This Is a Bit of a Rant Review: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

I rarely preorder books. Recently I have started to do it more often but I still try to limit myself because I’m always nervous I may not like a book enough to own it. One Last Stop is Casey McQuiston’s, author of Red White & Royal Blue, sophomore novel. This was one of my most anticipated books of 2021 and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it so it was one of the few books that I’ve preordered for this year. When I initially read RWRB I really liked it and while my opinion on it has changed a bit I have reread it four times. So upon hearing the synopsis of OLS I was incredibly excited for a sapphic contemporary novel mixed with a unique sci-fi element. Unfortunately though I found the story to be lackluster and the main twist of the plot was poorly executed.

With that being said this is going to be a bit of a rant review. I’m going to split it into a few different sections to try and keep my thoughts together and I’ll also make a disclaimer now that there will be some spoilers. I will note the sections that contain major spoilers in case you want to skip them!

One Last Stop

Synopsis

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Things I Liked

I’ll start with the things that I liked about the book because I do think that McQuiston shows a lot of promise as an author. I did enjoy OLS enough to finish it and the main reason for that is the colorful cast of characters. The way that McQuiston crafts their side characters is something that I love, it’s one of the things that has brought me back to RWRB and would also bring me back to OLS someday too. I’ll be honest when I say that both books also featured romances between side characters that I was more invested in than the main ones at times.

Another thing that I adore about McQuiston’s books are the friendships that are formed in both. I appreciate these friendships so much because they end up giving me so many warm fuzzy feelings and have me wishing for my own group of friends I could be that close to. I think that McQuiston writes fun stories and I’m a bit unsure of whether or not I’ll be picking up more of their work in the future though I’m just waiting it out at this point.

So now onto some of the things that I didn’t like about the book…

Writing

I’m a big fan of a casual writing style! Sometimes I think it’s fun to pick up books that feel more conversational than wordy and prose filled. I don’t mind swearing in books (usually). With OLS, though, I was honestly thrown off over how much the word “fucking” was used. And I swear A LOT so I’m all for using it as emphasis and frequently do but it genuinely started to get to me the more I read. And I’m aware that this is a very tiny critique but that’s mainly why I put it first. I just think that without this aspect I would have been able to stay immersed in the story instead of taking as long as I did to read it.

Plot

***THIS SECTION WILL CONTAIN MAJOR SPOILERS***

One of the main things that I think I had an issue with in terms of the plot was the pacing. I went into OLS expecting the overarching plot line of helping Jane get back to the 70’s to be woven throughout. McQuiston writes really fun side scenes and side stories within their books but I think in this story it ended up detracting from the time travel portion. I’m going to be honest, I think that this could have just as easily been written without the light sci-fi and almost everything about the story could have stayed the way it was. It was just a convenient way to make Jane be “unavailable” to August in her “real” world. This also was obviously the only way that August or her mom would have ended up getting closure about August’s uncle.

Now this smaller plot line about August’s missing uncle felt like it should have been given a bigger space within the story. I was immediately intrigued by this once it was introduced into the book and I understood why August didn’t bring it up but it took so long for it to be really mentioned or explained that it felt rushed. In part, I also felt like while the confrontation August had with her mother had spent years being built up it didn’t have the same sort of emotional response in me that I had expected. Jane wasn’t a big part of the narration outside of her small flashbacks but I really wish that McQuiston would have given her a bigger role. I would have adored to read about her time with Augie in Louisiana. And I especially would have appreciated to learn more about Jane’s past.

To speak more on the sci-fi aspect of the plot. Jane and August have a run in on the subway and it was lust at first sight. Okay, I’ll go with it probably being more insta-love but I digress. August makes it her sole purpose/goal to rescue Jane from this time trap. And again, this intrigued me from the minute McQuiston started talking about it. I was pumped! But the plot ended up being boiled down to August romanticizing what she has with Jane and acting in an almost white savior role. There was little to no development of the relationship between Jane and August and it was hard for me to understand the motivation and overall need for the sci-fi. I just felt like there was a lack of insight into why August singlehandedly had to save Jane. It went from meet-cute to 100 and I wasn’t a fan of that.

