I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Casey McQuiston. Wednesday, $19.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-24445-1

In this YA debut, McQuiston (One Last Stop, for adults) spins a multifaceted plot narrated by sardonic high school senior Chloe Green. In False Beach, Ala., bisexual Chloe, who has two moms and moved relatively recently from L.A., is the only out person at Willowgrove Christian Academy, a school that she attends for its AP program and theater budget. The action is set in motion when Shara Wheeler—the beautiful, universally beloved daughter of the overbearing principal, and Chloe’s rival for valedictorian—suddenly kisses Chloe, then, during prom, disappears. The departure kicks off a scavenger hunt that embroils Chloe; Shara’s boyfriend, quarterback Smith Parker; and Shara’s neighbor, stoner Rory Heron, all of whom Shara kissed before splitting. Chloe spends the last weeks of high school ignoring her close-knit friend group and responsibilities to puzzle together the clues. Slowly, the teens’ high school hierarchy–subverting alliance helps break down barriers created, in part, by the school’s particular brand of shame culture and prejudice. In a novel brimming with classic YA plotlines, crisp writing, humorous asides, and fully fleshed characters and relationships—many queer—keep things fresh, leading to a genuinely hopeful ending that centers themes of authenticity and autonomy. Chloe and Shara are white; Smith has dark brown skin; Rory is biracial (Black and white). Ages 13–up. Agent: Sara Megibow, KT Literary. (May)
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