Title: One Last Stop
Author: Casey McQuiston
Genre: New Adult Fiction, Romance, LGBTQA+, Science Fiction
Gisselle's Rating: 5/5
Release Date: June 1, 2021
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers for One Last Stop.
You know that moment when you are on public transit and you lock eyes with someone, and you are, for those few moments that you're traveling together, just a little bit in love? Maybe it's irrational and a slight bit insane, but something about their presence captivates you from the second you see them, and you can't help pitching forward in time to a possible future that involves that person, because what if they're the one? It could be their strong arms, and you imagine a set of arms like that wrapped protectively around you at night, or it could be their well-loved copy of your favorite book, and you picture deep conversations about the plot and character arcs, or it could be a dazzling twinkle in their eye as they smile when they catch you staring. Either way, the harmless fantasy ends when either of you depart at the next stop, only to start again with someone else some day. But what if that brief blip of infatuation did evolve into something deeper, and it brought a huge mystery and an adventure straight of out of science-fiction along with it?
Casey McQuiston's One Last Stop tells the story of August Landry, a bi woman who just moved to New York City for a fresh start: new school, new roommates, new life (hopefully) away from her mother's obsession with solving the long-abandoned case of her missing brother. August is firmly against believing that anything like 'love at first sight' and 'magic' exists. Moving to New York, August might be right in her judgements; adult life - shifts at the local pancake diner, weird and slightly invasive roommates, and traveling the Q train for her school commute - is exhausting and not at all magical. All of that instantly changes when she meets Jane, the girl on the Q, clad in a leather jacket, red Chucks, and gentle smile that melts August's cynical heart. As the days slip by, however, August discovers that Jane is otherworldly in more ways than one: she truly is not of August's reality, having been displaced from her own time in the 1970's and has been a passenger on the Q for over 40 years. August must rely on her past life's skills to help Jane return to her own time... all while fighting a losing battle against love in the process.
After the success of their debut novel Red, White & Royal Blue, McQuiston certainly continued strong with One Last Stop. I was overwhelmed with the emotion that the text managed to wrangle out of me. August and Jane's relationship, from its genesis to its apex to its conclusion, completely stole my heart, elicited warmth on cold mornings, caused a burn behind my eyes, and satisfied my inner romantic. It had everything that I adore in fictional romances: a meet-cute, trading quips and fond insults, misunderstandings, requited unrequited love, steamy (and not too explicit) sex scenes, and a devotion so tangible and fierce that it almost caught me off guard. By the end, I wanted more than anything for everyone to know what it's like to have someone to fight for them as hard as August fought for Jane; for everyone to have a notebook of their partner full of their desires and interests, or at least the capacity of mind to notice the most intricate details; for everyone to have someone that will point them out across a crowded room and say, "That's them" as they are shown off to both strangers and friends. I fell in love with Jane and August's love.
McQuiston does a marvelous job at bringing life to each character that they introduce. Each character is easy to fall in love with, from the lovable and bubbly Myla to the rough-edged and gold-hearted Lucie. You can tell that McQuiston loves her creations, and they were not afraid to showcase each one's problems alongside their bright moments. Wes's struggles to accept Isaiah's love (and love himself, on top of that), the staff at Billy's devastation at the diner impending shutdown, Jane's crisis with being lost in a time that is not her own and recollections of being an Asian lesbian in the 70s, August's frustration at her mother's unwillingness to cope with her brother's disappearance.. they all feel so real and raw to me.
Something that cannot be stated enough is that One Last Stop offers so much queer representation, and part of the book represented a critical topic of discussion that is still relevant today: the civil rights movement of LGBTQA+ people and how it had been fought by people like Jane, people who were courageous enough to stand strong and unrepentant about who they were in front of a society that was not open to accepting them. It was incredible to read about August learning about the battle that people before her had to endure so that August, Myla, Niko, Wes, and so many others could love freely. There is still work to be done in 2021, but there is more progression in public settings than there had been in Jane's time. One Last Stop reignited soft embers inside of me, stoking a desire for change into a hot, roaring flame. Things may have improved since the 70s, but we still have a long way to go, and McQuiston does a fantastic job at highlighting this and ensuring that it does not get lost in the principle romance.
One Last Stop was a wholesome and lovely reprieve from reality, especially from the still-felt aftermath of 2020. I did enjoy the little insertion that McQuiston left ("They almost never talk about 2020 and what it's like above ground. Not yet."), kind of like August and Jane are letting us know that it's okay to not want to talk about the events of last year. McQuiston allows us to explore New York City without ever leaving the comfort and safety of our homes, marvelously and unapologetically pulling us into August's world, into the beauty of LGBTQA+ lives, and into the resolve to love Jane Su. Though this categorically fits best into New Adult Fiction, I would recommend any and all people that identify as LGBTQA+ to read this wonderful book!