CASEY MCQUISTON’S ONE LAST STOP

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Submitted Date 06/16/2022
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You saw them.

I know you did. Maybe you found them at their source, or when they spilled onto Instagram in droves, but you found something on BookTok, a literature nerd's corner of TikTok, and for Pride Month of 2021, all any BookToker would recommend was one book by Casey McQuiston, Red, White, and Royal Blue--their videos were full of rainbows, they raved about it, people descended into the comments to rant about the book the way murders of crows descended onto battlefields-turned-graveyards to devour corpses, everyone was talking about that book, that lovely, perfect, wonderful, adorable book, full of romance, and colors, and... gays.

...I don't know, I didn't read it.

What I did read was Casey McQuiston's other book, One Last Stop--and again, I haven't read RW&RB, but I'm very much inclined to believe that no other book can top this one. When I say I might have a favorite book in this, I'm not exaggerating. It's awesome--let's get into why it's awesome, and believe you me, babe--I'm going into detail. (I'm gonna recommend you read the book for yourself, and skip my plot summary. Yes, that's how good it is--go read it and then come get my opinion.) Buckle up, y'all. (1)

Plot Summary:.

Each chapter starts with a note, or article, or something of the sort--the date ranges, but their purpose in the story slowly starts to become more obvious--the first one, in the first chapter was a note advertising for the need of a new roommate, found stuck on a trash can outside of a Popeyes--said roommate needs to be queer and trans friendly, can't be afraid of dogs or fire, and can't be a libra. It says to ask for Niko.

And the first actual scene we see is of this mentioned Niko with a potential roommate and our hero of the story, August Landry. August hails from New Orleans (which shall be referred to as N'Orleans for the rest of the post), but she's here in New York for school. Niko asks if he can touch her.

The room she's in is a modgepodge of chaos--a statue that claims to be Judy Garland, a bowl of gum balls, and she's sitting on a really old, really ugly couch--the question catches her off guard, so Niko clarifies he didn't mean in a weird way or anything, it's just, you see, he's a psychic, and he wants to get a good read of her. Immediately, August is skeptical, as she doesn't believe in astrology, psychics, spirituality, etc., but let's him--the touch is super brief, and he just about tells her the room's her's on the spot. He knows she's going to be a good fit--he also knows, somehow, that she likes lillies, and August does like lillies, but she decides that's just a lucky guess.

Among Niko is also his girlfriend, Myla--she's going to be moving into his room to take a bit of the strain of rent off, so August will be moving into her room.

To celebrate, they take August out for pancakes at Pancake Billy's House of Pancakes--their treat. Their usual server tells about how someone on the team quit, and immediately, Niko and Myla offer up August for the job. August has never waited a table in her life, but they lie for her, and she gets the job.

On her way to class later, she trips, tears her tights, drops her phone and throws her coffee at her chest--it's enough to want her returning home and crawling back onto the air mattress she's sleeping on in her new room, but she keeps going--not because she wants to, but because she seems to have to, she won't let herself admit defeat this morning.

She trudges onto the subway--the Q. She's trying not to cry. She's getting to her class. A person approaches her on the subway--they've got bronzed skin, and swoopy hair and ripped jeans, and she's the hottest woman August has ever seen. She offers August her scarf from her bag to cover the coffee stain on her shirt. While August initially tries to refuse, the woman insists--in passing over the scarf, there's a spark of static between them, and the woman asks if anyone's ever told her that she smells like pancakes before the lights flicker and she vanishes.

Time passes--August works her shifts at the diner, where the manager, a Russian immigrant named Lucie who's lived here for a long time and speaks with a thick accent, is very annoyed with how awful she is at her job but makes sure to keep an eye on her and ultimately takes care of her. She meets one of her roommates Wes fixing her door when she comes home from work, and then meets his love interest in Isaiah/Annie Depressant (which is the most bombass drag queen name I've ever heard) at work. She continues on with her schooling, and she keeps bumping into the girl from the subway.

They greet each other as Coffee Girl and Subway Girl respectively. They have a ton in common--in that Jane (subway girl, if you haven't realized by now) used to work at Billy's, and used to know Jerry, and over time, they develop a friendship.

And over time, August gets a new crush.

August's mother (who shall be referred to as AM from now on) sends her a folder in the mail, someone for her to look into--when she responds with frustration, Myla starts asking questions and eventually, August breaks down and talks about her past. Her uncle Augie (AM's brother, that is) went missing a long time ago, before August was even born, and AM has spent years trying to find him, to the point where the detective for his case has started screening her calls. She's been enlisting August into it for a very long time, and when she left N'Orleans, she told her mother that she was done helping. Augie's disappearance has defined the entirety of her life, and she didn't want to end up like her mother--but her mom's sent her info on a person in New York anyway. Myla responds with just how much this information's taught her about August--she compares her to a detective, and this description ends up being pretty accurate for most of the book.

On a Wednesday morning in the subway (with August questioning Jane's taste in music in that she listens to nothing past '75), a technical difficulty strands them for an indefinite period of time, much to their annoyance--to stave off the boredom, Jane starts asking about August's past. She admits that she's been to a lot of places, and hasn't fallen in love with any of them, but Jane says that she could fall in love here--then she asks what she thinks their story is, and gestures to a stranger on the subway.

This is where it really starts to show their chemistry together--August shows off her skills as a detective, and Jane thinks it's (rightfully so) hot. So they keep going--August guesses that one couple is late to work, and happily married. That the tallest in a group of teenage boys has been held back a year, but that the younger ones gravitate towards him. A heavily pregnant mother is a seamstress.

At some point, Jane unplugs her headphones from her music and starts playing it on the train. It's an impromptu dance party which you would think to be incredibly cringeworthy, and well, it is--but it's a way to kill the time, and there's just something about Jane that seems to draw even the surliest passengers into her. She plays a bunch of cassettes until some kids take over with their speaker--and it's there, listening to Beyoncé, where Jane asks her to dance.

Initially, August tries to resist it, because she's a bad dancer, but Jane insists, and August is crushing so hard, she feels she has to, to make her happy, and she does it badly, but this moment is so good. They're so close.

The train moves again and the commuters cheer--and before August departs, she asks Jane out for a drink.