I also wanted to make a small comment on the sexual aspect of August and Jane’s relationship. I’m on the ace spectrum so I try to avoid commenting on things like this when reading because I know these scenes aren’t written for someone like me in mind. With that being said, you may be wondering, “Isn’t Jane stuck on the subway? How do they have sex if she can’t leave the subway?” They do it on the subway…… And again, this type of sex interests people, I know that, I’ve read a lot of kinky fanfiction (and some romance books) over the years however it made me so uncomfortable that I had to skip these scenes and couldn’t read them. Other people can’t consent to seeing you doing the deed in public spaces so one of the scenes in here really overstepped that boundary in my opinion. Also I’m just thinking of how gross subways are and I want to take a shower on behalf of August and Jane. Alright, I’ll wrap this up now and move on.

Characters/Setting

***THIS SECTION WILL CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS****

As I mentioned in the previous section, August ended up feeling like she was placed in a white savior role. For the most part she felt realistically flawed and I could relate to her a decent amount but when she became so focused on saving Jane that she neglected the rest of her life I got frustrated. It didn’t help that at one point August went to meet with an academic advisor because she was majorly slacking off at school and instead of having to grovel or anything like that she was informed that she was mere credits away from graduating. Like shit if only that’s how it worked for me when I neglected school.

This was a big piece of evidence as to how everything was just incredibly convenient for August. Sure, she had pitfalls here and there but overall she didn’t struggle with anything. And with the lack of development on Jane’s side of the story I was unimpressed. Again, this is why I ended up liking the side characters in this book more than the main ones.

Also, on a slightly different note but still relating to the convenience of everything for August, this whole book romanticized being a young adult as well as the entire city of New York. At the end of everything August starts to formulate an idea of using the skills learned from her mother in trying to find Augie that she would try to pursue something like people finding as a career. I understand that being in your twenties is difficult and trying to decide what you’re going to do with your future can be near impossible (speaking from personal experience and current existential dread) but all of the characters in this book just floated around seemingly without a care in the world for rent, groceries, insurance or anything related to living on your own. It romanticized everything about living in New York without really accounting for reality. I’m linking a Goodreads review from another user here that I think adds a lot more to my thoughts on this.

And finally, a line that deserved the conclusion of my post

This section will contain spoilers

This interaction occurred between Jane and August in Chapter 12. August gets on the subway and finds Jane with a split lip and a ripped shirt, when questioned Jane says:

“Some guy called me some shit I’d rather not repeat,” she finally says. “That old racist-homophobic combo. Always a winner.”

Page 292, One Last Stop

There’s more conversation during which August asks if anyone had called the cops and when Jane begins to get defensive August says:

“I know- it’s, it’s fucked up,” August tells her. She’s thinking about the fire, the things that drove Jane from city to city. “But I promise, most people aren’t like that anymore. If you could go out, you’d see.”

Page 292, One Last Stop

This interaction was almost enough to make me put the book down because it felt so insensitive. Not only was August insensitive to the very real things that Jane had experienced before she was stuck on the subway it felt biased to a white queer experience. Jane watched her friends dying of AIDS. She thought she lost her closest companion, August’s uncle, in a fire that was set in a space that gay men frequented and since we find out by the end of the book that he has died then we know that Jane truly did have reason to grieve for him. The comment was so flippant, so casual, like Jane hadn’t literally just experienced this interaction. Strides have been made for the LGBT+ community but by saying “most people aren’t like that” is a dismissal of the fact that there are people out there who will not hesitate to harm a person in the LGBT+ community.

From the Human Rights Campaign Foundation I’m linking their “Dismantling a Culture of Violence” report. I found it to be a highly informative and heartbreaking read about how anti-transgender stigma has created a culture of violence. I also want to highlight the fact that BIPOC who are in the LGBT+ community are disproportionately targeted. Last year there were 44 trans or gender nonconforming people who were murdered in the US. Half of this number were women of color, a majority Black. This year alone there have been 28 murders of trans or gender nonconforming individuals, almost all of these being BIPOC. On top of this there are numerous states that have introduced or passed anti-LGBT legislature.

I also wanted to add to this that Jane is Chinese. With the current abhorrent racism towards Asians in America this is another reason this scene left a bitter taste in my mouth. It was upsetting to see how August dismissed Jane’s trauma and romanticized the world they lived in.

I felt like it was important to include this section of the post because privileged one off comments like the one August made, the one McQuiston included in the book, only add to the struggles that marginalized people face. It’s important to acknowledge that the white queer experience isn’t universal. And August barely internalized that. After reading this section in OLS I almost put the book down because it frustrated me so much but I wanted to write this post so I ended up finishing it. Before I sign off I just wanted to leave y’all with some suggestions of action steps you can take based off of the things I wrote earlier in this section.

