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  • Caleb R. Haynes

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

GOD, y’all. I absolutely CONSUMED this book so quickly that I’m already itching for a re-read. The characters were all so vibrant and flawed and just ugh……REAL. ⁣

False Beach in so many ways brought me back to being a young (and often scared) queer teen in a rural Tennessee town and Willowgrove is so realistically representative of a lot of the religious trauma I endured there. I thought this was going to be extremely triggering for me, but it was actually done so well and with integrity that left me very surprised at how I felt. ⁣

Often we fall into an us vs. them conversation when the topic comes up, which I think is fair to a degree when we are talking about hate groups like westboro baptist, but that was not always the case with the characters in this book. I think as hard as it is to take a step back and examine it from another perspective, it’s worth mentioning that often these oppressors in the south are well-meaning or well-intentioned and also capable of change. I personally believe that all people are capable of compassion, of empathy, and of change. If we didn’t believe that that was possible, the hard conversations wouldn’t be worth having in the first place.⁣

This is a book I wish I had growing up. The representation of an outside perspective (Chloe) of someone who did not grow up in the south & can’t wait to get out, and also several inside perspectives (like Georgia) who love being from the south AND are queer is something i don’t think i’ve ever seen before. Queer people BELONG in the south. Period. ⁣

I think this can be enjoyable to anyone - but will be especially meaningful for those of us who grew up here and have not felt seen in this way before. I’m so grateful that this book exists. ⁣


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