Jane says no. It doesn't sound like she doesn't like August, and she offers no excuse--but it's a no.

Naturally, August decides she can never, ever take that route again and risk seeing her--she decides it was a dumb decision, and she's better off alone. Was Jane maybe the most gorgeous person in New York? Definitely. Is there a possibility she will die a virgin? Totally! But she is not doing that again. Her roommates try and tell her that there's tons of reasons she could have turned August down--maybe she's sober, or maybe she was on her way to break up with her girlfriend so she could be with August, or maybe a witch cursed her to haunt the subway! Who knows?

August still sticks with her decision.

As they discuss the possibilities with Jane, August takes a look at their fridge. Photos upon photos--one ha as girl that's not among them in a dress at Disney World, and she inquires about their identity. Niko admits that that's him, and August admits that this changes nothing--but it's implied that the bit of information develops him a bit more to her. She had thought so, but didn't want to assume--she responds that that's cool, and they all sit down to watch House Hunters while they eat their stirfry--Wes cracks a joke, and while she chokes on her food in her laughter, Niko snaps a photo, and adds her to the fridge. She's a part of the apartment now.

August continues to adjust to her schedule. She fights the shower and goes to school and goes to work--photos hang on the walls of Billy's, all the way from it's opening back in the seventies, and she looks at them. Jane is one of them, as to be expected with her having worked there once. That's not what sticks out to August.

What sticks out to her is that that photo is from the seventies, and Jane hasn't aged a day.

She was trying to escape her mother's paranoia. Her life up until now has revolved around a case, and around an unsolvable mystery that's consumed her mother and could consume her too--but she's thought nonstop about the girl on the subway, and something is wrong, she just needs to find out what.

Desperately, she seeks out Niko, because he believes in this stuff and August never truly has--he is her guide. So, he brings her to Miss Ivy's where he does all his spiritual work. They as a group are gonna do a seance and try to contact Jane on the off chance she's a ghost. Isaiah appears and tags along because drag queens like ghosts after a performance, and who doesn't?

The seance does nothing--Niko decides that she's not alive and she's not dead, but somewhere in between. Frustrated, August tugs him to the subway to meet Jane.

It's actually incredibly awkward to find out if your crush is a ghost--Niko asks some questions, but the longer the conversation goes on, the more dodgy she gets--August admits this could just be the fact that s strange man is asking where she lives, but Jane also used to live in Brooklyn, in Flatbush. Niko manages to cop a feel (but not in a weird way) and when they get off, she tells August that she felt too solid for a ghost.

So, August goes back on. Jane is as friendly and charming as ever--but August is dead serious. She pulls out the picture she stole from Billy's--all the way from '76, and she asks Jane if she remembers it.

She remembers working there. She remembers moving here in '75. August asks how long she's been on the train car, but it's all Jane can remember, and she thinks she could be here for months, and even then, she doesn't remember all of it. Just bits and pieces. Trying to lessen the blow, August says that she can remember her name.

Jane admits she can't even remember that--her jacket has her name on it, Jane Su and that's how she knows her name. Everything else is only something she's spoken to August about, that's been jarred out of her. She doesn't know who she is, or remember anything off of the subway.

August handles this the way she does everything--like a science experiment. They start with getting off at different spots, but Jane, for one reason or another, can't leave the train. There's no getting out. She can appear in a different car, she can disappear and reappear--but she can't leave. She doesn't know why.

When it's proven Jane can't just exit, August decides, one problem at a time, and they're gonna find out who Jane is. It should be easy enough--she's stuck to logic, and there isn't much logic in subway ghosts. No more science experiments, it's time to solve a mystery.

She starts with Billy's cook, Jerry--he's very old, but he was present for Billy's opening, and worked alongside Jane enough to remember her Su Special, but he claims to not remember her, so that's a dead-end. The two of them decide they just need to try and jog her memory--because she lived in New York, August reasons to herself that she must have a coffee and bagel order, so they go through a process of elimination. Every day, she brings a different coffee and a bagel to Jane, until one day, with a chocolate and peanut butter bagel, and a coffee with two creams and five sugars (which is a perfectly valid way to drink your coffee, and I don't wanna hear otherwise), she remembers that the person at the deli always looked irate. It's small, but it helps prove that it's a sensory thing--that these little things can jog bigger memories.

They give music a try--Jane remembers some songs from the seventies, and marvels at how August's cellphone can play them on demand. August takes stock of her pins, finds out she was a radical back then, and they read Martha Shelley's Gay is Good.

They're making good progress--but there's one little problem, besides the girl trapped in the subway, and that's that the Q is gonna be shut down for maintenance, and the way Jane describes it, going too long with August there makes things... fuzzy. She loses her memory all over again. She gets farther and farther from home.

So, they're working against the clock, too.

Myla comes up with the theory of time slips--that she's untethered to her time, so she's there in 2020 with them, but she could also be in 2005, or 1980, or anywhere, really, on that subway. August compares it to the radio. Where songs stretch over airwaves ot be heard from opposite ends of the country, Jane is able to traverse between her time and August's.

But they keep things up like that. It's the coffee and the bagel--and then, Jane starts recounting a long string of girls from her life before that August ends up keeping count of in the back of a notebook. She remembers exes, and kissing girls in alleyways--and the best way to jog these memories is to kiss someone, and well... August is right there.

August responds accordingly to her crush kissing her while thinking of someone else--she's very upset about it, but she keeps it locked up pretty tight, because she loves Jane, and it's better to return her home than to let her feelings get in the way. So they keep going, to try and jog up names to people who might have known her forever ago. After a brief, purely scientific in nature, make out on the subway, August returns to Billy's.

Lucie informs her that while she was dodging work, they were all informed Billy's was closing--the landlord is raising the rent at the end of the year to something Billy can't afford. He tried to buy the unit, but the bank won't give him the hundred-thousand-dollar loan needed to, meaning Billy's will close by the end of the year. This becomes important later.

August goes to Myla's place of work to buy a portable radio--before she leaves, Myla warns her to buy batteries for it, and she gifts it to Jane. This starts another layer to their relationship, where they call in seventies song to the same station until the people running it know their number.

