Casey McQuiston broke the literary world in 2019 with top of the charts Red, White, and Royal Blue — a novel that needs little introduction, with two Goodreads Choice Awards and a constantly-growing fandom. Following a relationship between rivals Alex, the First Son of the United States and Henry, a Prince of England, the book had witty writing, one of the best supporting casts in fiction, and (multiple!) swoon-worthy romances.
Two years later, the author is back with their sophomore novel, One Last Stop, and it lives up to Red, White, and Royal Blue in a positively startling, completely different way.
It features cynical August, who moves to New York City and meets Jane, a girl from the 70s stuck in time. While navigating life with her diner job and abnormal roommates, she grapples with a rough past and an uncertain future and takes it upon herself to save Jane.
One thing that seems to have immediately set Casey McQuiston apart from other writers is their development of the cast without a deviation from the main plot. Since many of JUVEN’s readers are writers, there is something to be learned from her balance.
The cast in One Last Stop is a found family of queer roommates, and McQuiston fleshes each of their dynamics and personalities out. What often resonates with readers about this cast is the found family itself — the idea that there can be this group of people who understand someone perhaps better than their own family. It matters especially with queer youth, who can grow up with a sense of alienation if they don’t have positive queer influences in their lives.
Found family holds value to queer readers, and centering a story on growth as well the plot gave this cast more room to grow than the cast in many contemporary novels, such as the Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda
One Last Stop featured Augusts’ roommates, Myla and Niko, who knew what they were doing alongside fan-favorite Wes, who had parts of his life slotted out and found himself a mess in others. There was Issah, a drag queen who delivered a heart-wrenching line about an unrequited love and background characters with equal relevance and snatches of dialogue that became enough to make a reader fall in love with them and understand their characters.
It was a group of oddball artists, queer twentysomethings trying to make their ways in the world.
Being queer means that so many of the contemporary novels you come across deal with homophobia or coming out — all important topics and part of the conflict in Red, White, and Royal Blue — but McQuiston gave us something unseen here — with the characters having these rich lives.
Sometimes being queer seems like a death sentence when it’s not. Like coming out means you’re forever know as the-kid-who-changed-their-name (and nobody understands why). A character in One Last Stop says his transness is the least cool thinking about him, and queer teenagers especially need that because they need to see queer adults living these rich and full lives while being happy and comfortable with themselves.
Something that made One Last Stop so achingly different from the author’s previous work is that Alex and Henry from her last book were star-crossed. There was no world where a reader could see them ending up with anyone but each other. They would overcome every deep and dramatic conflict in the book because that is just what princes and heroes do.
With August and Jane, it felt more deliberate. They were strangers and later, not even close to romantic for much of the book. There were moments where the author hinted they could lose the relationship, and there was this sense of inevitability — it wasn’t crushing the way Red, White, and Royal Blue was — it was viscerally, achingly real because that is what life is sometimes, and in those moments, you’d have to close the book and remind yourself that they’d have a happy ending, romance or not.
The love story didn’t feel as desperate, as demanding, but it was always there, buried in conversations, time spent together, this quietly growing companionship waiting for a confirming confession. It was soft and honest and kind, in all the ways sacred texts and poetry say love can be.
August set out to do the impossible for Jane, but that wasn’t the love story. It wasn’t I do this because we love each other — I do this because you deserve a shot at life, whether or not I get to share that. August knew Jane could end up going back in time, away from her, and she was willing to help anyway — long before they were a couple.
It was refreshing to see them as people outside the romance, and is part of why One Last Stop hit so hard.
Because there’s people like that, right? People that try to help strangers and people that are kind to others before they know them? There’s that too — when the world seems so closed off, so bubbled in — especially during times of COVID, which still runs rampant in many parts of the world. There’s kindness and generosity and determination.
That’s the love story McQuiston wrote with August and Jane. They started the girls’ stories with kindness and ended them with love.
is a high school student in New Jersey. She likes (in no particular order) books, music, science, history, running, and (of course) writing and is always up to learn something new! Find her on Instagram at @writing_stoot.