Monday, August 12, 2019

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I can love you and want you and still not want that life. I'm allowed, all right, and it doesn't me me a liar; it makes me a man with some infinitesimal shred of self-preservation, unlike you, and you don't get to come here and call me a coward for it.

I believe I'm the only person on the planet who isn't in swoons over this book. About a quarter of the way through the book, I found myself irritated as I read, but I couldn't put my finger on what, precisely, was getting to me since it had all kinds of things that should have been insta-wins.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
St. Martin's Griffin, 2019
Copy via my public library

It's weird to say this about a novel that is practically just wish fulfillment but I think this book had too much artifice and exaggeration for me to take it seriously. Everything in this book was extreme: the emotions, the language, the pace, the characters. McQuiston took an element and streeeeeeeeeeeeetched to the point of caricature and then stopped. The result was something that detailed the depressing reality of our current political landscape with bubble gum True Love that didn't quite gel in my eyes.

Alex, the super gay son of the president, falls for a super gay and very closeted British prince. Alex's parents are classic YA Cool Parents (TM), right down to the snarky PowerPoint slides his mother, the US president, makes in the free time she has when not governing (a few of the slides include SEXUAL EXPERIMENTATION WITH FOREIGN MONARCHS: A GRAY AREA; EXPLORING YOUR SEXUALITY: HEALTHY, BUT DOES IT HAVE TO BE WITH THE PRINCE OF ENGLAND?; FEDERAL FUNDING, TRAVEL EXPENSES, BOOTY CALLS, AND YOU). All the adults in this book are So Cool, they swear constantly. It actually got to be tiresome and kind of lost its impact; it also jarred, like when the chief of staff swears out Alex, which, I don't know, seemed improbable and super unprofessional.

The narrative style of this book felt like FOMO (fear of missing out) made manifest: there's a panicky, frenetic pace that did seem resonant for early 20somethings, but at the same time, felt too aware, like the novel was admiring itself being cool and glamorous and passionate. (There's a dance club scene where all our hot youngins are writhing and being flirty and blissed out and uninhibited and instead of reading cathartic or moving or liberating, it really felt pretentious, imaginary, and artificial.)

I also found there to be a jarring, almost homophobic focus on the particular sex act of our young heroes; this book had f-bombs by the gallon, but weirdly, the characters kept making a point of being really vulgar when freaking out about Alex and Henry's relationship (like the aforementioned shockingly unprofessional chief of staff who goes on a rant about Alex "putting his dick in" Henry; she could have just as easily said they $#%ed, and it literally would have been f-bomb ten thousand and four and would have conveyed the exact same sense of shock and etc.).

This is probably my first New Adult read, and it felt like it -- a teen playing at grown up, and all the weird things that teens think adults do/think. And so much lack of maturity. And a weird mix of fangirl wish fulfillment and gritty reality that didn't blend for me.


  1. This probably isn't for me either.

  2. Definitely not the only one. I read a review on SmartB*tches/Trashy Books that raised some of the same points you do, and that decided me against it. Setting it in the US president's and the Royal families really doesn't appeal to me.

    1. Oh, thanks for saying that b/c I was really feeling like something was wrong with me -- glad to see SBTB felt the same way.

    2. There was a second review on the site from someone who did like it, but they linked to the first unfavorable review as well.

  3. Hallo, Hallo Audra,

    Sorry its been such a long time since I last visited; life seems to get into the way of my visitations; however, I saw this in your archives and wanted to equally chime in that it isn't you, its the book! Another blogger I follow from the UK (ie. Browsing for Books, Cerys) pointed out a LOT of issues with this book this Summer; to the extent I boomeranged the audiobook back to my library as I realised beyond a doubt it was NEVER going to be my cuppa tea either. It might have had potential but like you said, it just wasn't writ right to give us that kind of reading experience we were hoping to have had.