August goes to an Easter brunch, hosted by Isaiah--it's hilarious, but is a lot of detail for a plot summary I've already been struggling with, but it gets crazy, and eventually, Isaiah leads it to the subway with Jane--the two of them share their first kiss, their first real kiss while August is drinking, and Jane throws herself back so hard, she assumes she did something, that she overstepped.

But Jane pulled away because she smelled peanuts on August's breath, and it jarred her entire childhood out of her. She recounts it--her name is Su Biyu. She's the oldest out of her three sisters, her whole family lived in Chinatown, in San Francisco. Her family lived there for generations, she was supposed to inherit the family-ran restaurant after a life of taking care of her sisters, meant to protect them as the oldest--she was the only one with a Chinese name, out of them. Betty and Barbara. In '71, her father let a punk band play, and Jane fell in love with them, so she chopped off her hair and ran away from home--she was terrified of disappointing her parents, and thought it was easier to leave than disappoint them. She fought with her father a lot, and her mother cried a lot, and she didn't want to be tied down by tradition.

'72, she was in N'Orleans--there was a place called Drunk Jane's, and these women chatted amongst themselves and dubbed her Drunk Jane because they were very gay, and Jane was very hot, and they were too scared to ask her her name. Every lesbian on the block had some sort of nickname--eventually, her own shortened to just Jane. N'Orleans was the first place to feel like home after San Francisco, and for one reason or another, Jane left. She can't remember why.

It was, though, the seventies. Queer people could be racist--and Asian people like her could be homophobic, and there she was, Chinese, and lesbian, and butch. She could never make anything last--she fled quickly, every time something started to go south, she never stayed in one place long.

She heard of a woman who rested outside gay bars with a baseball bat, who was present for the Stonewall Riots--it was a fight she wanted to be a part of, so she moved to New York. At some point, people she knew started falling ill--the AIDS crisis was hitting New York, without yet a name or any real recognition. She made friends. She had a life, was maybe building it up.

It's not clear how it ended. Jane can't remember.

But it's a start, and August is as determined as ever.

She's also still very much in love--she doesn't want to make a move, not when Jane is in such a fragile state. The book says that she's regained and lost everything with what she's remembered, and August badly, badly wants to love her. Myla points out that the timing alla round is horrible, not because of Jane's memory, but because she's trapped in a subway. There truly is no better time than the present--and no worse one, either. The chances of it going anywhere are slim to none, and August admits to herself that they can't have "everything," but they can definitely have something.

So, she preps the most romantic date you can have confined to the subway. Bags upon bags of chips, five different flavors of Pop-Tarts, the Chi-Lites on a tape, a bottle of wine in plastic cups, and they sit on a blanket on the floor of the subway and look out over the bridge. It's terribly fitting for the two of them--Jane gets very heated, and starts asking August just what's going on, if this is a date, because she's been hitting on her and it's gotten her nothing. August says she assumed if Jane wanted her, she'd have her as easily as she did anyone else, with her usual confidence, it's why she's been so nervous, but Jane only tells her that none of those girls in the past are August.

And then they're kissing. This is what they want, this is what the book's been building up to, what the research has lead to. Originally, August tries to get things to stop, because they're on the subway, but then--the power's out. And they're still over the bridge and there's no chance of anyone getting on, so...

August gets head looking out over the bridge with Jane on her knees--and holy shit, is it good sex. It's also a good scene, but mostly, it's good sex.

Everybody's super proud of August for going for it, and it's obvious she's still in love--in talking about it with the others, something just as important comes up. When Myla told August to get batteries for that portable radio she gave Jane--she never did.

But it's still working, is the thing. August knows because Jane tells her when to tune in to their usual station, they still get their music from it. Jane admits her cassette player works fine without batteries too, and she just never thought it worth mentioning. Somehow, these things operate without a power source--leading to another one of Myla's theories. There's electricity in the body, what has our mind running and our hearts beating, and somehow, Jane is able to have her own electricity to power her things. Basically, when she stops seeing August, she starts to become unstuck from this time--so, August is keeping her here, making her more real. The rest of them have only really seen Jane because of their relation to August--she suggests that the spark of static in their first encounter is what started it, and that Jane isn't bound to the subway so much as she's bound to the electric current in the rails. They don't know what could have done that, other than some big event.

It's more information than they've really had, the closest thing to an answer, but there's still a lot they don't know.

Anyways, it's Niko's birthday, and they spend it at a drag show, and it's so awesome, the crew gets hella drunk and wakes up hungover. This is where Wes, Myla, and Niko learn that Billy's is set to close at the end of the year, and as they say, it's unacceptable. They resolve to get the money to buy the unit so they can stay open--how?

As Jane puts it, they're rallying to save Billie's with pancakes, queers, and a drag show--and holy fuck, is it awesome.

In the midst of the Save Billy's campaign, August gets a call from her mother--her old, traditional, and pretty evil grandmother had a stroke and didn't make it, leading to the reveal that she had tried for a relationship with August, but that AM didn't let it. They paid for her tuition at a Catholic school, checks every one of her birthday--but they stopped when she turned eighteen, because AM didn't want her help for any longer. The reason they were always broke, they couldn't afford everything after the flood that destroyed their home? Just the investigation, not August's schooling.

A dam breaks and they're fighting--but mostly, August is just shouting, about how her mother's insisted that she should be alone, that she was supposed to be happy alone, but did seemingly everything she could to keep her alone, and it's like she only had August to have an assistant for the case that's consumed her life. Her mother thought she was protecting her, but August is just so angry. Her dead grandmother had her in the will and left her some cash. That's not important right now, she's just mad her mother would keep something like this from her. She tells her not to call--she'll call when she's ready, but she needs some time apart.

She sees Jane on the train again and they carve their names into a subway seat with their respective pocket knives--it's the first time Jane's got a look at August's trademark knife, and it catches her off guard. She repeats, August, but she's not saying August's name.

She's talking about Augie.

And that's the link they've been missing. Her friend from New York--the reason she left.

...There's the Upstairs Lounge. The summer of '73, after mentioning his round-faced, green-eyed little sister in a photo, how he was going to send her an encyclopedia set in the mail with tonight's tips at his shift in the Upstairs Lounge--and then the place caught ablaze. Arson. He was one of the deaths, and no one came looking for most of them. Most churches refused to hold the funerals. Jane lost a good friend and a roommate, and had to go about her life coming back to an empty place while radio hosts cracked jokes over dead men. That was what had her going to New York--she had loved N'Orleans and all, but there was nothing there for her anymore. She wanted to leave.

