Reading “I Kissed Shara Wheeler” in Prague, Czech Republic
It’s been quite awhile since I last posted — I’ve had so many fun travels I’m excited to write about. But more importantly, I have a new blog! Now that I’m set up on a new platform, I’m ready to get back to weekly book and travel reviews.
The Book: I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
I had to grab Casey McQuiston’s newest novel as soon as it came out. I’ve never been a big fan of romance books—they all come across as too cheesy or unrealistic, and the writing is often lazy and sub-par. Usually I prefer a good romance that’s contained in a larger genre or plot.
But when I read McQuiston’s debut novel, Red White and Royal Blue, in 2019, I’d finally found a romance author I liked. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still cheesy, but in a really great, refreshing way. Since then, they’ve published One Last Stop—which I also adored—and now I Kissed Shara Wheeler.
I Kissed Shara Wheeler begins with the town’s golden girl, Shara Wheeler, disappearing on prom night. An unlikely trio consisting of Shara’s quarterback star boyfriend, the unassuming boy next door, and academic rival Chloe Green work together to follow clues and find her.
It sounds more like a missing-girl crime story, but as it’s told it becomes one more focused on the queer experience in a small, Christian town, and what it means to not belong.
Chloe is one of the only openly queer students at her school, supported by her two moms. Her quest to find Shara starts due to her wanting to win the valedictorian title fair and square, but quickly dissolves into something deeper.
This is McQuiston’s first YA novel, with the other two being adult romance. I definitely prefer that genre and those two novels, but this coming-of-age story still showcased their excellent writing, relatability, and humor.
Dialogue can be one of the hardest things to get right — in any genre — but mainly romance. McQuiston always makes their dialogue sound so natural and believable, while at the same time remaining witty and hilarious.
It’s an easy read, a thought-provoking story, and one desperately needed amidst all of the anti-LGBTQ legislation passing in the US. To be oneself in this novel means to defy the town’s carefully curated perception of what normal is supposed to look like. Once again, Casey McQuiston doesn’t disappoint, and I would gladly recommend this book.
- It’s a good lie, and he’s good at delivering it, which isn’t surprising, since he spends his whole life telling students God cares about spaghetti straps. It’s almost believable.
- “I look at myself in the mirror and find something to fix. Like I’m the gardeners at the front of the club trimming rose bushes into the right shape. I moisturize my face and I condition my hair and I think about what I can say to exactly which person tomorrow to make them believe what I want them to about me.”
- Shame is a way of life here. It’s stocked in the vending machines, stuck like gum under the desks, spoken in the morning devotionals.
- “We carry the hurt with us, the confirmed fears, the insecurities people used against us. But we also carry the moment when someone gave us a chance, even though they didn’t have to.”
- “You know what’s wild?” she says. “When you’re born and raised in False Beach, you think Webster’s is how strawberry ice cream is supposed to taste. You can go to the fanciest ice cream parlor in LA or New York and have the most incredible scoop of fresh, artisanal strawberry ice cream in the world, but it’s still gonna be disappointing, because it doesn’t taste like the only strawberry ice cream you had for the first eighteen years of your life, when you were learning what ice cream was supposed to taste like.”
The Place: Prague, Czech Republic in May
I initially wanted to visit Prague during winter time when I was staying in Vienna. That plan never came to fruition, but I went with a few friends on a weekend trip.
I thought Prague was stunning — from the cobblestone streets to the gorgeous architecture to the bridges. I didn’t know much about it before visiting, and wasn’t sure what to expect.
On our first night, we had some delicious traditional Czech food coupled with beer. We stayed in a small, cute Airbnb near the city center and everything was very accessible by foot.
We went to Prague when we did because one of our friends was going to attend the Rammstein concert. Apparently, everyone else in Prague was as well. We passed by so many people wearing their merch, and many of the bars and shops were blasting their music all weekend.
One of my favorite experiences — which was definitely worth the $6ish to enter — was the Petřín Lookout Tower. Situated atop a hill (that was quite the climb), it’s a tower overlooking Prague. Some of these lookouts that European cities boast are usually not worth paying for, but this one was a pleasant surprise.
Since we didn’t have much time in Prague, we spent most of the time walking around to visit all the sights we wanted to see. I picked up 2 books at the Shakespeare bookstore (which I’d go on to read in Lisbon and Kos).
The Lennon wall was cool, as well as the Prague Astronomical Clock. We had dinner at the Vytopna Railway Restaurant — where a miniature train delivers beer and food to your table.
I’d love to visit Prague again, for a bit longer next time. It really was a lovely capital city and I feel like I barely got to see half of what it has to offer.