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.
Thank goodness someone at Autostraddle reviewed it, because it’s all anyone talked about on the A+ discord book channel! (I loved it.)
HEATHER THIS IS PERFECT!! JUST LIKE OLS WAS TO ME!
I love that I knew this was Heather just from the headline and the amount of love infused in this piece!
I’m so excited about this book! I almost wrote that I can’t wait to read it. And then I remembered that I’m #129 on my library system’s waitlist – so yeah, I will actually wait, but then I will read!
OLS actually made me laugh out loud wherever I was. McQuiston can really turn a phrase. I hope she writes more wlw in the future, b/c this story was incredible.
I do not know how Casey McQuiston made sex on the (indescribably dirty) NYC subway SCORCHING HOT, yet somehow she did. It’s a testament to her skill!
Oh I loved this book so much! I read the last 2/3rds all in one go even though it was 3am when I finished. Could not put it down! So good!
I’m in the middle of Red, White, and Royal Blue right now (since I’ve heard so much about it from the AS discords). On hold at the library for OLS—I’ve never seen a hold list over 400 before!
Oh man, I bought this book from the A+ community bookshelf post almost entirely because of the front cover (the Q is my train and there’s like a 90% chance I’m dressed like the straphanger thereon whilst riding it) and now I’m even more excited to dive in.
I loved RW & RB so so much (like, I-saw-Wimbledon-footage-today-and-all-I-could-think-of-was-the-scene-where-the-characters-hook-up-in-a-tennis-racket-storage-closet so much), but it never made me *cry* like I did for One Last Stop. Just from the beauty, and the angst, and the promise of a queer NYC future for me after a long first year here amidst the pandemic.
Needless to say, I bought a copy of the book and am seriously contemplating taking the Q train from one end to the other while reading it. Who knows what might happen along the way?
Hi Heather. Thank you for such a lovely review. I had to purchase it right after I read it and now…I think this book might be the death of me. I have never felt like a part of anything and this just makes me yearn so much for what August and her chosen family have. I haven’t cried so much for anything and this book just reaches in and makes me realize what I have never had.
Just finished this book and am now sprouting fresh happy tears about the story after reading this review. What a beautiful tale, tugging at all the right parts of my brain and my heart. Sought out the AS review because I knew I’d find company here–among others who are dizzy with delight at seeing themselves in the pages of such a beautiful book. Thank you Heather!