This One Last Stop review contains mild spoilers.
Do you ever get that weird longing to have not read a book or watched a movie/TV show, so that you could go back and experience it for the first time all over again? Casey McQuiston’s 2019 breakout hit, Red, White & Royal Blue, made me feel that way. It was the first book I read when my brain fog gave way to patches of sunlight in my early days of Long Covid — and it transported me. For my entire life, all I have ever wanted was to read books that were as hilarious and lighthearted and romantic as Bridget Jones’s Diary, but about gay people, and Red, White & Royal Blue was the first book that gave that to me. A British prince and the U.S.’ first son, in lust and in love! It made me laugh. It made me swoon. It made me giddy. And, well, I am thrilled to say McQuiston has done it again, but even better this time! Her latest book, One Last Stop, is everything her first book was, but with queer women, in New York City, with — spoiler alert! — time travel.
It opens with bisexual NYC transplant August, a reformed girl detective who’s trying to figure out what the heck she wants to do with her life. It unfolds with her literally electric meeting with an Asian butch lesbian hipster-looking heartthrob named Jane on the Q train. And it fills itself in with a cast of queer found family characters that feels more true to life than any fictional gay grouping I’ve ever read or watched (sorry, The L Word). There’s Myla, a Black former engineer/current sculptor and her trans boyfriend, Niko, an actual psychic. There’s gay emo tattoo artist Wes, drag queen neighbor Annie Depressant, and even a handful of lovable straight people, if you can believe it. Every single supporting character is fully realized through McQuiston trademark gift of snappy clappy queer and come-backy dialogue, and getting to know them is as fun as watching August and Jane fall in love and try to unravel the mystery of why Jane is always on the Q.
Okay, well, almost as fun. Jane and August fall in love in the all-consuming, omniscient, dramatic, lifelong lusty way only queers and fan fiction characters do. Like: “August doesn’t believe in most things, but it’s hard to argue that Jane wasn’t put on the Q to fuck up her whole life.” And: “Sometimes August thinks Jane looks like a watercolor painting, fluid and lovely, darker in places, bleeding through the page.” And: “Her eyes have this way of swallowing up the grimy fluorescent light of the train and transforming it into something new. Right now, when she looks at August: stars. The goddamn Milky Way.” And that’s McQuiston just getting started. I was flopping around on my couch yelling with the glory of the angst before I even met all the characters.
And speaking of characters — I know! Look, I know! — it’d be silly for me not to say that One Last Stop makes NYC the kind of character I know it to be. Not Sex and the City‘s glamorous Soho parties and Greenwich Village boutiques, not Gossip Girl‘s luxury hotels and spacious Dumbo lofts, not Times Square or The Met or Grand Central Station or Rockefeller Center or any other place characters on TV inexplicably just hang out. One Last Stop is the way this city sticks to you. The smell of the pancakes and bacon from the diner forever on your clothes; the sweet, sharp scent of fresh oranges at the bodega at 2am; fried chicken from Popeye’s on the corner; the piss and perfume and flickering lights of the subway; and the salty sea air and breathtaking sunrises of the subway too, if you ride it far enough and long enough. And mostly the way New York City is a cacophony of incandescently joyful and intensely heartbreaking queer history, and how it never forgets either of those things, in dives and piano bars and sacrilegious Easter brunches that spill out into the street like a bucket of glitter you’ll never really be able to clean up.
One Last Stop weaves its magic spell around NYC’s queer history and queer present, around August and Jane and their blossoming relationship, around August’s new queer found family and the hopes and dreams they inspire in her, and it ties them all together with deftness and deep compassion. More than anything else, One Last Stop is about that feeling when you wake up in the morning, and even when it’s bad it’s good, because you’re lucky enough to have somewhere for your hope to go.