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One Last Stop


One Last Stop

Bestselling author Casey McQuiston returns with another sweet, swoony, coming-of-age rom-com in their sophomore novel, ONE LAST STOP.

August has never really fit in anywhere. She spent a lot of her life playing secondhand amateur sleuth to her mother’s increasingly desperate attempts to find out what became of her brother, the uncle August is named after. Her single mother’s hoarding makes August travel light, confident that it’s better to remain untethered --- especially after living through Katrina. August knows what it’s like to lose everything, so she lives her life believing it’s better not to hold onto much. After a few colleges don’t stick, she moves to New York at 23, expecting to lose herself in its anonymity. She doesn’t anticipate winding up with a set of close-knit Brooklyn roommates who quickly become the queer trans found family she never thought she’d have, a job at a pancake house, which is a neighborhood institution --- or Jane. She certainly doesn’t anticipate Jane.

"A love story and a coming-of-age tale, yes, but also a celebration, a battle cry and a hint of a riot, ONE LAST STOP is sure to be one of the biggest hits of the summer and beyond."

August meets the unfairly hot, charismatic butch lesbian on her daily commute and starts to imagine, for the very first time, what it might be like to hold onto something. This gets very complicated when she finds out that Jane is actually from the 1970s, trapped on the Q train in a sort of metaphysical limbo. She gets along with pretty much everyone, but doesn’t have a firm grasp on her own reality or how much time has passed --- until she meets August. August and her new friends commit to helping Jane get back to her own time before the Q closes down for the season and Jane might be lost forever. With such high stakes, the very last thing August should do is fall in love with the girl she’s trying to save. But as the summer heats up (and so do they), Jane and August just might end up saving each other.

I am one of many fans of McQuiston’s debut, RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE, and they’ve only grown as a writer. This is a romance wrapped in coming of age with elements of sci-fi and mystery, with a hint of a heist. ONE LAST STOP leans into that very real feeling of being about to graduate and not knowing what to do next, without a script or set of rules. The book invites readers in, reminding us that it is a process, to become. And it’s okay to be figuring it out. It revels in sharing that process with found family, especially queer trans found family --- all the secondary characters are magnetic and compelling, and readers will love them just as much as August does.

Though McQuiston trades in the Queen for drag queens here, ONE LAST STOP feels like just as much of a fantasy as their first book. While RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE imagines a timeline in which a woman won the 2016 election, this novel imagines a New York City in 2020 free of the pandemic, an alternate reality in which strangers can fall into each other’s arms, party and take the subway with no mask or fear. As someone who’s lived functionally all their life in NYC, notably in 2020, I ache to visit McQuiston’s version. It’s full of time-bending true-love’s-kisses, roommates who become family, and a community that bands together to save a local favorite from encroaching gentrification. This is a romantic New York full of people who take care of each other, brimming with hope and the messy magic of love.

It’s a magic rom-com, and it has magic rom-com rules --- à la Kate and Leopold, for example --- but I felt a twinge of discomfort that it was never really acknowledged that people do in fact live their entire lives on the New York subway, and not by choice or magic.

Also, I wanted more of the dissonance between the New York Jane knew and the New York August lives in now. That felt promised by the premise, especially because Jane is notably a punk rocker who spent the ’70s as an outspoken gay Chinese anti-war advocate. Especially with McQuiston’s level of detail, I expected more of Jane reckoning with how the queer community has changed in 40-plus years and how it hasn’t, the shifting nuances of queer identity, and the ways in which racism persists within it. These get touched upon, but for a book portrayed as a “love letter” to the queer community and what the generations owe to each other, I expected it to be more central.

There are two moments that do this most successfully for me, and to beautiful effect. The first is when August brings a drag show onto Jane’s subway, and the scene becomes a palimpsest, queer history breathing into the present. I wanted more of that specific type of magic. The second is when we find out what exactly became of August’s uncle. The novel deepens at that moment, becoming one of intricate queer found family across generations, of the hauntings of queer ghosts, and how they live through us. Of queer legacy that’s been forgotten, erased and reclaimed.

Though I wanted more of those moments, McQuiston truly knows how to write a heart-skipping romance. They unbury their gays here, and give anxious, lonely queer readers hope, love and magic. Of what it means to build a home when you never felt like you belonged, of wanting to build that home in another person, of what it means to choose yourself. This is desperately, achingly, furiously romantic, especially between the leads but also between the Love Actually-style stories of the supporting cast. A love story and a coming-of-age tale, yes, but also a celebration, a battle cry and a hint of a riot, ONE LAST STOP is sure to be one of the biggest hits of the summer and beyond.

Reviewed by Maya Gittelman on June 11, 2021

One Last Stop
by Casey McQuiston