I KISSED SHARA WHEELER is author Casey McQueston’s debut young adult (YA) novel, though she’s already published two successful adult fiction books. And it’s a book that had me liking it, then not liking it, and liking it again as the story progressed. But as you can see, I ultimately awarded four stars.
Sometimes when I read YA books, I don’t understand why they get that designation. They seem to be ideal for adults too. Not so with this book – definitely YA all the way!
It’s a story about senior year angst at a private Christian high school in a small town in Alabama –with teenagers (nearing graduation) struggling to figure out who they are, how to act with their friends, what to share to their parents, and how much to reveal with peers. It’s also about hiding parts of oneself, telling lies, spreading gossip. And it’s about both the popular kids and the outcasts and all the judgments they make and the secrets they keep. It made me SO GLAD I’m beyond that place in life.
Central to the story are two VERY different girls:
• Shara Wheeler is the principal’s daughter and hometown sweetheart. She’s beautiful, dating the school football star, was just accepted early decision at Harvard, volunteers to help others less fortunate, gets perfect grades, expects to be class valedictorian, and is beloved by all. She’s perfect!
• There’s also Chloe Green, an outsider, though equally smart and with equivalent grades. She’s a rebel –an unhappy transplant from California, with two lesbian moms, and the only student officially OUT as bisexual. She is simply counting the days until she can leave Alabama for New York University.
Keep in mind the setting is a strict Christian southern high school.
Through a series of surprising and unexpected events, Chloe finds herself working alongside students outside her small group of friends and discovering new truths about them and about herself. And that’s all I’ll share about the plot.
The writing has McQuiston’s distinctively clever, sassy, sometimes snarky, voice. Which seemed to really fit teenagers. At times I was bothered by how mean these students are to each other. How selfish and dishonest. I even thought they were bad role models to provide to young adults. But there was no need to worry. I just needed to trust McQuiston, who so skillfully explores ALL the aspects of being a teenager and ties up the book in a completely satisfactory way.
More about Casey McQuiston.
You may be interested in my reviews of other books by McQuiston: