Casey McQuiston’s new book, One Last Stop, is as much of a love story between the main characters as it is to New York. Their bestselling novel, Red, White, and Royal Blue, gave us a dream-like parallel universe of what 2020 would have looked like had America continued a progressive trajectory and hadn’t descended into a worldwide pandemic. One Last Stop still feels like a fantasy, but with doses of reality woven through the relationship of Jane and August. The novel barrels through life in New York City like the Q train at the crux. The insurmountability that these characters face — August falls in love with an entity trapped interdimensionally on a subway — can easily be paralleled to the feeling of trying to love a city that doesn’t feel like it can love you back. But you always come out on the other side.
One Last Stop
We spoke to Casey about books that feed into the against-all-odds nature of these relationships, but not just the Shakespearean tomes we all attach to this type of story. They spoke about harrowing stories and strong characters that can make you feel something from a book that you may not have thought was possible after the last year: hope.
This Is How You Lose the Time War
When it comes to against-all-odds stories, it’s not just star-crossed lovers. “I literally mean the kind of love story where one of them is dead or they don’t exist in the same timeline or dimension,” Casey explained. “Time War follows two rival operatives in an ongoing war of time through a series of you-just-missed-me letters left for each other.” Even though it’s a shorter book, it goes deep into the feelings of the characters and doesn’t focus on the war. “The strange poetry of Red and Blue falling in love through these moments scattered across millennia absolutely gets me every time.”
"Here we have the age-old dilemma of accidentally falling in love with a ghost,” Casey jokes. But in this instance, it’s “a teenage brujo named Yadriel who summons the wrong spirit by mistake and winds up babysitting the specter of the hottest bad boy from school. Of course, they fall in love.” Just your casual love story, right? When talking about why this story is so powerful (“the trans rep, the vibrant prose, the food porn"), Casey talks about how “the central pairing is both completely impossible due to death reasons and circumstantially founded in the affirmation of Yadriel being a boy. It’s a one-two punch: the transformative power of queer love meets the transcendent power of love in general. It’s like the premise was designed to check all my boxes."
Harrow the Ninth
Casey has talked so much of The Locked Tomb series so much “that Tamsyn Muir is probably sick of getting the Google alerts.” Without giving much away, “Harrow takes the much-loathed-childhood-survival-compatriots to reluctant teammates to soul-bond-of-undying-loyalty dynamic between the main characters in Gideon and bends it through time, space, dimension, death, and pretty much everything else.” There’s a large portion of the book that “is predicated on finding a way to save, keep, and be with the person you love most when the stakes are literally as big as the universe and God himself says it can’t be done.” Casey said that “reading this book made me go absolutely feral for a month last summer. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”
Opposite of Always
While we talked mostly of impossible love stories, Casey couldn’t get away from “a sweet, feel-good young adult romance.” Opposite of Always “follows a high school named Jack who meets the perfect girl, Kate, at a party, only for her to die six months later. Jack gets stuck in a time loop Groundhog Day-style and has to find a way to change the events of her death. “Do I love this story because the names remind me of one of my most beloved pieces of time-bending media, Lost? Partially. I also love this story because of the inherent hopefulness in having chance after chance to get something right before you lose someone forever.”
Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
“Pretty much as soon as I heard this book described as ‘ancient man can’t stop reincarnating because he’s in love with death herself’ I was in,” Casey says. They said that it’s “Final Destination (the main character has died 9,995 times and a lot of those deaths were pretty memorable) meets Hitchhiker’s Guide meets rumination on life and death itself.” While it may sound heavy, Casey says that there are moments of “breezy silliness” that help lighten it up. Their favorite thing about it is that “between each of Milo’s deaths and lives, he gets to be with a death incarnate named Suzie, with whom he’s developed quite the unlikely bond over his thousands of deaths.”
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