In Casey McQuiston’s debut novel, Red, White & Royal Blue, Alex, son of the first female president, has disliked Henry, the Prince of Wales, for years. Their transatlantic rivalry comes to a head at a royal wedding, though, and both sides’ advisors decide they need to reconcile to avoid a multinational scandal. So Alex and Henry are forced to pretend to be friends—but when their friendship begins to become real, and then to become more, they have to navigate what they’re willing to risk for love.
Alex is a fantastic protagonist. He’s intelligent and geeky, but also sometimes quite impulsive and over-anxious. However, he’s kind, and easy to sympathize with. I loved Henry, too. He’s sweet and bright, but with the weight of the world. The two of them together are amazing; I adore banter, so this a perfect pair. And their character development over the course of the novel is spectacularly handled and moving.
The side characters, June, Nora, Zahra, Percy, and Ellen especially, are wonderful. They’re funny and well-written, with just as much personality as Alex and Henry. Especially for a debut novel, this is impressive.
I enjoyed the themes explored here—responsibility, family, love. With these two in the public eye, there’s a lot of considering what their duty is, and whether serving their respective country is more important than their own personal desires. Whether or not they can have both is a major concern for them both. The themes of sexuality, especially Alex’s sexual identity crisis toward the beginning of the novel, are portrayed with thoughtfulness and sensitivity. (However, I should note that this book is probably not appropriate for teens; it’s definitely adult romance.)
In the end, Red, White & Royal Blue is one of my favorite books I read in 2019. It’s funny and poignant, moving and entertaining. Alex and Henry are a pair you really root for and become invested in, though I want to be friends with all the characters. And surprisingly, I was really invested in the politics too, which is weird for me. Overall, I adored pretty much every single thing about this novel!
Overall rating: 9/10