shame other aspects were lacking for you and couldn’t make it a new favourite. Hopefully, Casey’s next book will become a new fave for you!! And congrats on getting an ARC for this book, that is sooo cool!! 💚🌸💚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review Maria, and I’m so glad you were able to get such a highly anticipated eARC – that’s always such a wonderful feeling that honestly never goes away! I love when all the characters feel so full of life but it’s a bummer that didn’t quite extend to the titular character for you. It’s good you enjoyed it overall though!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I AGREE WITH BASICALLY EVERYTHING YOU SAID! 😭 IKSW was one of my best reads of the year, and you perfectly summed up what I thought of it (great minds think alike hehe). I loved the characters so so much, and despite the plot being pretty wacky, I thought it was such a fun read. I agree that all the characters were flawed but I thought it made it more realistic? So many high school books have perfect characters with their whole lives figured out and it’s so far from the truth. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, I think it’s such a shame that not many people have heard of it. I talked about how influential I think it will be to queer teens and why IKSW deserved so much more hype in my review here: https://hundredsandthousandsofbooks.blog/2022/07/19/make-some-noise-for-i-kissed-shara-wheeler/

    Liked by 1 person

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