One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston | ARC Review

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ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley
Publication: June 1, 2021

“August doesn’t believe in most things, but it’s hard to argue that Jane wasn’t put on the Q to fuck up her whole life.”

Red, White & Royal Blue was one of my favorite books of 2019. I was able to get a very early ARC of it, and I fell so deeply in love with this alternate reality I so desperately wanted to live in as a queer biracial with a hopeless romantic heart. Casey’s prose, characters, romance, banter, and (obviously) themes were everything to me, and I knew that they would take the book world by storm with their expectation-shattering debut. But then when they announced their next book would be sapphic Kate & Leopold, with an Asian love interest? Be still, my entire heart and soul. So when I tell you that I ignored every single ARC I needed to read and review before this one for the next eight months, I say that with my whole chest because there was no way I could stop myself once it hit my kindle.

One Last Stop is a story about a twenty-three-year-old bi girl named August who has moved from university to university, state to state, looking for a place that will feel like a home she has never known. Her whole life, her mother has expected her to assist in solving a missing person case from the 70s, but August just wants to find herself, her own way, and wants to feel like she finally belongs somewhere. At the start of this story, she has made it to New York where is she going to finish her degree, and thanks to a questionably placed looking-for-roommates advertisement in a Popeyes she starts to feel like maybe she could eventually call this city and these roommates home.

The Roommates:
Niko – trans Latino psychic (good) bartender (not so good)
Myla – queer Black electrical engineer turned artist (has an adoptive Chinese mom, who really added to the story so beautifully to me, so I am mentioning it here too!)
Wes – queer Jewish tattoo artist

Oh, and I am fully in love with all three of them and the found family depicted in this book is so heartwarmingly perfect, I promise you! There are even more side characters who will easily steal your heart, too, and there is also a big emphasis on New York’s drag scene, and how queer people of color are still paving the way in 2020. This book has a very diverse cast, and we see so many different cultures, sexualities, genders, religions, and more. (There is for sure bigger body representation with August, but I’m not sure that I would say it is fat representation. I will edit this and quote an ownvoices reviewer mutual once they read and review! Also, it is brought up a couple times that August’s mom conceived her via in vitro fertilization, and I just feel like we don’t really get to see that a lot in books and I really loved that too!)

But on August’s very first day’s commute to school, where she takes the Q train subway line, she is having a bit of bad luck and an exceptionally large coffee stain. But all that luck seems to change right before her very eyes, when she meets a girl who gives August her red scarf without hesitation. She can’t stop thinking about the girl who saved her bad day, and the low chances of her being at that exact spot when she needed someone in a city that is so busy second meetings never happen, especially on the subway. That is, until she sees the girl again, and again, and starts to realize that she not only is on the Q every time August is on it, but in the exact same train car.

Oh Jane, where do I even begin? Jane is a Chinese lesbian who is displaced from the 70s in some kind of magical timeslip, where she can’t remember much of anything about her past, only what she carries in her bookbag. That is, until Jane seems to be the only person who helps her remember, while also being the only person she can’t seem to forget. Oh, and come the Mid-Year Freak Out Tag? Every sapphic in the book community with have Jane Su as their fictional crush. On God and on everything else. When I tell you Casey McQuistion wrote most everyone’s sapphic dream, I say it honestly.

But basically, since August has been taught her whole life how to solve missing persons cases, and because she is very gay and can’t stop thinking about the incredibly swoon worthy girl on the train, she decides to do whatever it takes to help not only figure out Jane’s past, but to try to rescue her from the subway she is tethered to. Even if helping her means lots and lots of kissing, maybe especially so actually.

“It’s probably going to break my heart, and it’s still worth it.”

The romance in this book? A tier above. I feel like One Last Stop gave a new definition to the word “yearning” if you want my very honest opinion. Truly, this is the type of book that will make even the most cynical of readers believe in love. The emotions (and tears) it was able to evoke from me was nothing short of astounding. And now I will be forever longing for someone to have a notebook filled with me. Like, this book is truly so goddamn romantic, and the one-liners left me utterly gasping and fully quaking.

“but none of those girls were you.”

On top of the fact that the sex scenes were probably the best I’ve read in any f/f book in my entire life. The range of sexual acts, the different kinds of sex that queer people are extra blessed to have if they want to have sex, the learning of your partner’s wants and needs and body in general; it was all just so perfect, so sexy, and so realistic. And this book was so sex positive, especially when you are in your early twenties and learning what you want and like! Also, there was a very important (and seamlessly woven in) discussion on virginity and how the concept is truly something of dated myth, especially in queer communities.

