One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston. Santa Barbara, CA: Griffin, 2021. 432 pp.
August Landry is 23 years-old and jaded. She has spent her whole life helping her mom try to solve the mystery of her uncle Auggie’s disappearance, and is running away to try to live her own life. She doesn’t believe in magic or happily ever afters; the best way to get through life is by herself. No more mysteries, no more cases, just finishing her degree at Brooklyn College. Which is how she winds up living in a three-bedroom apartment above a Popeye’s (because August doesn’t believe in much, but she does “believe in fried chicken”), with an artist/engineer named Myla, her partner Nico, a psychic bartender, a nocturnal tattoo artist, Wes, and a poodle named Noodles.
On her very first day of class, August slips, falls, spills coffee all over herself and skins her knee. When she finally does make it to the Q train an angel of mercy, in the form of a butch punk in a leather jacket, gives August a scarf to help cover the coffee stain. August is immediately smitten with this subway angel, and pleased to see her again on the commute home. Subway Girl, Jane, as we come to find out, is always there on the Q whenever August gets on the train.
Jane is always there, with her dazzling smile, impossible charm and rough edges. Their time on the train has become the best time of August’s day, but it’s starting to become clear, there’s something off about Jane. She doesn’t get pop culture references or technology, and no matter the time, day or night, if August is on the Q, so is Jane. Then, at work, August finds a picture of Pancake Billy’s opening day in 1976, and there’s a someone in the shot that looks exactly like Jane, down to the tattoos. Is it possible that Jane isn’t just rocking a 1970s punk aesthetic, but actually is a 1970s punk? Like, perhaps she’s a ghost? Nico, in all his psychic wisdom, lets August know that you can’t just tell someone that they’re dead, so he offers to perform a séance. August and Nico enlist their roommates and the drag queen across the hall, Annie Depressant, AKA Isaiah, because Nico “feels good about the number 5”. Turns out, Jane’s not dead, but she’s also not technically alive. It seems that she’s stuck out of time, bound to the Q train.
Suddenly, August is dredging up every skill that her investigative childhood taught her, shirking her shifts at Pancake Billy’s and neglecting classwork, determined to solve the mystery of Jane. It becomes clear, little by little, that August is Jane’s tether to the here and now, and without her, and the electricity powering the Q, Jane might just fade away. With the Q set to shut down for repairs, and Pancake Billy’s set to close, August, her roommates, Isaiah, and August’s co-workers Lucie and Winfield, plan a fundraiser to save Pancake Billy’s and a heist to save Jane.
Just like her previous best-seller, Red, White and Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston has created a queer romance novel that is heartwarming and joyous in One Last Stop. McQuiston’s character development is masterful, with each supporting player well-drawn and reassuringly human, even when they’re using their psychic powers to help everyone around them live their best lives. If you’re like me, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll want to join the family that August has found in Brooklyn.
Lacey Tobias is a Library Assistant at Graham Library. She can be reached at email@example.com.