Shara Wheeler is missing and has left behind a series of kisses and cryptic notes. Chloe Green, Shara’s academic rival, received one of those kisses and is now on the hunt to find Shara before graduation. With the help of Rory, who also received a kiss, and Smith, Shara’s boyfriend, Chloe pieces the notes together, unveiling clues that lead them on a wild hunt and reveal many secrets about Shara and about themselves. As Chloe gets pulled further into Shara’s mystery, she opens herself up to new experiences. Will the trio find Shara and finally get the answers they’ve been searching for?
This is a super fun romp featuring a large cast of diverse characters who are each on a journey to understand themselves. I absolutely loved most of the characters in the story and thought it was a fast-paced, witty read.
My favorite characters in the story were Rory and Smith. I thought they were both very likable and I enjoyed watching them piece together clues, grow closer to Chloe, and explore their own identities and desires. I liked Chloe less. I thought she was rather self-absorbed and willing to neglect her friends because of her obsession with Shara’s mystery, but I did think she grew as a character over the course of the story. I truly hated Shara, though. I thought she had no character growth, wasn’tfully fleshed out, and was lacking in any real motivation. I did not care if they actually found her towards the end of the book, which did lessen my enjoyment of the story.
One thing that I thought was odd was that some of the references in the story read like someone in their late twenties was writing the novel, rather than feeling true to teens today. There were multiple times when the references made it seem like the teens were in the early 2000s, for example listening to Mr. Brightside at a party, eating Uncrustables, and choreographing to Nicki Minaj. I enjoyed these references because it took me back to my teens, but I am not sure if they’d feel authentic to teens today. That said, do I really understand teens today? My teenage customers at the library might have something to say about that!
Casey McQuiston is a stellar writer, though. I have always enjoyed everything they’ve written because their books are filled with likable, quirky characters, an engaging writing style, and lots of humor and heart. This is their YA debut and I’m definitely curious as to what the response to the novel will be with teens.
CW: homophobia, religious opinions on sexuality