“She read about San Francisco, about the movements happening there, about Asian lesbians riding on the backs of cable cars just to show the city they existed”

Casey McQuiston constantly pays homage to the lgbtqiap+ community (especially queer people of color) who came before us, who paved the way, and who are the reason that we in present day have so many more rights and freedoms. And they do not shy away from talking about the costs so many paid with heartbreaking loss.

The UpStairs Lounge fire happened in the 1973 and was the largest gay mass murder prior to the Pulse shooting in 2016. The Stonewall riots in 1969, where people refused to be silenced and erased by the police or anyone else, and in return gave us some many civil rights advances. To HIV and AIDS activists who had to live during the Carter and Reagan administrations who not only encouraged hate with racism and homophobia, but who heartlessly let so many die, while also eventually administrated drugs that would lead to toxic overdoses, simultaneously promising a vaccine that would never come. Victims had to wait until 2003 for baseline adequate help after so many had already been lost because of the virus.

There are so many challenges still with being unapologetically who you are in present day, but it is so important to honor and remember all of the lgbtqiap+ activists (again, especially the people of color) who came before us and made what we do have today possible. And Casey McQuiston truly keeps that at the forefront and makes it the heart of this story.

“two different generations of messy, loud, brave and scared and brave again people stomping their feet and waving hands with bitten nails, all the things they share and all the things they don’t. the things she has that people like Jane smashed windows and spat blood for.”

And surrounding yourself with people who see you, amplify you, support you, celebrate you, and love you unconditionally and unapologetically is so important, too. I think it’s always really important to mention that even though Casey honors the past, they filled me with so much hope for the future, and for future generations of marginalized voices who will more easily be amplified, more easily be heard, and so much more easily be seen.

Friendly reminder, if you haven’t found a place that feels like home yet, or the people who uncondiontally love and respect you, I promise you will and I promise are never alone in the meantime. Putting yourself and your safety first will always be the most important thing in all the different stages of life. And just know I see you, and I’m proud of you, and I’m cheering for you, always. But if you ever need extra help The Trevor Project and PFLAG can be wonderful recourses.

Overall, this book just meant so much to me, and I know it is going to mean so much to so many. 2020 has been so hard, so fucking hard, on so many, and this book was the 2020 escapism that I want to fold myself into forever. I haven’t left my home’s property in eight months, but with One Last Stop I got to feel whole and happy and seen on a New York subway, while watching two girls fall in love and carve out the lives that they want, unapologetically. Truly, this book made me even more proud to be a queer Asian, I only wish I was half as cool as Jane Su.

“you’re the first thing I’ve believed in since—since I don’t even remember, okay, you’re—you’re movies and destiny and every stupid, impossible thing, and it’s not because of the fucking train, it’s because of you.”

Oh, and this will probably be my favorite 2021 publication. Happy reading!

Trigger and Content Warnings: talk of loss of a loved one, talk of death, talk of anxiety and anxiety depictions, talk of the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina, alcohol consumption, talk of homophobia in the past, talk of racism in the past, talk of hate crimes in the past, mention of gentrification, and brief mentions of blood.

5

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Maëlys❤

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

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ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

“Is it possible you willfully forgot about the biggest international event of the year because you don’t want to see your arch nemesis?”

I honestly do not think that any book has made me happier than Red, White & Royal Blue, ever. I laughed, I swooned, I cried, but, most importantly, I finished the last page and felt such a powerful amount of hope that transcends any amount of words that I could possibly string together for this review. This is easily the best debut novel I’ve ever read, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if it ends up being my favorite book of the entire year.

First off, in this story, the characters are living in a world where the President of the United States is a democratic woman who was elected after Obama, and her 2020 reelection is quickly approaching. And I just need to take a minute to… *cries forever*! But this book really focuses on two young men, who happen to be very much in the media’s spotlight 24/7, because of the families they were born into. Oh, and one of them happens to be the First Son of the President, and up until this point he thought he was straight, that is until he finally is forced to spend time with his arch nemesis. And I’ll be damned, but this book made me simultaneously believe in love and believe in America.

