A Review of One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Words By Aisling O'Mahony
Published June 1, 2021 by St. Martin’s Griffin
The success of Casey McQuiston’s debut novel Red, White & Royal Blue set the bar remarkably high for their sophomore New Adult novel One Last Stop. Pitched as a queer retelling of Kate & Leopold, the novel centers on the cynical, twenty-three-year-old August Landry, a self-proclaimed loner who just moved to modern-day New York City. On her daily subway commute to university, she meets Jane, a mysterious Chinese-American lesbian in her early twenties who’s unable to remember much of her past. August quickly becomes infatuated, only to discover Jane has somehow been transported in time from the 1970s and become stuck on the Q Line, reappearing back on the train every time she tries to leave. Thus ensues a heartwarming quest to help her regain her memories and her freedom, while August struggles to keep her feelings under control.
The author’s love for New York is palpable and the novel captures a vibrant, authentic snapshot of the city. The plot, while engaging, is a little slow-moving at points and is probably the least notable element of the book. Where McQuiston really shines is their characters. Through August, McQuiston expertly epitomizes the experience of navigating your early twenties; discovering who you are and where you belong, and coming to terms with not knowing exactly what you’re supposed to do with your life. Jane, the love interest, is unparalleled. Brave, caring, and quick to stand up for what she believes in—she is unapologetic about who she is. Messages, reports, and newspaper clippings detailing strangers’ encounters with Jane throughout the years feature at the start of each chapter. They serve not only as a clever narrative technique but also as a way to emphasize Jane’s impact on those around her, making it all the more realistic that August falls for her so fast—because everyone does. The slow burn sapphic romance that develops between them is exquisite. There’s an air of serendipity as the two share stolen moments on empty subway cars and memorable declarations of love reminiscent of those in Red, White & Royal Blue.
The novel is host to an eclectic ensemble of diverse secondary characters. From the first page, I fell utterly in love with Niko, a trans psychic/bartender, and his confident, positive outlook on life. The other side characters are equally wonderful and genuine, exuding unconditional acceptance and warmth. With their frequent pop culture references, comfortable roommate dynamic, and inventive games like “Rolly Bangs,” they’re the type of characters you long to be friends with in real life. They serve as so much more than just plot devices, experiencing their own trials and triumphs that exist outside of August’s narrative. McQuiston excels at executing the found family trope as August carves out a space for herself among them and the group band together to liberate Jane from the Q Line.
The book also serves as a love letter to queer culture and an homage to the sacrifices made by the LGBTQ+ activists of the past. Through Jane, these activists roar to life. They become so much more than faded photographs and obscure figures; they are real, tangible people, with hopes, fears, and dreams outside of their role in a movement for equality. Several prominent events from queer history are referenced in the novel, and through August and Jane, we see these events from both a first-person and a modern perspective. There’s an overarching sense of hope for a future with more acceptance and freedom to be who you are and love who you love. The novel’s only couple of drawbacks are that the explanation for Jane’s time slip calls for considerable suspended disbelief from the reader and elements of the plot end up tying together just a little too neatly. For instance, revelations about a certain long-lost family member feel a little too convenient to be believable. However, these are easily overlooked as you are drawn into this hilarious, profound, sexy celebration of love and diversity. Ultimately, One Last Stop more than lives up to expectations as an effervescent medley of friendships, romance, drag shows, pancakes, history, and train rides.