Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

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As a geopolitically minded person, who is increasingly exhausted from reading the news and therefore subjecting myself to learning about whatever nonsense Trump does from day to day, I regularly look to an escape in the form of fictional literature. It’s one of those auspicious joys that graduate students don’t often get to indulge upon.

It’s far more immersive than simply binge-watching The Office for the tenth time; though it is great background music for thesis writing, dampening the sound of crying into your drafts, and evaluating your self-worth.

In my search for a mental departure, a paper-based vacation if you will, I stumbled upon a list of “Top LGBT Novels” and the brief synopsis (and I mean incredibly brief) that belonged to the vibrant colouring of this novel intrigued me. So, $22.50 and a two-day shipping from Indigo later, I received this lovely bright pink novel that, unbeknownst to me, would very quickly become my favourite novel that I have ever read.

“Red, White, & Royal Blue” is a spectacular journey of quick wit, drama, and romance that is so nail-bitingly consuming that I finished reading the novel in two nights; both of which were well past 3:00 am and lead to slow days in the lab, but they were worth it. Then, I read it again a few days later because it filled me with so much joy.

In the novel, readers follow Mexican-American Alex Claremont-Diaz through a third-person narration as he discovers his sexuality and his purpose in life, all while navigating being the son of the first female president in the midst of the 2020 election, university life, and international interpersonal relations with His Royal Highness Prince Henry. Strong emphasis on those interpersonal relations.

The reimagining of “what if the 2016 Presidential Election wasn’t a dumpster fire?” yields a novel that will have you laughing constantly, your heart smiling, and you’ll likely be crying a handful of times. In the spirit of HBO’s Veep, the novel has an astounding 236 uses of the word ‘fuck’, truly illustrating how the West Wing talks.

The cast of characters created are all so dynamic, and interesting, with Alex’s probable, but not discussed, high functioning ADHD, Prince Henry’s dry sarcasm, Nora’s chaotic good energy, and June’s good sister vibes. Honestly, there’s a lot that I want to say but I don’t want to spoil this gorgeous novel that I have been trying to have all my friends read for months.

In terms of the actual prose itself, it’s quite fantastic. McQuiston paints scenes so vividly at times it feels as though you are right there in the room watching it all happen. The strong point in this novel is the dialogue, flirty emails and the banter between Alex and Henry is priceless, although the novel is $22.50: a small price to pay for such enjoyment.

I practically devoured the novel as each chapter left me needing to know what happened next, as though my life depended on it.

For a debut novel, Casey McQuiston is off to a stellar start and I am very excited to see what her next novel is going to be like. From following her Twitter (@casey_mcquiston), she has mentioned her next novel to be following a female/female relationship, which she is in the process of drafting and likely have released in 2020.