Book Content Warning: sexual content, nonviolent racism
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“August lost everything and thought that maybe, if she could become someone who didn’t have anything to lose, she’d never have to feel that way again.”— Casey McQuiston, One Last Stop
Nonbinary author Casey McQuiston’s sophomore novel One Last Stop is a heartwarming story of found-family chock full of eccentric, colorful characters that jump off the page. Reminiscent of their critically successful debut novel Red, White & Royal Blue, McQuiston’s much-anticipated follow-up is another heartwarming rom-com centering around a queer relationship and set against the backdrop of nostalgic New York City.
This time, McQuiston expertly crafts a speculative twist, making the novel that much more magical.
August is a southern girl who moves to New York City alone to finish her last year of college. Having grown up as an only child with her single mother, she’s spent most of her life trying to track down her mother’s missing brother. Unsure and in need of escape from her upbringing in New Orleans, she quickly befriends a group of diverse, LGBTQ+ twenty-somethings: Niko, a transgender psychic; Myla, Niko’s girlfriend; Wes, a tattoo artist; and Isaiah, Wes’s crush and a drag queen accountant.
August moves in with her new friends, enjoying her life in New York City, working in a pancake shop, and riding the Q Train. Everything is going “absolutely fine” until August meets the butch, mysterious Jane Su on the Q Train one day. The two feel an immediate, impossible attraction to each other, and soon become inseparable.
But Jane has problems of her own: she’s become unstuck in time, perpetually confined to the Q Train since 1977. August, a selfless sleuth, makes it her mission to recover Jane’s memories in order to find out how she got “stuck” in an effort to return her back to 1977.
As the two fall hopelessly in love with each other, August unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery alongside Jane, finally getting to figure out who she is without the constraint of her mother’s grip on her life. August finally gets to experience a depth of love that she never knew existed: “Is this what it’s always like? To want someone and know they want you back? How in the world does anyone get anything done?”
Every page of McQuiston’s novel is so packed with hilarity that I found myself repeatedly laughing out loud as I read. At the same time, McQuiston is able to carry so much authenticity with each of their words. On one hand, One Last Stop is a romantic comedy about finding yourself and your chosen family, but on the other, it’s a complicated and expertly crafted mystery that had me unable to put it down.
Even more important, readers get to see queer characters come to terms with their identities, as McQuiston tackles serious issues of intersectionality and the very real struggle to find your place in the world. As they navigate their lives as queer individuals in New York City, each character gets their own fully fleshed-out narrative that depicts their struggles and triumphs with their respective identities.
Importantly, nearly every character identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community; the book boasts representation for transgender, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, and many more diverse intersectional identities. Not a single central relationship or character in the novel could be identified as cisgender heterosexual, which I found both extremely refreshing and incredibly important for visibility.
I had the most fun time reading this novel, and I personally preferred it to McQuiston’s first release. It evoked so much more emotion for me than her first novel and even had me holding back tears of nostalgia at times. My only critique is that I felt that the time travel mechanic could be a bit too convenient. While the speculative element was creative and unique, it wasn’t completely fleshed out, so I was a bit “speculative” myself. Everything else, though, was extremely well done. 4.5 stars from me! This one is definitely a must-read for pride month, and McQuiston has successfully cemented their place as a hallmark writer of queer literature for many years to come.
Casey McQuiston is the New York Times bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue, as well as a pie enthusiast. She writes books about smart people with bad manners falling in love. Born and raised in southern Louisiana, she now lives in New York City with her poodle mix and personal assistant, Pepper.
One Last Stop can be purchased here.