And she never made it out of New York.

It's this pondering that almost has August break and call her mother--instead, her and Jane have their plot-mandated relationship failure, where they're both frazzled, and Jane complains that it's like she's died, but she has to be aware of everything she's missed. Most of the people she loves is dead. She's left her family and never told them why. She never told her best friend that she should dump her asshole of a boyfriend. She comments that August should give up on her, because she would, and August says that she's not her.

Jane tells her to just leave--August wants her to stay, she must, and there's a chance, and that must be why shse's trying, but Jane hasn't stayed anywhere since N'Orleans, and even now, she wants to jump off the platform and run from August. August accuses her of trying to make her run, because she can't.

And they part.

She goes to talk to Jerry--their plan to save Billy's is starting to take a turn, because it turns out, people really want to save Billy's. Their venue won't be able to hold all the people, so they're looking elsewhere, and they need to rethink the pancakes--they're gonna need a lot of gallons of pancake batter. Excessive amounts of pancake batter. While they're talking, a pipe in Billy's kitchen bursts--Jerry rushes to shut off the main, all while the two of them accidentally destroy the kitchen with the flooding water, and August realizes he's going to the back too late.

In the back is where she's set up all her Jane-centric, mystery shit, and Jerry does ultimately recognize her, and is very confused as to why the new waitress has a shrine dedicated to a server from the seventies. The burst pipe and the fact that the kitchen is closed until they get it fixed is just further demanding more money they don't have, more money needed to Save Billy's--but Jerry also recognizes Jane. He admits to August that he does remember Jane--and he lied to her because how the fuck was he supposed to know that August was anything other than a nosy new server? He also didn't know that she was even missing--he assumed she left New York--because she was planning on moving. Back in July of '77, they were hanging out, Jerry was drunk as fuck, completely sauced, and managed to fall off the platform they were on and onto the subway tracks, before Jane came to his rescue. What else happened in July of '77, other than the birth of hip hop?

A blackout.

Jerry tells her it was chaos--he assumes he lost her in the crowd somewhere, and they lost touch. This was also how he decided he wanted to quit drinking, since he nearly got them both killed on some train tracks--the place Jane was moving to, convinced by an old friend, happened to be California.

There is a post-card of August's, all the way from 1976--and August knows that despite what happened in '73, Augie's the one who sent it.

The biggest clue yet--she decides to deal with Augie later and focus on Jane.

Her answer lies within NYC's Transit Power Control Center--they assume if they focus a blackout only around the Q (instead of citywide), recreating the instance with which it happened, they can manage to reverse it. Myla reasons that there are two power surges in a blackout--the one that overloads the line and shuts everything off, and then the one when it immediately comes back on, giving them two chances.

...There's also the fact that Jane might not really make it out of the power being shut off. Before, she had missed it, untethered to the time, but now, with August having weighted her down, making her more present, and the fact that she isn't truly a part of the train, but the line? The chances of her making it out are up in the air. Meaning when the Q is shut down for maintenance, she might not be coming back.

Later, Jane texts her, telling her to put the radio back on before telling her to come back.

Their reunion is like something from an epic and something from the cheesiest romcom--it's beautiful, it's bold, it's romantic. There's no doubt they're in love.

Jane's been keeping a list too--of all the modern day things she's heard of and knows nothing about. It's stuff she wants to look into, if she ends up staying in the current time, because she wouldn't mind staying. Things are different, and she'll be starting over--but she'll have August, and the hope of being public with her love, and a chance at something permanent of her own making. This is what she wants.

She remembers--she was drinking with Jerry, they were leaving, he fell on the tracks, she went to get him. He got up.

...She fell and spilled her backpack.

While she was grabbing all of her belongings, she fell on the third rail and assumed she was going to die.

At that exact moment, the blackout happened, and the power surge knocked her out of time instead of killing her, which is pretty fucking metal.

Then August explains that Augie survived, bringing back another one of Jane's memories. She got a postcard from him, and was freaked out, but did call him--over the phone, he explained that he missed his shift through some stroke of (mis?)fortune, and was so sick with his grief and survivor's guilt, he just skipped town. He drank heavily, hitchhiked a lot--but then he found himself in California. He got clean, sober, got himself a steady boyfriend and reached out to tell her about how he missed her, how they could watch out for each other, how San Francisco was ready for people like them, and because he missed his own family so much, Jane realized she wanted to see her own.

So, she was supposed to be off to California. Enter third rail, black out, and subway ghost-ness.

August also asks why Augie stopped writing to his sister, but Jane insists he never did. She just never got them. It's implied her grandparents (now deceased) intercepted them.

Now Myla, the absolute babe she is, knows someone who works at the Transit Power Control Center--the problem is, he's her ex, and the reason he's her ex is because she dropped him the minute she met Niko.

But they need a new venue for the Billy's campaign--their solution is for Myla to hit on her ex, get this TPCC as the venue, and pull of a heist to turn the power off to help Jane. It's incredibly complicated--but her and Jane find out that she's carried in the electricity of the third rail, and they go exploring to see just how far they can make it. Jane, as a part of the third rail, is conductive and shocks August if they try and touch--this would make for some very cool sex, in place of a violet wand, but would also kill August. Instead, they swap secrets in the tunnel and share an orange, and honestly? That's way hotter than getting your snatch shocked.

Now, Myla's ex isn't really a bad person--he's just boring, a little full of himself, and the group immediately is suspicious of all white, cishet men. The reason he (calling him Gabe from now on, because that's his name) got the one was because his uncle's a manager there, and with that, he thinks he can convince him to let the TPCC be a venue for Billy's. It is a little manipulative of Myla, but it's played for laughs, and honestly? It does end up being kind of funny, so it doesn't really count against her, and they all have a really good motive for taking advantage of Gabe, so it's okay. (There is actually a point where Myla asks if she should feel bad, and is told that he's explained wage disparity to Lucie, who works in food service, and is fighting capitalism by not paying his rent, which really highlights the privilege he has in his life that he isn't even aware of. That doesn't necessarily mean he deserves being actively lead on like this, but it makes it a bit easier to stomach and does show that Myla isn't like, doing this for fun.)

