From the bestselling New York Times bestselling author of Red, White and Royal Blue and One Last Stop comes a debut YA romantic comedy about chasing down what you want, only to find what you need . . .
'[A] razor-sharp, intensely compassionate, subversive, sweet, electrifyingly romantic knockout of a book.' Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda
A month before graduating from Willowgrove Christian Academy, the principal’s perfect daughter, prom queen Shara Wheeler, kisses Chloe Green and vanishes.
On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s long-time sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad-boy neighbour with a crush. Thrown into an unlikely alliance, Chloe, Smith and Rory follow Shara’s trail of annoyingly cryptic clues, and Chloe starts to suspect that there might be more to this small town – and to Shara – than she thought.
Fierce, funny, and frank, Casey McQuiston’s I Kissed Shara Wheeler is about breaking the rules, getting messy, and finding love in unexpected places.
Release date: May 3, 2022
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Print pages: 320
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I Kissed Shara Wheeler
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, it 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 Slippers). 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 biege, 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 in 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.
A pair of black Vans appears on the windowsill, bringing with them the skinny frame of a boy in distressed jeans and a flannel. He pauses—she can’t see his face, but his body twists like he’s checking that the coast is clear—and then drops down into the room.
Dark curly hair with caramel highlights, light brown skin, long and straight nose, a jawline both square and delicate like fishbone.
Rory Heron. Willowgrove’s answer to every brooding bad boy from every late ’90s teen drama. The most eligible bachelor amongst the stoners-skaters-and-slackers rung of the social ladder. She’s never had a class with him, but she’s heard he doesn’t attend them much, anyway.
She watches as his eyes track the same path she did—the dresser, the bed, the pictures on the wall. After noticing he’s kicked the corsage off the sill and onto the floor, he picks it up with gentle fingers and examines the dried buds before returning it to its place. Chloe’s eyes narrow. What is Rory Heron doing here, in Shara’s bedroom, fondling her corsages?
Then he turns to the desk, sees her, and screams.
Chloe lunges to her feet and slaps her hand over his mouth.
“Shut up,” Chloe hisses. Up close, his eyes are hazel-y brown and wide open in alarm. “The neighbors could hear you.”
“I am the neighbors,” he says when she releases him.
Chloe stares at him, trying to reconcile Rory’s whole persona with the extreme uptightness of the False Beach Country Club. “You live here?”
Rory glares. “What, I don’t look like I could afford to live here?”
“You seem like you’d rather die than live here,” Chloe says.
“Believe me, it’s not by choice,” Rory says, still scowling, but in a different flavor now. “You’re—Chloe, right? Chloe Green? What are you doing under Shara’s desk?”
“What are you doing climbing through Shara’s window?”
“I—I, uh,” Chloe stammers. Rory’s entrance startled some of the fire out of her, and now she’s not sure how to explain herself. Her face starts to heat; she wills it to stop. “I heard she ran away last night.”
“I heard the same thing,” Rory says. He talks with the same kind of studied disaffection that he carries himself with, shoulders slumped and impartial. “Did you—do you know where she is?”
“No, I just—I wanted to see if she was really gone.”
“So you broke into her house,” Rory says flatly.
“I used a key!”
“Yeah, that’s still breaking and entering.”
“Only if I commit a crime.”
“What do you call climbing through her window, then?”
Rory pauses, glancing down at the toes of his Vans. “That’s different. She told me she was leaving her window unlocked.”
“Not an invitation, dude.”
“Jesus Christ, I told you, I’m her neighbor. People like, ask their neighbors to check on their stuff while they’re gone all the time. It’s a thing.”
“And that’s what you’re doing?”
“I wanted to make sure she was okay.”
Chloe pulls a skeptical face. “I’ve literally never seen you speak to her in my life.”
“You don’t even know her, do you?” Rory counters. “What are you doing here? Why do you care if she’s gone?”
Why does she care? Because she and Shara have both spent every day of their high school careers dedicated to the singular goal of graduating valedictorian, and the only thing Chloe has ever wanted as much as that title is the satisfaction of knowing Shara Wheeler can’t have it. Because Shara Wheeler has everything else.
Because if Shara’s really gone, that’s a forfeit, and Chloe Green does not win by default.
Because two days ago, Shara found her alone in the B Building elevator before fifth hour, pulled her in by the elbow, and kissed her until she forgot an entire semester of French. And Chloe still doesn’t know why.
“Why do you care?” she snaps back at Rory.
“Because I—I get her, okay? Her stupid-ass friends don’t, but I do.”
“Oh, you get her.” Chloe rolls her eyes. “So that makes you qualified to lead the search party.”
“Then what does?”
There’s another pause. Rory shifts his weight from one foot to the other. And then he looks down at the desk, raises his dark brows, and says, “That.”
When Chloe follows his gaze, she finds an envelope sitting innocuously in a pink letter organizer. Shara’s cursive spells out Rory’s name on the front.
Rory’s arms are longer, but Chloe reacts faster. She snatches the envelope up and opens it with one finger, taking out a piece of that pink monogrammed stationery, and reads Shara’s flawless cursive out loud.
Thanks for the kiss. If you thought I never noticed you, you’re wrong.
P.P.S. Tell Smith to check the drafts. Chloe should have the rest.
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