For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.
But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.
Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.
One Last Stop is a contemporary fiction rom/com with a sapphic love story at its core. It also delves rather deeply into magical realism, so if you don’t like woo-woo in your fiction, then you may not like this one. In fact, one of the characters is a psychic. For me, I thought the magical realism aspect worked swimmingly.
The story follows a 23-year-old bi woman named August Landry, who has transferred from her university to one in New York and has a somewhat pessimistic view on life. For her entire life, August has been enlisted by her mother to help in the missing person case of her uncle and, in the process, has developed quite an impressive set of investigative skills. But she’s finally decided that enough is enough and wants to strike out on her own.
So on the very first day of August’s commute to the university, she spills coffee all over her shirt before she steps onto the Q Subway Line. Once on the train, she’s immediately smitten by a gorgeous young punk rock gal named Jane Su, who gives August a red scarf to hide the stain.
After she disembarks the subway, August can’t get the mysterious and swoon-worthy young woman out of her mind and hopes she somehow sees her again. As it just so happens, she sees Jane again the next time she takes the train and happens to be in the same car as August. Then it happens again…and again….and again.
By the way, Jane, who is an Asian lesbian, seems happy to see Jane each time they meet, and a sort of relationship begins to develop between them. When August invites Jane out to coffee, Jane responds simply by saying, “I can’t.”
August is heartbroken but soon discovers that Jane really can’t….literally. That is to say, she has been on the subway for 45 years and is unable to leave it. The kicker is that Jane remembers almost nothing about her life before the subway and has no idea how she ended up stuck on the train.
One thing we learn about August is that she simply cannot resist a mystery, so she decides to put her “girl detective” investigative talents to use and, along with her roommates, try to help August and save her from the subway. As the mysteries surrounding Jane’s past slowly unravel, the two women grow even closer, especially once the kissing starts.
What really made this novel shine for me were the diverse and highly well-fleshed authentic out secondary characters who I ended up loving as much as our two main protagonists. I found myself quickly invested in each and every one of them. Through them, we really get a strong feeling of “found family,” which worked incredibly well in the novel. It’s truly magical when you’re able to find “your people” — you know, the place where you feel you truly belong — and that feeling really came through strongly during the narrative.
I really loved the representation of diverse cultures and sexualities we find with our quirky and eccentric characters. For instance, we have:
- Niko – who is a trans Latino psychic
- Myla – queer Black electrical engineer and artist who has an adoptive Chinese mom
- Wes – a depressed and somewhat mysterious queer Jewish tattoo artist
- Isaiah – the next-door neighbor who is an accountant by day and the flamboyant drag Queen Annie Depressant by night — and who is head over heels in love with Wes
- and Jane, who is a Chinese-American Lesbian
I think many queer people will be able to see themselves in these characters.
There was plenty of fun banter and shenanigans among the roommates, which made me nostalgic for my own college days. The unconventional employees at Billy’s diner also played an essential part in the story. So if you love the found family trope, this one is sure to win your heart.
What was also fun about this story was how much it was a tribute and celebration of queer identity. Once Jane begins remembering her past, we learn about her life in the 70s — the protests and riots she was involved in, how she fought — sometimes with her fists — for the queer community along with her own found family. I thought that the story really brought to light the fights lead by people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community during the 70s and how we still have a long way to go.
As for the romance, well, let me say that it’s probably the best that I’ve read in a while. The sex scenes were tender, erotic, heartwarming without being graphic as August and Jane each learned what each other likes, wants, and needs. You could feel the deep and intense emotion between the two of them, and overall, the sex-positive love scenes felt super realistic.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a five-star read for me, especially given that I connected with pretty much every character in the book, and I adored the unique and clever premise of the story. Besides, how could I not fall in love with an extraordinary novel about a magical girl tethered to a New York subway?
So given that I adored Red, White, and Royal Blue and adored One Last Stop just as much, Casey McQuiston has become a new favorite author of mine, and I can’t wait to read more of their work.
A huge thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing a digital reviewer copy of this book.
This book will be available for purchase on June 1st but you can preorder it now.