The plan is to use a whole bunch of inflatables and balloons to block the security cameras. Myla will distract Gabe when the party's in full swing and steal his security clearance badge, August will sneak away to the Q, Wes causes a distraction to get the security guards away from the control room, and Myla will overload the line with Jane on the third rail, hopefully sending her back.

Now, because we know the plan, we know it's not gonna work out perfectly according to plan. Myla tries to put the moves on Gabe (with Niko's approval because he knows full well it's for the greater good and is confident enough in his relationship to overlook it, and believe what Myla tells him), but then Gabe gets way too excited about his JUUL-pod line he's making, that Myla can't get the badge. August swoops in to save the day and pours pancake batter on him, so she can grab the badge while he's distracted, but then Lucie comes by to try and drag August back to work, because they're jam packed and there isn't enough staff to handle it, this is an all hands on deck thing.

Lucie only relents because Annie Depressant comes in and claims she's taking over--she knows that they're up to something, and she wants to help. Wes admits that he is in love with her, in and out of drag, and they share a kiss before they're back on the Save Jane and Billy's Campaign.

August makes it to the Q, and there's Jane. They talk about the possibility of her going back--and if she does go back, she says, handing off her jacket to August, she wants her to have it. To remember her by. August gives her a photo of the two of them.

They go to try and return Jane home--and I talk more in depth about the ending later, so this is my plot summary.

 

Main Characters:

This is the jaded-main-character-with-a-dark-past done right. The book introduces August Landry right off the bat in a stark contrast to Niko--while the two get along fine, it's incredibly obvious the two of them are polar opposites, and it's that that really expresses their roles as characters to the reader. McQuiston wastes no time in introducing August and the bare minimum of her character--a skeptic from N'Orleans trying to finish up her degree and a place to live while she does so. She likes fried chicken, has Wikipedia knowledge, and she's tough. Her stunned responses to Niko's talk of spirituality makes it obvious she's caught off guard, but she's more than willing to put up with this apartment's antics for a place to live, and you'd expect these antics to distract from August, I mean--between the Rolly Bangs, and Myla's art, and Niko's psychic-ness, and Wes' deadpan type of crazy, and the fact that her love interest is a time-traveling lesbian, you'd really expect to be distracted from all this. In comparison, August could be considered plain--

But she's got the most kick-ass backstory--and it's shaped her into what she is. Without it, August could be that plain, but it's meshed with her actual character, and August is so well-developed, she stands out amongst the cast, and she's every bit as unique and awesome as everyone else.

The second main character Jane Su serves not just as a foil to August, but her love interest. As well-developed as she is, I have to say she fits the bill of a manic pixie dream girl (MPDG). She's kind to the point of selflessness, she's bold, she's bright, she's funny, she's confident--and like most MPDGs, she helps bring about August's character development.

But where most MPDGs act as only gears in the machine of the plot, Jane is only an MPDG in character, not in her role in the story. For every ounce of support given to August, the plot is driven by August's love for her and her desire to return her home back to the seventies. MPDG Classic never ends up with the main character--they're more there to teach a lesson, change lives, and go about their own without any reciprocation. The main character usually leaves her, and it's all about what she can do for the main character (which is normally a guy, and makes the MPDG Classic a pretty anti-feminist trope)--but this story gives them a balanced relationship. While Jane does love August, and does inspire some pretty big change within her, August is going out of her way to love her, going above and beyond to get her to remember her past, and plans some sort of weird-heist-thing at the end, just to help her, and they both grow as characters together. A lot of the problems with MPDG as a trope is that it's usually just bad--you worked so hard on a character arc for her love interest, but you couldn't give her a satisfying end? The prick of a main character gets a happy ending, but the girl they loved just disappears into the night like she never existed in their life, with nothing but their fingerprints on the clay of their being left? It makes the story feel unfinished--a character needs to be a character, not just a plot device--and the fact that both characters come off with fully-developed personalities is just a sign of the work McQuiston really put into this novel.

 

First Five Pages:

Okay, so I'm inclined to think McQuiston is familiar with the five page rule, because it's literally everything it should be. Now, in print, it's actually roughly six pages, and I'm trying to keep it to just the first five, but when I say that they're everything the first five pages of a book should be, they really are everything they should be. It introduces the bulk of the main characters and the bare basics about them August Landry (with her love of fried chicken and her skepticism) is trying to get a place to stay to finish up school at the last minute, she's talking to Niko (a psychic who believes in everything August doesn't), his girlfriend and one of August's new roommates Myla (a friendly sculptor, madly and mutually in love with Niko), and mentions Wes (a mostly nocturnal tattoo artist with a sour outside and a soft inside).

These pages don't necessarily communicate the main conflict (Jane being from the seventies and all, that's not until much later in the book, August doesn't even know Jane until the first), but it's witty, it's amusing, and it should hook readers plenty, and at the end of the day, that is their main goal.

Diversity:

I can't stress how important it is to look into the media and see someone like yourself--I can't say for sure that ever possible reader who picks it up will see themselves, but it's got the diversity expected of a big city, and I think there's a pretty high chance you can find a character to relate to. August is plus-sized, and it's not made into a big deal, but it's still mentioned at times--she never really says anything bad about her body, she still eats plenty (2). Mostly, it's just her on the front cover showing that she is visibly plump, and a brief bout of anxiety when her and Jane (spoiler alert) boink for the first time and Jane sees her naked, because Jane is much skinnier than her. These are all perfect ways to bring up a character's weight that make it a small part of her character, and not at all heavy-handed. She's also bisexual, and despite being open to all genders, she intends to live her life, for the most part, alone, possibly a virgin forever, which is also pretty rare in literature--and especially for a bi character. And she owns a pair of converse? The accuracy nearly killed me.