If you live in the United States, I encourage you to contact your representatives about anti-LGBT legislation. I was really nervous about doing this at first but there are a lot of handy scripts out there for both emails and phone calls. Now whenever I see something I want to make a statement on I fire off an email. Google is really helpful for finding your reps and all that jazz but if you want any help feel free to reach out (you can email me at adventuresandespresso@gmail.com).

Educate other people in your lives. Seriously, this one can be a lot easier than you might think. I understand if you’re not in a place where you are able or safe enough to educate those around you but if you are just talking about issues and how they hurt people can be a big influence. I used to rant about political stuff constantly to my former coworker and on more than one occasion she told me that I had taught her a lot.

Lastly, I know that there are plenty of big name organizations that you can donate to but I wanted to emphasize the importance and benefit of mutual aid. There are so many people that need financial help. People who need to get out of unsafe living situations, trans individuals who need help affording to transition, the list is endless. When I’m on Twitter and have a bit of extra money I try to find people who are asking for help. It may not seem like a lot if you only have a few dollars to spare but it could mean everything to that person seeking help. If you or someone you know has a need for financial help feel free to reach out if you’re comfortable letting me add the information to this post and I will!

With that, I’m going to sign off for the day. I’m really disappointed that this ended up not being the book I was hoping it would be but I’ve got a list of sapphic contemporary books to pick up next so on to the next one! If you’d like to connect with me elsewhere you can find me:

On Twitter: @/nihilisticactus

On Readerly: @/sideofadventure

My email for review inquiries, etc is adventuresandespresso@gmail.com

You can add me on Goodreads or follow my reviews here.

And my Ko-fi in case you’re interested in financially supporting the blog.

June Reading Wrap-Up

Well I feel like if I continue to read as many books as this month or more I might have to start splitting up my wrap up posts into multiple parts! This was a really productive reading month for me. Although I’m sure if I end up getting back into school this fall that my “for fun” reading will diminish greatly as it always does when I’m in school.

Anyways, after each book I have attached links to the places that you can go to purchase these books if you are interested. The Amazon link is an affiliate link. The links attached to each of the titles will send you directly to that books Goodreads page for more information! And without further ado, here are all the books that I read in June!

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

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4/5 Stars. Overall, I really enjoyed this story. It was an incredibly (sometimes overwhelmingly) detailed tale following a myriad of characters through the events of a Singaporean summer. Though there were some aspects of the story that I didn’t enjoy, I could see why it was written the way it was. Such a lavish and interesting book. I highly recommend.

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barns and Noble // Book Depository

If Only by Melanie Murphy

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2/5 stars. This was a sweet slow-burn romance about second chances, “if only’s”, and learning about oneself. It was an easy read but I felt like the plot dragged on as well as being pretty predictable. I had some problems with the story and characters that kept me from fully enjoying it but it was by no means a bad read. I think I’m just really picky with my romances! It was also a lot more emotional than I had expected it to be but I appreciated the rawness of some of the emotions throughout.

I would recommend this to people who like more emotional contemporaries, sweet, slow romances, and a little bit of magic. Also this was the first ARC review that I’ve done so I was really excited about that! Still kind of surprises me that I can get ARCs!

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

The Girls by Emma Cline

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3/5 stars. This book had been sitting in my Kindle library for over two years and I finally checked out a physical copy of the book from my public library to actually read it. The plot dragged on at some points but it was really well written and incredibly atmospheric. It just felt like it was missing something!

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

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5/5 stars!!! Definitely going to be in my top books of the year I feel! Here’s the link to my blog post about this book. I highly recommend this book and I am so excited to read what Casey McQuiston comes out with next!

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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5/5 stars. I’m working on a post right now about all of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books and I started with this one. Absolutely loved it and it had the exact ending that I was hoping for! I found the characters in this story to be really mature and I was really impressed with how logical the ending came about. Reid writes lovely stories that just fly by!

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

Fled by Meg Keneally

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4/5 stars. This is a debut novel by Meg Keneally. I got an ARC of this book from NetGalley and will link my Goodreads review here. I think that anyone who likes really engrossing historical fiction would enjoy this. Some bits drag on but the book also takes place over quite a few years so it’s kind of understandable that there will be slower parts. Such an interesting story though and to think it’s based off of a real woman is just amazing. I’ll be interested to see what else Keneally comes out with in the future!

