Casey McQuiston knew their book would be banned. They decided to write it anyway.

Casey McQuiston is aware of the opinions that some people have about the South.

Casey McQuiston knew their book would be banned. They decided to write it anyway.

Casey McQuiston is aware of the opinions that some people have about the South.

The New York Times bestsellers "Red White, Royal Blue" (the last title) and "One Last Stop" were written in major metropolitan areas. Although the main cast was largely queer, they had to overcome some problems, but they were able to do so with the support of equally liberal and diverse friends in communities that seemed made for them.

Literature that features LGBTQ+ characters with religious upbringings tends to be biased. Parents don't understand, religions demonize, and small towns offer little but a glancing in the rearview mirror. McQuiston's first young adult novel, "I Kissed Shara Wheeler", shows that love and real life can begin long before teens leave home.

McQuiston is a Louisiana native and grew up Catholic at a Southern Baptist highschool. He told CBS News that writing for the teenage McQuiston was part of their inspiration for their latest romance book.

McQuiston stated that he didn't see a school like mine in the media when he was growing up unless it was reinforcing my school's narratives. "I thought it would have been really, really exciting for my age if I could read something that both challenged and reflected the experiences that I had growing up. This book is my hope.

"I Kissed Shara Wheeler", a fictional story about high school senior Chloe Green, is set in False Beach, Alabama. She is just 100 days away to being named valedictorian and graduating from high school. There is one problem. Her rival Shara Wheeler, a prom-night bride, kisses her then quickly disappears.

Chloe discovers mysterious pink clues scattered all over town and realizes there is more to Shara’s disappearance than she thought. To find out where Shara is, she must team up with a unlikely crew -- Shara’s longtime quarterback boyfriend as well as the pining child next door -- in order to unravel Shara’s mystery before they all leave False Beach.

Chloe is aware that there's more to the world than her small hometown. As the book progresses, Chloe comes to realize a lot about her childhood friends and has to reconcile her notion of who is worthy of empathy, respect or even the benefit-of-the doubt.

McQuiston said that they found this discovery important to include in the book to not only dismantle stereotypes but also directly address children who still grow up in places like Chloe's.

"It was important for me to write that, as I do believe I have this type of chip on my shoulders. McQuiston stated that it is so frustrating to see mainstream liberal media paint red states as a lost cause, when so many people are there who just want the chance to be heard.

They said that a lot of the difficulties in what is being told to you as a child is that being queer and trans is not compatible with being from South Carolina or any kind of faith. "I don't want to tell my kids that they have to accept their heritage in order to be accepted into the queer community. Because identity is so complex and large, I wanted to make sure there was room for all sides.

According to activist groups, the book is published at a time when there are many legislative attacks on LGBTQ+ children. In states like Florida, bills that prohibit discussing sexuality or gender have been passed. Meanwhile, transgender rights are a hot topic in Republican-led legislatures. Legislative sessions in the United States are currently discussing bans on gender-affirming health care.

McQuiston and Wheeler said that they couldn't have foreseen the future when McQuiston began writing "I Kissed Shara Wheeler" back in 2020. They are not surprised by the new landscape.

"Some things aren’t new. These laws were created to make these kids feel wrong and to force them to stop being legislated. McQuiston stated that none of this is true. It's all about people internalizing misinformation and hiding fear behind self-righteous b***shit.

"I just want to say to teens that they are not in danger. The parts of you that make you feel vulnerable or put you at risk are the ones that will be most loved and found the best community as an adult."

"I Kissed Shara" takes the time to enjoy the great and small joys of growing up. An inferior novel might have become bogged down by the giants its protagonists must face, but this lighthearted book deals with those problems with a real reverence. It manages to draw a line between offering a better future for its queer characters, and also allowing them to see the beautiful and spiritual present that they are currently in.

McQuiston's book, despite being a time when transgender and queer children might feel under attack is not an escape plan. It's a celebration.

McQuiston wrote this book to help the children who most need it, but they don't underestimate the difficulty of getting it for them. The American Library Association reports that nearly 1,600 books in the United States have been either banned or challenged over the past year. According to the ALA, books were banned for their LGBTIQIA+ content, anti-police messages, themes of race, sexually explicit language, and themes of diversity.

McQuiston was aware from the beginning that even though the story of the lesbian love story would not be "mega-banned," McQuiston's message of acceptance and anti-racism could. They wanted to give it a fighting chance.

McQuiston stated that a major point I made while designing the packaging was not to make it visiblely gay. This is because I don't want any teenager to feel vulnerable by having it in their hands. McQuiston stated, "I don't want any child in that position. It should be in high school hands. It should be able to get past censors and into high school libraries. It is my hope that it will be loved by teens. This is what I care about most."

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