We chose I Kissed Shara Wheeler for our August book club pick. We’ve heard amazing things about this YA contemporary all summer and couldn’t wait to discuss it with the group.
Have you read this book yet? Let us know your thoughts to our discussion questions in the comments.
Chloe Green never wanted to leave California, but before high school, her moms dragged her to Alabama. The only high school with a good academic reputation close by happened to be a religious school. At least Chloe has friends and the hope of being Valedictorian to get her to graduation.
Except, academic rival Shara Wheeler made Chloe’s life more difficult. Perfect pretty, popular Shara was basically tied with Chloe. Chloe was ready for a showdown before graduation. But when Shara goes missing, right after kissing Chloe, the mystery becomes the only thing she can think about.
Worse, Shara also kissed her boyfriend Smith and resident bad boy Rory too. The three all received communication from Shara, daring them to find her. This unlikely trio has the clock ticking to see if they can bring Shara home before graduation.
1. How did you feel about the themes in I Kissed Shara Wheeler?
With many of the characters being LGBTQ+ and living in a rural Alabama town, we saw the theme of discrimination. First, Chloe has two moms and she’s bisexual. Also, many of her friends are LGBTQ+ as well. It isn’t easy when Principal Wheeler is an extreme homophobe. It’s one of the main reasons Chloe plans to leave for NYC.
This led to an interesting discussion for our group because one member, who is from Massachusetts, didn’t realize how strong discrimination could be in the deep south. Since he came from a liberal town, he never came across this type of treatment of people. Learning that Casey McQuiston based this on her own life opened his eyes to what many people in religious communities deal with.
McQuiston also had a note in the book about her experiences with religious institutions that condone prejudice. Her goal was to show how damaging it can be to young people struggling with their identity. Another aspect of this was showing how students dealt with this differently. Chloe didn’t care who knew about her sexuality, but some of her friends chose to be private about their sexuality and pronouns until after graduation.
2. How did the characters change throughout the story?
We all liked Chloe from the start. We appreciate a clever, witty and spunky MC. She challenged the rules at her school and stood up for herself, no matter what. She did have some character growth, most resulting from the fact that she can’t plan her whole life out. Sometimes, she has to go with the flow and allow her friends to make different decicions.
As for Shara, we didn’t know what to think about her. As the story goes on, she seemed manipulative and controlling. We did come around to her at the end of the book though and realized a lot of her behavior came from her environment. While it doesn’t entirely excuse it, we saw some potential.
As for Smith and Rory, we liked their friendship with Chloe. Smith started out as stereotypical jock, but eventually gained some depth. We didn’t know too much about Rory from the start, yet his character tied in nicely for the trio. It was interesting to learn why he felt drawn to Shara.
3. Did the reason for Shara’s disapparence surprise you?
So, this was the part of the book that we felt let down. By about the half way mark, everyone in our group felt the clues became too easy. We also didn’t like the reason Shara went away…it seemed too selfish. We expected a an earth-shattering reveal and didn’t get it.
We did like Chloe’s reaction to finding Shara though. We won’t say more though because that will lead to spoilers.
4. How did you feel about the ending? Was everything resolved?
After the reveal, McQuiston pulled us back into the story by finally going deeper with Shara’s character and her quest to be perfect all the time. It sounds super exhausting. We finally got to meet the real Shara, not the girl on paper.
We do feel I Kissed Shara Wheeler resolved everything by the ending, including the romance. We ship it! It sounded like everyone ended high school on a good note, making decisions for their futures. Overall, we found the book to be fun and great for a group discussion.