Casey McQuiston is the bestselling author of Red, White and Royal Blue. I Kissed Shara Wheeler marks her first foray into Young Adult fiction. A month before graduating from Willowgrove Christian Academy, the principal’s perfect straight-A student daughter, Shara Wheeler, kisses Chloe Green and then vanishes. And so begins Chloe’s furious hunt for answers. Along the way, Chloe discovers she is not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s boyfriend, and Rory, Shara’s neighbour with a crush. Thrown into an unlikely alliance, the trio follows Shara’s trail of clues and riddles as they discover there might be more to Shara than they thought.
As with the vast majority of McQuiston’s books, the characters were the standout quality in I Kissed Shara Wheeler. Our main character Chloe Green is fierce and determined, and her snarky jokes made for a hilarious read, as did her competitive streak. The side characters were equally as endearing, especially Georgia, Chloe’s bookish and queer best friend, who has a unique taste in clothing and reading material. With McQuiston’s expert characterisation, the whole cast of characters felt so real they could leap off the page. Each character was complex and flawed, with their own distinct personality, making them even more loveable and interesting. McQuiston did a marvellous job here of capturing the messy and uncertain feeling of being a teenager. Her characters wonderfully portray the complexity of how it feels to be coming of age, especially in a small, religious town.
It was incredibly enjoyable to see the relationships between the characters at play. The academic rivals’ dynamic between Chloe and Shara was especially entertaining, as was the development of their romantic relationship. Nonetheless, it was the friendships that stole the show. In particular, the unlikely friendship that formed between Chloe, Smith and Rory as they followed Shara’s clues together was fantastic. The trio came from completely different backgrounds, and in an ordinary high school setting, they would have never interacted with each other. Consequently, it was incredibly interesting to see how their polar opposite personalities meshed together and their easy banter and natural dialogue with each other.
All in all, I Kissed Shara Wheeler is a witty and original rom-com that marks a successful foray for McQuiston into Young Adult fiction.