Jane is the secondary character--she's a Chinese butch lesbian from the '70s, and maybe I'm alone in this as I haven't seen anyone really talk about it, and I haven't heavily researched the time period, but but to me, McQuiston's telling of Jane's past--of the bigotry she faces around Chinese people like her or lesbians like her, people like her that dislike parts of herself she won't deny--comes off as incredibly educated and compassionate. I don't think she really pulled any punches--marginalization in the community is rampant. While at the end of the day, we're all queer, there's the TERFs who don't believe trans folks have a place in the community, a debate on asexuality, lesbians who claim that transwomen are men in disguise trying to sleep with them, gay men who claim trans men are women trying to sleep with them, debates on pronouns, the right flags, dysphoria--we have trans people who are homophobic to go with the homosexual transphobes, and this is not including the typical, run-of-the-mill racists, ableists, classists, etc.

This is all to say that marginalization often goes overlooked--sometimes, in the making of queer content, the creator simply only makes it queer. What I mean to say is that the default in this society tends to often be white, skinny, able bodied, and cishet--and oftentimes, a creator's attempt to break the mold, only alters one of those things--you can't slap a gay character in with the rest of the cast and call it diversity. Often, we pick one of these "default" settings to change, and oftentimes, we'll make a cast that focuses so much on one part of identity, like queerdom, and end up accidentally sticking with the rest of the defaults--this means that many readers of color, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, won't be able to see themselves in the story.(3)

I think a huge part of the reason I loved Jane so much is that it feels like her story's rooted in history--she and her siblings were born in the fifties. Her parents were immigrants, and a little traditional, though she still has fond memories of them and still loves them dearly--as a lesbian, and as a more masculine woman, she didn't really fit in there, and with most of those on the queer scene that she met being white, or being femme, she didn't fit there either. Jane was arrested for doing stuff that today, a lot of people woudn't bat their eyes at--wearing jeans from the men's section, for example--and she wasn't present for when homosexuality was legalized in the U.S., or when same-sex marriage was legalized. She was just on the subway, barely there, not quite alive and not exactly dead--and as someone who loves queer history, I genuinely wanted to cry for her.

But this type of diversity persists in the book--maybe not a hundred percent casual with how aggressive the queer themes really are, but realistic. Nico is a warm and friendly Puerto-Rican trans man who's a little quirky, but still very much a good person, and comes from a family that does love him--but has forbidden him from coming out to a few relatives all the same, even though he's been technically out of the closet since he was very young. He's in a steady and loving relationship with Myla, a pretty and incredibly sweet Black girl who's unabashedly feminist and loyal to her friends. Their other roommate Wes is described as a twink, works at a tattoo shop, and shows a disturbingly accurate representation of depression--his parents disowned him and cut him off from a trust fund, and he's a little too scared to disappoint the people he loves as a result, to the point where he doesn't act on his love, something that shines with his love interest in Isaiah, a black and uber-confident drag queen who's in love with him and kinda just waiting for him to act on the obviously mutual feelings between them.

To date, I've never found a book that shows off so many sides of a community--not just when it comes to queer rep, but in the family August makes for herself. The found family trope is incredibly and unmistakably queer in nature, and it really shines in this book--August makes a ton of friends, finds a place in a rundown apartment in Brooklyn and an old diner, but ultimately what she has is a group of people brought together by, at the end of the day, love.

Writing:

Like Written in the Stars, OLS has that poetic, pretty-sounding language that's not quite purple prose, but certainly romanticizes language. Instead of being overbearing, it gives the story a pretty look that is undercut by a strong sense of humor and realism--and that's one thing that I found WitS lacked--it's writing was beautiful, but at times, I thought the words sounded almost hollow, maybe a little like Bellefleur spent too much time trying to make the words look pretty and flow good that she forgot the feeling she really wanted to invoke (or maybe I am incredibly biased, feel free to tell me if you think that's the case).

But OLS carries it's momentum though out all the book in it's charm and wit, and that comes not just from the writing, but in the character's interactions with each other--this book actually had me setting it aside so I could laugh for a minute at some of the jokes. In every word, it feels like McQuiston truly loves her characters and her story--and at the end of the day, an artist creates for themselves, so that's in itself a victory. This book is just fun and beautiful.

The Author:

Casey McQuiston is a best-selling author best known for their MLM novel, Red, White, and Royal Blue--I don't know, I didn't read it, but I'm pretty sure that was the book that got McQuiston their place in queer literature, and this book has me thinking that it's deserved. I think it won an award--Goodreads or something. I tried to look them up, and I suppose I was under the impression that they were a woman, but now seems like the perfect place to say that they're queer and they use all pronouns (4). If here's one thing I love on my blog, it's a queer writer who's representing themselves.

McQuiston was born and raised in Louisiana but lives now in New York City--much more importantly, she has a poodle named Pepper. She has a new book, published on May 3rd of 2022, titled I Kissed Shara Wheeler, and I know absolutely nothing about it, but you can bet your ass I'm buying it with my next paycheck. Their website is available at: https://www.caseymcquiston.com/about and I'd recommend you check them out, sincerely. I'm not sure if any books can top One Last Stop, but I won't know if I don't read them.

The Ending:

If you want to read this book yourself, skip this. I'm not kidding when I say it's worth it to read it yourself.

Seriously. Go.

 

OLS has only one thing I can count against it, and that's it's ending.

This is what we've been building up to--it has to be something great, and sweet Jesus, the buildup is there--August and her gang of queers band together to help set a party meant not just to achieve the funds for Billys, but to provide a distraction to cause a blackout. The goal of said blackout? To create a burst of power strong enough to send Jane back to her time. Jane is bound not to the trains of the Q, but the rails and it's electricity, and to do something this big, August needs the help of all her found family in New York.

The day starts in a blaze of glory--Wes is giving tattoos, Annie Depressant is performing, pancakes, the whole thing is chaos incarnate, it is the best type of crime for the best motive, all meant to help the love of August's life. The day before this, they were swapping secrets and sharing an orange on the tracks. Best case scenario, the plan works and all that's over--but she has to do this.

Jane gives August her jacket to remember her bye, and before she never gets the chance to, August proclaims her love--no, her love isn't going to keep Jane here with her, but it needs to be said. She needs to know.

...And at first, the plan doesn't work. Jane is standing on the rail, nothing is happening--it's suddenly possible that Jane is going to half-live forever on these rails, a ghost of the subway, forever and all eternity.

But August remembers their first kiss--their first, and it's emotion and memories it jarred, the true start of Jane's journey home bound (wherever that could entail). Where it all started--this is the end of their relationship. August made her remember home with a kiss, so she'll send her home with one too, there on the third rail of the Q.

