Thursday 18 July 2019

#CBR11 Book 43: "Red, White & Royal Blue" by Casey McQuiston

Page count: 432 pages
Rating: 5 stars

#CBR11 Bingo: I Love This

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

What DIDN'T I love about this book? I honestly can't think of a thing. It's been a month and a half since I finished it, and I still think about it ALL the time. I've sent it to several of my friends to make them read it too, just so I'd have someone to gush about its awesomeness with. I know at least two of them have gifted friends and/or family members with copies of the book as well, so at least Casey McQuiston is doing good business out of my enthusiasm. Without a shadow of a doubt, this will be on my "Best of the Year" list come December. It would not surprise me if it ends up in the top three. There was no other book I had in my review backlog that more perfectly fit in the "I Love This" square than this book.

This book is funny, romantic and so affirming. Set in a slightly alternate world I think we all wish was real right now, Ellen Claremont from Texas won the Presidential election after Obama's final term. Her two half-Mexican kids are social media superstars. In the UK, there is still a Queen, but her name is Mary. There's no Prince Charles, only her daughter (who married a famous actor, who played James Bond in the 80s and tragically died of cancer a while back). The queen's eldest grandson is the heir to the throne. There is also Princess Beatrice, who wanted to become a rock star and got a little bit too carried away with cocaine. Then there's everyone's idea of Prince Charming, Henry, the youngest son. If Alex is the most eligible bachelor in the US, Henry is probably the most sought after in all of Europe. Except he has a secret - Henry is extremely and decidedly gay, and has been in love with Alex Claremont-Diaz since they first met at the Rio Olympics when they were in their early teens.

Alex both obsesses over and hates Henry at first, but after a rather monumental New Year's Eve at the White House and a very steamy kiss in the gardens, he's forced to re-evaluate everything he thought he knew about himself and his very confused feelings towards Henry.

Alex and Henry are both great protagonists. If there was one thing that could make this book EVEN better, it's if there had been POV chapters for Henry as well, especially because what we did get to see from his perspective (in his texts and e-mails) was lovely.

There is also a great supporting cast - Alex' sister June, his best friend Nora (the Vice President's brilliant granddaughter), Henry's sister Bea and his best friend Pez are all great. Alex is lucky enough to have three supportive parents. I liked how non-dramatic his parents divorce was and how well they deal with all his revelations (his Mum's powerpoint was both amazing and incredibly cringe-worthy ("Planned Parenthood sent leaflets! They used a bike messenger"). Nora might be the best friend a guy can have. Not sure if she was supposed to be on the spectrum, but her intense fascination for numbers possibly suggested it. Her reaction to Alex' big dramatic "Am I bi?" was hilarious and absolutely amazing and I cannot deny having re-read the scene and snickered several times.

I am frankly blown away by the fact that this is Casey McQuiston's first novel. As far as I can tell, this book is stand-alone, which I'm both relieved with, because I want it to exist as a perfect little nugget of its own, but also conflicted about because I want to see who end up being June, Nora, Bea and/or Pez' happy endings. Suffice to say, I'm going to internet stalk Ms. McQuiston and await her next book with bated breath.

Judging a book by its cover: See, I'm torn between thinking that the pepto bismol pink cover is a cute touch, and being worried that it's virulent pinkness is going to scare off potential readers who may miss out on this amazing reading experience just because they don't want to read something with a cover that colour. The little cartoon dudes seem like pretty good representations of Alex and Henry, though, that's good.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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