48 pages 1 hour read

Casey McQuiston

I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2022

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Summary and Study Guide


I Kissed Shara Wheeler is a young-adult novel by Casey McQuiston published by Wednesday Books in 2022. It was a New York Times #1 bestseller. The novel tells the story of high school senior Chloe Green who seeks to uncover why Shara Wheeler, the most popular girl in school, vanished on prom night soon after kissing Chloe. Chloe collaborates with Shara’s next-door neighbor, Rory, and boyfriend, Smith, to follow the series of notes Shara left them before her disappearance. Written on pink stationery and placed in meaningful locations, the notes provide clues as to where to find the next note and why she disappeared.

Plot Summary

Chloe and Rory unexpectedly meet when they each break into Shara’s house to investigate her disappearance. Chloe learns that Shara also kissed Rory. In Shara’s room, Chloe and Rory find a note addressed to Rory advising that he tell her boyfriend Smith to “check the drafts” (8). The next day, Chloe and Rory approach Smith. They inform him about Shara’s mysterious messages and tell him that Shara kissed both Chloe and Rory before vanishing. Smith recognizes his locker combination in the note Shara left and searches his locker to find another note from Shara.

At the Taco Bell drive-thru window, Chloe receives another note from Shara, which includes an email account that uses the password Shara provided in a previous note. Using the password, Chloe, Rory, and Smith log in to a Google account and check the drafts. They find another note indicating the next note is hidden in a place where Chloe goes every day. Chloe attends choir practice. She recognizes a reference in one of Shara’s notes to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and asks her friend Benjy to play the first note from one of the songs from an earlier school performance. She hears the sound of paper flapping in the piano and finds the next note. The note hints that the next note is hidden where Shara and Smith last kissed, which was at football player Dixon Wells’s house.

The next day, Chloe and Smith attend a party at Dixon’s house and find the next note hinting that Rory should “check the records” (79). Chloe enjoys her time at the party until Dixon makes an anti-LGB comment. Smith defends Chloe, and the two bond on the drive home.

Realizing that “records” refers to student records, the team breaks into the office of Principal Wheeler, who is Shara’s father. While Smith distracts the librarian, Chloe and Rory climb through the air ducts to the office. They find that the principal is working late, so they spend time bonding in the duct. Once the principal leaves, they find a note hinting that the next note is in the auditorium, where Shara had watched Chloe perform her solo during a performance of The Phantom of the Opera. Chloe finds the next note in the auditorium, and Rory finds the following one in the football stadium. Smith and Rory then argue about their involvement with Shara, which leads to a heated argument about why they stopped hanging out. Ultimately, they agree that they remember things differently.

At Belltower Books, where her friend Georgia works, Chloe finds another note from Shara inside a copy of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, which leads Chloe to believe that Shara may be in love with her. Later, football players Smith and Ace attend the senior theater party with Chloe, which leads some of the theater kids to question why they are there. But the students from two different social groups bond, and Smith talks with a character named Ash about Ash’s gender identity as nonbinary. Smith shares his feelings about gender and how he sometimes wishes he were more feminine.

Smith finds a photograph of Shara with a card from the board game SORRY instructing “back to start” (190). Because her involvement in the quest to find Shara started with their kiss, she visits the place where she and Shara kissed. Behind the inner doors of an elevator, Chloe finds a heart painted with pink nail polish. After the theater party, Chloe, Smith, and Rory hang out on the hood of Rory’s car. While Smith steps away to look at a frog, Rory and Chloe talk, and Rory reveals his feelings for Smith.

Smith and Rory believe they’ve reached a dead end in their search for Shara, but Chloe refuses to give up. Reviewing the evidence, Chloe realizes Shara is at the Anchor Bay Marina. She drives there to find Shara on her family’s boat. Shara confesses she wanted to distract Chloe to sabotage her chances at being valedictorian and that she is aware that Rory and Smith are in love. Chloe and Shara kiss and, when Shara lets go of the rail, Chloe pushes her into the lake.

Shara goes live on Instagram to reveal that the purpose of her disappearance was to get someone’s attention. Chloe realizes that someone is her. Shara returns to school and warns Chloe that a girl named Georgia was in trouble for kissing a girl in the bathroom. Chloe takes the fall, claiming she was one of the people who had been kissing in the bathroom. Principal Wheeler decides not to allow Chloe to attend graduation or be valedictorian. In response, Chloe’s friends and other students organize a protest graduation. Chloe is upset that Shara is not involved in organizing the protest. However, she later finds copies of emails printed and hung all over the halls exposing Principal Wheeler for taking bribes to boost students’ test scores and grades. Chloe realizes that Shara exposed her father’s corruption. Chloe acknowledges she is in love with Shara, and they start a relationship. Chloe wins valedictorian and gives a thoughtful speech. After graduation, Chloe and her friends attend a bonfire at which they burn documents from their years in high school and look forward to new beginnings.