August wakes up on the couch at home--the ugly one she focused so much on in the beginning. She has Jane's jacket, Wes has a black eye from her insistence that she didn't want to leave Jane. They don't know exactly what happened, but she's gone now.

August loved like she never had before--and she lost so much. The only comparable thing to the loss of Jane is the flood that destroyed everything she knew when she was eight and shaped her out to be what she is currently. She's a little lost and a little broken, and God knows what this means. They're ten-thousand short for Billy's, she still isn't on speaking terms with her mother, the rest of her family is dead, Jane's gone--but there's this trash couch for her to rest on, and Niko with his sage, and Myla's comfort, and Wes' black eye, and the Q in all it's glory is shut down for maintenance.

Niko comforts her--as gifted as he is, he knew whatever was gonna happen, it was gonna hurt, and he apologizes to August for not warning her. August decides that it didn't matter, as it wouldn't have stopped her. She regrets none of what she's done or what's happened.

She meets up with her mother at Billy's--her mother gives an emotional apology and talks about how much she's missed her, how she loves her, and August realizes that her mother's telling the truth. She was trying to protect her. With her visiting, she explains just what truly happened to Augie--he's dead and gone now. He got his life back in order, got sober, found love--when he died, he died loved and warm, happy. His lover's gotten himself someone else, but remembers him fondly, and tells August all about the life he lived before it ended, and August tells AM all she can, everything she learned from Jane.

AM asks if she can meet Jane, meet the person who knew her brother so well, but August admits that she wishes she could--but she can't. Her mother seems to understand there's something she's not admitting, seems to assume that Jane--having been from the seventies and having known her brother--is dead, and offers the comfort she can.

The check from her deceased grandparents come in, and before she starts her shift, she anonymously enters it into Billy's fund. None other than Billy himself comes stumbling through the doors. It's a miracle--the place will stay open, and he exclaims it must be a miracle, unaware the real reason it's open is right there among his employees. They close early, and Billy gives a toast--to his business, his employees, his regulars, and to Billy's Pancake House of Pancakes--a place to belong, and this is where you know that August, as the tragic and cold-hearted main character warming up to the colorful cast she's joined, who's feared love because she's feared loss, has found her place to belong in this city.

And then! Jane is there! She just arrived, she doesn't know where she's been for like, a month, but she's off the subway, and she's there! They're together again, happy ending for all!

The book tries to brush over this with Myla, who explains that time's a complicated thing, and they just might never understand, but hey! Jane's here! The future August hoped for but believed to be gone can now be their present.

I have to give McQuiston some credit--there was two ways she could have gone about it, and it was a slightly-less-than-sensible happy ending that would still be satisfying enough, or a sad ending. Jane goes back to her time, they're forever apart, and August has to accept it. Their chemistry can't fix 40+ years of distance, and the ending is no less tragic, their love no less real. It's obvious McQuiston loved her characters--maybe too much to destroy them like this. I will also admit, it's hard to say, "well, the ending isn't realistic" as a thing to critique from a romance novel where the main character falls in love with a time-traveling lesbian trapped on the subway.

I think an ending that might have fit better would have been: Jane is sent back to the '70s, she returns home, makes up with her family, and now an old lady, she reaches out to August in 2019 to remind her that she's always gonna hold a place in her heart, and the brevity of their relationship doesn't make it any less true. August goes about her life, maybe still becomes a PI, but without Jane--but she's still perfectly capable of loving and losing, and will always be grateful for Jane and her role in her life.

This ending would have also had me tearing my own beating heart out of my chest, I think McQuiston tried to fix this with the note found on the subway from Jane, and she definitely tried to make the ending better, and even with it's flaws, I still think the ending was good. This book was dope as Hell, and when I start reading the letter Jane left on the subway in case August found it and she didn't get a chance to say it to her face

So, I loved this book, and I do still love the ending. Jane joins the apartment, there's hope with Jane's family, August becomes some sort of PI with her skills, and they get their happy ending. It feels deserved, and I can only really count it against the book so much.

 

Things Counting For:

--I tend to assume any character is Mexican by default, and I'm always happy when I'm right--but on the subject of at least Latine(5) characters, Niko is Puerto-Rican. That's not like, a huge deal and Puerto-Rican does not equal Mexican, but I will say that it often seems like most American authors will make a Latine character and it's always Mexican, the same way an Asian character is just about always Japanese nowadays. It's not that Mexican and Japanese characters shoudn't be represented, but that we often show these specific ethnicities to be the only Asian/Latine representation. Also--Niko fucking rocks. I was worried that him being vegan (either because the author doesn't like vegans and wanted to poke fun at them, or maybe worked too hard on justifying Niko's veganism that it inadvertently became most of his character) and being super spiritual, but everything about Niko is super balanced. Yes, he's a psychic, and yes, he's religious, and yes, he's vegan, and yes, he's trans, and yes, he's Puerto Rican, and all these things are given their due respect and balanced for the story and his character. He might actually be my favorite of the bunch.

--The frog bones joke at the start. Actually, the whole first six pages--I was in unreasonable stitches. Unreasonable.

--During the drag queen brunch, Wes brings some very fancy, homemade scones, and Isaiah says that he's pretty sure these incredibly specific baked goods are what his sister's bringing. Wes says something to the effect of a shocked, really, and Isiah says something like, "No, she's coming with Doritios and Ziploc bag of weed like she always does," and I actually started snorting.

--I really love non-traditionally beautiful main characters. Not in a "beautiful all along!" way, but in a way they just kinda exist, and then those traits become them, and they're not necessarily beautiful, or ugly, or anything but a part of them, detail to make them them. August is plus-sized in the art, and it's not really brought up other than when she's nervous and her and Jane are about to boink--other than this one instance, August doesn't seem to care about her weight. Body-neutrality for the win, y'know? I'm good with whatever authors tend to do with their characters, so long as they do it with the due respect, and it was nice seeing a fat character represented. It also helps that she's a character you can root for, August is a very well-developed character.

