A.k.a. the time that a weaponised use of Freddie Mercury had me sobbing at 1am with the book pressed against my forehead, begging for a happy ending.
Yeah. In my defence, the reason I was doing that was that the book would not let me put it down until I have finished, after I had brazenly decided to start a reading session at 11:30pm in bed, knowing that I was heading into the climax.
One Last Stop is Casey McQuiston’s follow up to Red, White and Royal Blue, the book that I saw recommended absolutely everywhere when I started trying to find queer romances recently. This time it features poor girls living in Brooklyn rather than rich boys who live in palaces, which as far as my gay girl ass is concerned is a huge upgrade (I like it when girls kiss, ok?). I mean, technically the girls live in Brooklyn. One of them more accurately lives on the Q train, stuck in some sort of limbo between 1976 and the present.
August Landry is a student recently arrived in NYC trying to find her place in the world, away from her family that is shrouded in tragedy. Moving in with an eccentric band of queers and their dog, she’s trying to scrape together enough credits to graduate finally and at the same time, figure her life out. Then she meets Jane on the Q train. She’s gorgeous, she’s magnetic, she’s a queer punk and immediately August is smitten. The problem is, she doesn’t remember who she is or when she’s from and she can’t leave the train. Luckily for them both, August has had investigative skills drilled into her from a young age by her mother, and together they try and figure out who she is and how to get her home.
The cast of characters built around the central pair do an amazing job of making August’s world feel real and whole, a community living on the edge of the encroaching gentrifying forces of NYC, still tied to the past that the Jane starts to remember, but ever shrinking. Theres a wonderful sense of time lost, as it considers the march of queer history that elapsed between the worlds that the two girls know. Content warnings for the violence done against queer communities in the 70s and 80s especially, as it examines the cost of the more accepting world that August lives in, and also the limits of it.
It’s the central romance though that was the thing that had me hooked in, the thing that had me sobbing in the middle of the night. The chemistry between “Coffee Girl” and “Subway Girl” is wonderful, and not a little bit spicy (this book is certainly not PG), building as they use an array of sensory experiences that are triggering the memories that will help them in their goal of figuring out what is going on. A food item from a local institution, a song from the radio, a kiss staged just so to remind her of girls of the past, Jane slowly starts to reveal herself and the effect is wonderful, a beautiful way of building a character through their past. We all develop who we are through our experiences, and we all bond over sharing them it’s just that Jane has to do it limited by the walls of the subway car. As August and Jane’s romance grows, and the time gets more pressing, these moments serve as the building blocks of a lifetime. Once the need to free Jane becomes urgent, it was my desire to have things somehow work out, to have two girls from different lifetimes together, that had me in pieces in the night.
McQuiston’s writing had me pounding through the pages, I loved it so much. It’s the kind of story that absolutely has me wishing I could spend more time in this world, with these people, in their pasts and in their future. I’ll absolutely be seeking out their follow up I Kissed Shara Wheeler though I suspect that one won’t be able to leave me with one last parting gift that this one had, where I once again was susceptible to cover art when I stole August’s fit to be the centerpiece of my Pride look this past month. What can I say? A white tee under a strappy dress is a classic, all I had to do was add a theme appropriate floral snapback and fishnets and I was good to go.