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

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5/5 stars. I thought that this graphic novel was cute and funny and it reminded me so much of my own time at camp that it made me super nostalgic!! The art style was lovely and I really enjoyed the monochromatic color palette that Brosgol chose. When I was reading other people’s reviews I was kind of surprised by how harshly it was rated but it didn’t make me want to change my own review. I could see where everyone was coming from but I thought it was a 5 star book for myself nonetheless.

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

See How She Dies by Lisa Jackson

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1/5 stars. This book was published in 2004 and let me just tell you that it did not age well at all. Trigger warning for abuse, rape, incest (I don’t even care about how the plot ended up but I’m calling whatever this BS romance was incest.) I feel like this book had so much potential and then it just fell short in every single aspect. There were so many plot holes and stupid reasons as to why the plot couldn’t be different (I spent half the book yelling at them to do a DNA test but apparently it wasn’t possible because the parents were cremated, um the girl has four living siblings? Do they not possess the ability to give a sample of their DNA?) Really just not a great book.

Also I’m not linking places to buy this book. Don’t read it, honestly. And if for whatever reason you feel a need to read it, just get it from a library or find it second hand. But truly, guys, it is not worth reading! I’m not even sure anymore if I want to give Lisa Jackson a second chance. There’s a whole shelf of her books at my library but every time I go there I see this book on there and just get sick to my stomach.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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4/5 stars. This was the first Christina Lauren book that I have read and I really enjoyed it! I’ve come to realize that I am really not a fan of enemies to lovers stories because I’ve yet to see one executed in a way that the “enemy” aspect isn’t literally only from miscommunication. So if any of you know of a book where they’re actually enemies first send that recommendation my way!!

I wrote a longer review of this which you can read here.

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

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5/5 stars. If I could go back in time and give this book to my high school self I would. I will be recommending this book to every high schooler and early university student from here on out. Like this is exactly the type of book I would’ve wanted to read when I was questioning my entire life back when I was 16-18. And because I’m in a similar headspace again now I think this book just hit really close to home.

You can read more of my in depth thoughts here.

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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3/5 stars. Again, working my way through Reid’s books for an upcoming post that I’d like to publish by the end of July! Of the three books by her that I read in June, this was my least favorite. I found the main character to be really grating and I wish that I had liked the romance in this a little bit more. I just felt like the relationship leaned more towards toxic than it should have. Felt very lusty over lovey in my opinion and I wasn’t overly impressed.

If you like Reid’s other books I would recommend this but if you haven’t picked up her books before I wouldn’t suggest this to be the first one that you read. It was an interesting concept with killing off the love interest in the first chapter and seeing how the characters go from there but the flashbacks to before his death kept me from really seeing how she loved this guy so much. I’m sorry but I really feel like nothing good comes from rushed relationships.

Despite all of that it was breezy to read through as I’ve found with each of Reid’s books and I did enjoy most of it which is why I ultimately gave it 3 stars.

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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5/5 stars. Earlier in the month I had read If Only by Melanie Murphy which is another sort of “what if” plot. I would have to say that Maybe in Another Life executes the plot better. At least in my opinion anyways. I found the parallel plot lines in this novel to be really interesting. Some people didn’t enjoy it when things were the same down to very specific things but honestly I kind of enjoyed that! I thought it was so interesting to see how similar the plot lines could end up and how much overlapped and intertwined despite them playing out so differently.

I also loved that the message in the end was that no matter how your life ends up due to the choices you make, you can find happiness. It just gave me a lot of really warm fuzzy feelings to read the last couple of chapters.

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

While the Duke was Sleeping by Sophie Jordan

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2/5 stars. Okay I still can’t stop laughing at the fact that I read this book… Oh boy I am so not a fan of these type of romance novels! But I decided to give it a try anyways because people won’t stop talking about these types of books. Reading this though definitely showed me that these are not my style and I don’t need to try and make myself read others even though people rave about books like this.

I think that people who are fans of smutty romance would probably enjoy this a lot more than I would. It’s a pretty average book and was really quick to read so I’m sure there will be people out there that would love this!