Alexander Gabriel Claremont-Diaz – The First Son, who is quickly realizing that he is bisexual, but slowly coming out to those he feels safe with. Alex is also biracial (Mexican and white) and (thanks to my beautiful friend Alienor) confirmed to have ADHD!

“Straight people, he thinks, probably don’t spend this much time convincing themselves they’re straight.”

Henry George Edward James Fox-Mountchristen-Windsor – A Prince of England, who is closeted gay to many in his family (and to all media), because he constantly feels the weight of the expectations placed on him by his family and his country.

“O, fathers of my bloodline! O, ye kings of olde! Take this crown from me, bury me in my ancestral soil. If only you had known the mighty work of thine loins would be undone by a gay heir who likes it when American boys with chin dimples are mean to him.”

Alex has followed Henry and his fame long before his mother became president. But at the start of this novel, both men officially meet, but quickly get into a very messy predicament at a royal wedding they were both attending, which ends up being a PR nightmare for both countries, but especially for Alex’s mom, who is up for reelection. So, they are both kind of forced to fake a friendship to appease the press to save face. But a fake friendship quickly turns to a romance, that leaves both men questioning what they are willing to risk, while the press is always watching.

“First, you’ve been, like, Draco Malfoy–level obsessed with Henry for years—do not interrupt me—and since the royal wedding, you’ve gotten his phone number and used it not to set up any appearances but instead to long-distance flirt with him all day every day.”

I also wanted to make sure that I stated in my review that the author is queer (I believe they ID as bisexual, like Alex!) And even though Alex and Henry are obviously queer in their m/m relationship, this book also has such a beautiful and full cast of diverse side characters! I’m completely willing to give my life for June, Nora, Pez, and Bea, right this very second.

Like, I absolutely loved the side characters in this book. Also, you all know that I am always here for strong sibling relationships, and this book has that in spades! Alex’s family in general was everything to me; both of his parents being so supportive and always putting him (and his pace) first really meant a lot to me and makes me so soft just thinking about it. Seriously, this book is found family and blood family goals.

The banter and one-liners were perfection. This author completely understands what it is like to speak and text in your twenties, and they have mastered the craft to perfection. I was either cackling like a banshee or clutching my pearls with heart eyes during all of Alex and Henry’s exchanges. Also, since there is an ocean in-between these two, they correspond a lot of the time through emails, all of which added five years to my life.

Speaking of those emails, the romance in this is just truly a tier above the rest! The dynamic that Henry and Alex are forced into, and then the new dynamics they are forced to overcome, makes for something that you can’t help but root for with everything in your soul. Also, they are truly polar opposites with their personalities, but seeing them together truly feels like you are witnessing soulmates interact. I hate to say this but, your OTP could never.

And obviously because of the setup of this novel, this book does not shy away from US politics, and you should for sure know that going in. But the most tears I shed in this book was when Alex talked about what he felt like to be a biracial kid, and how America truly is a melting pot of immigrants and how that is something beautiful, and should be celebrated, not shamed and something that people consider to be a crime.

This is a book about two men, both in their early- twenties, discovering what they want for their lives and for their countries. Both for themselves and together. In a world that is cruelly unaccepting to anyone who isn’t white and straight, or who are just deemed different. They find friendship, they find love, and they find their voices. And to this Filipino American, pansexual, whose grandparents are both immigrants, who a lot of times really struggles to find their own voice, it meant the world to me. I’ll carry this book with me forever and always.

Overall, this book was just everything I’ve ever wanted. Put your library holds and preorders in now, because I know that so many readers are not only going to fall in love with this tale, but it is going to be one of their favorites for the rest of their lives. I promise you, it is truly that good, and this truly feels like a once in a lifetime book. Casey McQuiston has created something that is going to mean so much to so many readers, and this book is going to bring so much joy to our much-needed world. I’m just forever thankful that I was able to escape into it for a little while, while doing everything I can to make my country’s 2020 and on just as hopeful.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and Trigger Warnings for homophobia (always in a negative light), talk of racism in media, anxiety depiction, talk of cancer (pancreatic) in the past, talk of past loss of a loved one, talk of past drug use, talk of attempted sexual assault (very briefly) in the past from a very minor side character, and (in my opinion) outing. Also, this is a New Adult novel, so there are many sexual scenes throughout this book, even though they are fade to black for the most part!

❤ I also gush about this in my February Wrap Up on BookTube!

Buddy Read with Kerri from Kerri The Book Belle! ❤

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!