--The Su Special--it's described as a sandwich with two pieces of Texas Toast, a fried egg, bacon, maple syrup, and hot sauce. I've tried it and it's bomb. I don't usually have Texas Toast on hand, I usually end up making it with sourdough, and I've made a variation in flour tortillas instead, and I was never a fan of syrup on anything that wasn't sweet, but I made this sandwich once out of curiosity and I have never looked back, I would recommend.

--The symbolism of the air mattress! When August first comes to the apartment, she uses it and cites minimalism, but as the apartment grows on her and she sticks around for longer, she eventually goes out and gets an actual bed. Wes even cites her usual stance on minimalism, and August states that she's just never had a place worth more than the minimal--an air mattress is for guests, and at that point,t he apartment is home. And then, when her mother comes to visit, the narration points out that the air mattress she sleeps on on the floor of August's bedroom is the same mattress August used when she first got here, and with AM being a guest at that point, a welcome guest but still a guest, it's just so fitting.

--The articles at the beginning of every chapter, all focus around Jane in some way, exlcuding one at the end. That one is a post from August where she offers to help anyone looking for someone, her little PI schtick, implying that all those things about Jane were what she found, when she was setting up her cork board and string. They also tie into the chapters, they're well-written, and they don't get old, they all seem to have a point to them, on top of demonstrating that August is pretty good at what she does. Another little thing that shows how much work McQuiston put into this novel.

--McQuiston dedicates the book to queer communities of the past and the present at the beginning. I'm not crying, you are.

Things Counting Against:

--I'm sorry, I gotta mark some points off for the ending. Yeah, Jane's note was beautiful, and the ending was satisfying, and there probably wasn't a way to truly wrap it up all in a perfect little bow, but with my critique, it's gotta count for something.

--I feel like it wasn't entirely clear why August chose to forgive her mother. Upon further thought, I think it's that she's realized with her grandparents having came between their children, having spurred on AM's paranoia, fear, and sole concentration to find her brother, she definitely didn't want a relationship with them, and AM was genuinely protecting her by keeping them separate. However, my first time reading this, it felt an awful lot like August forgave her, simply because she wasn't any worse--like, well, she only traumatized me half as bad as her parents traumatized her. Currently, I've settled on something a bit more flattering for their relationship--our lives shape us. AM was shaped by sexist, old fashioned parents who would drop whatever kid didn't conform to their image--she never became what they wanted, but was so determined to do better than them, to protect herself and her daughter from them, to have the family she could, untouched by their red and greedy hands, that she ran headfirst into her own problems. She wanted to help her brother, and enlisted her daughter in it, shaped her daughter's whole life around a man she had ever met, so desperate for closure--August dind't forgive her, simply because AM was maybe doing her best, but because she was ending the cycle. She saw her mother running from horrible parents, and knew she didn't want the same. She chose to think it over, dealt with it the way she could, and ended it with a conversation, because her mother tried, and her mother wanted to do better for her. You might get a different view if you read it, but this is kinda what I decided, it made the most sense to me.

--I can't actually think of a third problem I had with this book, but I felt like two points wasn't enough. I might be biased!

 

9.8/10, mostly because I probably shouldn't give every book I read a 10/10 rating.

This book made me want to love again. I cried for the last twenty pages. Maybe it's the concept of a time traveling lesbian, the research done for the time period, the bisexual main character who sticks her to her gut, her pocket knife, and keeps to herself but ultimately comes to love her friends and falls in love? This is a beautiful story. I made my mom take my copy with her on a vacation, in case she got bored, and now she will come back and know exactly why I keep putting syrup on my breakfast sandwiches.

 

Originally, I intended to have this out a lot sooner, but it didn't happen. Then I intended to have it out at the beginning of Pride Month, and that didn't happen, either. The important thing is, it's done now, and I'm working on other posts. Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you consider going out and buying McQuiston's novel, because it's been a while since I've finished this book, and my love for it has yet to fade. I probably don't have enough posts on here to say it's my favorite, but so far...

 

(1) I used "y'all" because I really wanted to use "motherfuckers" here, but it sounded aggressive. Please know that I love you and the vast majority of what I say isn't meant to come off as aggressive. Don't stay up too late, loves, go drink some water. Mwah!

(2) It's pretty common for creators to have a fat character, and then not show them eating--not even like, in a simple none-of-the-characters-are-shown-eating-way, but in a singling-out-this-one-character-so-the-audience-doesn't-think-they're-too-fat-or-anything-way. It's one of those little things that lines right up with how none of the overweight characters can ever have messy hair or sweatpants on or anything, because then they look sloppy or like they're not trying--I'll probably bring up the media's emphasis on making these types of diversity (in skin colors, sexuality, body type, background, etc.) more palatable for those who aren't a part of those groups in another post.

(3) This is obviously more of a generalized observation, and it can vary, depending on what corner of creation you're present in--in general, most of the writing communities I've seen are pretty diverse, but that might also be because I seek them out, and when I first started out writing, my casts, my characters, my diversity... left a lot to be desired. I think most white authors tend to make most of their own characters white by default because, well, they're white, but that might speak more to what we reflect of ourselves onto our own creations than anything--I'll admit, I've always assumed (if not otherwise specified) that the main character of anything is at least part Mexican. I'm not saying any of this to shame anyone, or to tell you that you need to throw one of your characters into a wheelchair, or change the race of your main character--a lot of these things will require a decent amount of research, and these are not the type of things you only want to do shallowly, especially if it's just to please someone else or to alleviate guilt of not representing someone. It's much better that you represent someone correctly than simply just representing them. Most people would give you the advice that you should do it well, or not at all.

(4) I'll admit, my default for everyone is usually that they're a woman--in my defense, I grew up mainly surrounded by woman, it was most of my family, but still, I of all people should know better than to assume someone's gender, and I am admitting fault and encouraging you, dear readers, to do better, and go pay an awesome queer author some respect, because holy shit, trans author, fuck yeah!

(5) If you're looking for a gender-neutral version of Latino/Latina, I urge you to consider Latine. A lot of people view Latinx has enforcing European standards on a non-European language, and technically, in the context of Spanish, the masculine is the default so Latino would be correct for a gender-neutral one, but I opt for Latine. My Spanish is a work in progress, and I know there's someone out there who can put it much more eloquently, but basically, language changes overtime, and it's just figuring out what you want to chance, I opt for Latine.

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