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

So at this point I have about 6 books that I’m currently reading so if I can make myself come out of this reading slump that I’m falling into I will hopefully be able to finish reading those books. There is a very long list of books that I want/need to review as well as quite a few other posts that I’d like to get out this month. I think July is going to be quite busy for me so we’ll see how this goes!

What books did you read this month? Anything that you think I should check out? Did you read any duds this month? What are you looking forward to reading in July?

Review: Red, White, & Royal Blue

Happy Monday everyone! I’m back today with a review about Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston!

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Holy wow. This might just be a post about me gushing about how much I loved this book and honestly I don’t even care. I finished this book on Saturday and had to hold off on posting this post until now because I didn’t want to jump the gun!

Warning you now that this post will contain spoilers and an affiliate link!

So I’m not sure if you have seen this book going around the internet as much as I have but it seems like every single person that I follow that has read it absolutely can’t stop gushing about the book. I also began following the author on Twitter because she seems so sweet and I just wanted to participate in the excitement surrounding this book!

My spoiler free review of this book is as follows:

Red, White, & Royal Blue is a stunning debut novel by Casey McQuiston. The story is emotional, endearing, eye-opening, and euphoric. (Once I had those first two “e” words I couldn’t stop lol). Every character is unique and so real that I found myself wanting to read entire novels about each and every person mentioned within these pages. I laughed, and cried (and cried), and found myself squealing on more than one occasion. This is a story about love conquering in the midst of so many obstacles and I highly recommend this book to anyone. 5/5 stars!

If you don’t already own this book, you can purchase the book at the links underneath this paragraph if you’re interested, I truly recommend reading this book however you can get your hands on it! I really wish I didn’t have to return my copy to the library already but I’m going to try and order my own copy soon! I’m already thinking about rereading it.

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Anyways… Now on to the spoilers.

Discussing spoilers from here on out. Enter at your own risk. 

I have to be honest in saying that I really wasn’t sure going into this if I was going to like it or not. I’m very picky with the type of romance that I like and am starting to crack down on reading into books so much that I tend to tear apart anything that I read.

I’ve seen so much hype for this book on Twitter and a little on YouTube that I was really skeptical but I was so excited to support Casey that when this book became available for request at my library I got it right away. By the end of the first page I was hooked and it was really hard to convince myself to put this book down! But I forced myself to read it when I wasn’t at work so that I could really concentrate on it and not be half distracted while reading and I’m really glad I did that.

This book was so real to me I was immersed in the story and the characters that for a while I couldn’t imagine this not being real and that is one of my biggest signs of it being a top book for me. Every single character had such a personality that I would genuinely read any story written about any of them. Cash, however, has a special place in my heart and I have absolutely no idea why (maybe it’s because of that one scene where he had a feather boa on?).

Family was so strong in this and I appreciated how both Alex and Henry had their families to back them up. One of my favorite lines in this was from Alex’s mom when she called him a dumbass and told him she loved him. That’s exactly the type of family that I love seeing, supportive and real, like his mom is the president and yet still wants what is best for Alex and June. I find it really hard to read stuff where a parent has a high ranking position and loses their ability to care for their family anymore. And I know that both sides of this narrative could happen but I just appreciate it when there is a strong, positive family dynamic within a story.

I loved that this book was political without being extreme on the politics. Politics stress me out to no end and I was pleased to find that this book did not cause my anxiety to spike. I actually think that this story was incredibly well balanced in all aspects. It wasn’t overly romancey or overly political or overly anything. Casey did an amazing job in writing this story and I genuinely cannot wait to read her second book whenever it comes out!

Now I don’t even know what to say about the romance. It was so obvious from the beginning that Alex was totally in love with Henry and I truly enjoyed seeing how it all unfolded. It was disgustingly cute at times and I just really found myself cheering for this couple the entire time. There were definitely some points where I wish there would’ve been more dialogue between the two but I think in the end it all evened out and I was happy with what I’d read.

And it’s probably the ace in me that really loved all the side characters and plot over the romance but hey that romance was pretty dang good too.

All in all though I loved this book and will continue to gush over it and recommend it to everyone. If you’ve endured this spoilery section and gotten to this point, what did you think of this book? Who was your favorite character? Are you looking forward to reading Casey’s second book? Do you have any recommendations for other books that are like this one? I’d love to chat with you!

Anyways, I hope that you all have a wonderful week!

P.S. Enjoy this picture of me as I was reading the first kiss scene:

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