See the cover for Casey McQuiston's third novel I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Casey McQuiston knows how to make us swoon.
The bestselling author behind Red, White & Royal Blue and this year's One Last Stop is a genius at hitting us right in the feels with her funny, heartfelt, quirky romances. With I Kissed Shara Wheeler, McQuiston makes her YA debut.
The novel, which hits shelves May 3, 2022, is described as a "romantic comedy about breaking the rules, getting messy, and finding love in unexpected places." Like McQuiston's previous novels, her third effort is a queer love story, with an added mystery component.
EW can exclusively debut the cover and first excerpt from the book, which centers on 18-year-old Chloe, who is on the verge of earning the valedictorian title she lusts after when her rival, small-town princess Shara Wheeler, suddenly disappears after kissing three people: her quarterback sweetheart, the bad boy next door, and Chloe. Chloe teams up with the other two follow Shara's clues, but they uncover secrets along the way with the potential to wreck havoc at their conservative Southern high school.
Read the excerpt after the cover image below.
Excerpt from I Kissed Shara Wheeler, by Casey McQuiston
Hours since Shara Wheeler left: 12
Days until graduation: 42
Chloe Green is going to put her fist through a window.
Usually when she has a thought like that, she means she's spiritually on the brink. But right now, squared up to the back door of the Wheeler house, she's actually physically ready to do it.
Her phone flashes the time: 11:27 a.m. Thirty-three minutes until the end of the late service at Willowgrove Christian Church, where the Wheelers are spending their morning pretending to be nice, normal folks whose nice, normal daughter didn't stage a disappearing act at prom twelve hours ago.
It has to be an act, is the thing. Obviously, Shara Wheeler is fine. Shara Wheeler is not missing. Shara Wheeler is doing what she does: a doe-eyed performance of blank innocence that makes everyone think she must be so deep and complex and enchanting when really, she's the most boring bore in this entire unbearably boring town.
Chloe is going to prove it. Because she's the only one smart enough to see it.
She wanted to enjoy her prom night after an entire year chasing early admission deadlines and her spot at the top of the class of '22. It took weeks to thrift the perfect dress (black chiffon and lace, like a sexy vampire assassin), and it was supposed to be a perfect prom. Not the perfect prom—no dates, no corsages—but her perfect prom. Just her friends in fancy outfits piling into Benjy's car, screaming Lil Yachty in a room with a chandelier, and collapsing into a Waffle House booth at one in the morning.
But thirty minutes before the prom court was announced, she saw her: Shara, rosy lips and a waterfall of almond-pink tulle, brushing past refreshments on her way to the door. Chloe had been watching her all night, waiting for a chance to get her alone.
Except when she got to the door, Shara was gone, and when student council president Brooklyn Bennett got up on stage to crown Shara as prom queen, she was still gone. Nobody saw her leave, and nobody's seen her since, but her white Jeep is missing from the Wheelers' driveway.
So here Chloe is, the morning after, makeup smudged around her eyes and hair crunchy with hairspray, ready to break into Shara's house.
She finds the spare key inside a conspicuously smooth rock with Joshua 24:15 engraved on it. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
The whole drive to the country club, she imagined the look on Shara's face when she saw Chloe at her door. The big, shocked green eyes, the theatrical gasp, the dawning realization that her little stunt for attention isn't going to work out the way she planned because Chloe is a hot genius who can't be fooled. The sheer satisfaction was going to power Chloe through finals and probably, like, the first two years of college.
But when she sticks her head through the open door and scans the Wheelers' enormous kitchen, Shara's nowhere.
So, she does what anyone else in her position would do. She shuts the door behind her and does a sweep of the first floor.
Shara's not here.
Okay. That's fine. But she's definitely somewhere. Probably upstairs, in her room.
In the upstairs hallway, a half-open door reveals a bathroom that must be Shara's. Beige and pink wallpaper, porcelain countertop lined with rosewater skincare products and a bottle of her signature nail polish (Essie, Ballet Slipper). Chloe hovers at the doorway; this isn't her objective, but there's a flower-patterned silk scrunchie next to the sink that she's never seen before, no matter how many AP classes she's spent glaring at the back of Shara's head. Shara exclusively wears her shiny blond hair down. That's like, her thing. She must put it up to wash her face at night.
Chloe pauses at the next door. It's slightly ajar and marked with a hand-painted pink S.
It'd be a lie—a huge, Willowgrove-Christian-Academy-football-budget-sized lie—to say she's never envisioned what sort of perfection incubator Shara Wheeler climbs inside when she goes home every day. A tank of goo to preserve her dewy complexion? A professional hairstylist on retainer? Where does Shara go when she's not having picturesque Starbucks dates with her quarterback boyfriend or spinning out suspiciously good comparative lit essays? Who is she when, for once, nobody is looking?
Only one way to find out.
She kicks the door open, and—
The room is empty.
Shara's room is, of course, a nice, normal room. Suspiciously plain, even. Bed, dresser, nightstand, vanity, bookshelf-slash-desk combo, eggshell lamp with a silver chain. There's a dried homecoming corsage on the windowsill and a tube of Burt's Bees lip balm in a seashell dish on the dresser, alongside a bottle of lilac body spray and a pile of bookmarked paperbacks for school. The walls are a simple powder blue, with framed photos of her family and her boyfriend and her flock of identical pointy-elbowed, flowy-haired friends with perfect Glossier faces.
Where's the Glossier Gang now? Nursing their prom hangovers, Chloe guesses. Clearly, none of them are here looking for clues. That's the thing about popular kids: They don't have the type of bond forged in the fire of being weird and queer and not cut out for small-to-medium town Alabama. If Chloe tried to ghost like this, there'd be a militia of Shakespeare gays kicking down every door in False Beach.
Why isn't Shara here?
Chloe clenches her fists, steps inside, and starts with the desk.
If there's no Shara to interrogate, maybe her room has some answers. She peers through the contents of the desk and shelves, looking for Shara's Gone Girl calendar with days of the week marked by "gather supplies" and "frame Chloe for my murder." All she finds are college brochures and a box of pink stationery monogrammed with Shara's initials—thank-you cards for the imminent flood of graduation checks from rich family. No incriminating diary pages crammed in the wastepaper basket, just the cardboard packaging for some lip gloss.
Jewelry box: nothing notable. Closet: clothes, a carefully organized shoe rack, prom and homecoming dresses zipped inside tidy garment bags. (Who uses garment bags?) Underwear drawer: half-empty, enough modest petal-soft things gone for a week or two. Bed: over the tucked-in ivory quilt, a neatly folded Harvard T-shirt. God forbid anyone forget that Shara got into her first choice school, with offers from basically every other Ivy in the country.
Chloe releases a hiss through her teeth. This is just a bunch of perfectly normal stuff, suggesting the perfectly normal life of a perfectly normal girl.
She doubles back to the vanity, opening the drawer. Tubes of lip gloss line up neatly in almost identical shades of neutral pink, most half-used, labels rubbing off. At the end of the row, one is brand-new, so full and shiny it could have only been used once, if ever. She recognizes its packaging from the wastepaper basket.
When she twists the cap off, the scent hits her just as hard as it did the first time she smelled it: vanilla and mint.
The window opens.
Chloe swears, drops to the carpet, and crawls under the desk.