Review: “Red, White and Royal Blue “, popular LGBTQIA+ romance novel is not valuable reading

*Spoilers ahead*

I am a straight, cis woman, and I aim to learn about different life experiences through the literature I consume. Most of that literature is valuable and teaches me about the experiences of people who are different from me. 

However, in my goal to read more LGBTQIA+ literature, I read a novel that was, in my opinion, simply not worth reading for the objective of expanding one’s knowledge of LGBTQIA+ experiences. 

“Red, White and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston, published in 2019, is a young adult romance novel that tells of the relationship that develops between the son of the President of the United States Alex Claremont-Diaz and a fictional Prince Henry of Great Britain. 

Though this novel has its positives, such as a woman president and gay and POC representation, it is brimming with negatives. Its plot is predictable and lacking any lasting conflict, every situation always ends up turning out perfectly fine and its characters are stereotypical and uninteresting. 

My opinion about this novel is controversial, as many people have declared their love for this story over social media, receiving a 95% positive rating among Google users. 

However, I must disagree. What makes a story interesting and realistic is its conflict, of which there is almost none in the novel. Any conflict that does arise is resolved in the following 10 pages, making the story predictable and, quite frankly, boring. 

For example, Alex doesn’t realize he is bisexual for approximately the first 100 pages of the novel. 

McQuiston writes, “He [Alex] thought he was smart enough about his own identity that there weren’t any questions left.” 

From that point, where readers can assume Alex is still questioning his sexual identity, to the point where Alex knows he is bisexual, only 15 pages have elapsed. One of the most significant and important conflicts of the novel began and ended within 15 pages. I am not critiquing the idea of Alex realizing he is bisexual, or questioning that, but rather the fact that there is a lack of focus on his internal thoughts.  

Another major point of conflict within the novel occurs when the general public discovers that Alex and Henry are in a relationship. This problem happens about three-fourth of the way into the novel, and is fixed within one chapter. For as large of a problem as the novel makes this situation out to be, it is resolved too quickly.

In the next chapter, when readers skip forward in time by four weeks, Alex’s mother wins presidential reelection, despite that being a significant concern because of the public finding out about Alex and Henry’s relationship. 

To me, this isn’t realistic or interesting because the conflict does not last as long as it realistically should, nor does the conflict have any long-term effects. 

Though the novel’s conflict is a considerable problem for me, so are its characters. Each character is a flat, one-dimensional representation of what a person actually is. The characters lack depth and any true development. 

For example, though a side character, Zahra, the president’s assistant, is lacking any sort of emotional depth, only capable of making orders. Readers learn one emotional fact about her at the very end of the novel. This makes for a lacking, soulless character that readers aren’t able to relate to, or even like. 

Despite its overall sweet love story, “Red, White and Royal Blue” is a novel depicting unrealistic characters and situations that do not add value to LGBTQIA+ literature.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Sophie

    No one is going to argue that rwrb is high literature. That isn’t it’s intention. There are plenty of fun, kind of trashy romance novels that we all know and love. I agree that this novel won’t provide the reader with much insight into the experience of being LGBTQIA+ but not all representation has to be high brow or accurate. Frankly the story wasn’t written for you. It’s a dumb, fun, escapist fantasy for queer youth, because, while we value books like “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” and the other wonderful, but depressingly realistic takes on our lives, they are emotionally tiring. Sometimes we to read something fun, but where we are still represented. That’s were “Red, White and Royal Blue” is important. It is a love letter to modern day queer youth and our escapism.

  2. Alex

    Red White and Royal Blue is above all a romance novel- it is not the next great American novel nor has it claimed to be. There are infinite books that feature straight romances that are light in subject, that are heavily praised and widely read. Yet when a book featuring a non-heterosexual relationship does the same it does “not add value to LGBTQIA+ literature.” So many queer novels are tragic and depressingly realistic and the fact that Red White and Royal Blue is not does not decrease its value. In fact, I would go as far as to argue that it adds to its value, why can’t queer readers escape into a fairytale romance that reflects them like straight readers have been doing for years?

  3. Damon

    Oh good, a heterosexual has come to tell us which lgbt books have value.

    It’s not surprising that the author of this review doesn’t appreciate Alex’s 100 page struggle to identify and accept his sexuality. If Alex had been wholly heterosexual as she is, we readers could have avoided that journey of fear and self discovery, of terrifying anxiety and hormonal bliss. We’d have understood exactly what he was feeling because he’d be just like everyone else- heterosexual. Normal. Like her. Think of those wasted 100 pages detailing a queer youth’s awakening.. the trees that could have been saved! All lgbt books should feature cis-het main characters, maybe then they’ll have value in this reviewer’s eyes.

  4. Kazu

    Not every piece of queer literature needs to accurately reflect real life experiences. If you want to learn about life for people within the LGBTQIA community then biographies and auto biographies are where you should turn. Fiction is there to give people an escape, and this genre in particular has been heavily populated with heterosexual relationships – so why can’t queer people be allowed that also.
    It is also worth mentioning that not everyone likes to read things that are heavy with conflict that drags out for chapters. This book, for me, was an escape that felt comforting & warm. Like other comments have mentioned, other content aimed towards queer people can be so emotionally heavy that we deserve something light hearted and fluffy.

  5. No value?
    You really do not have the right to make that call. It just isn’t your place. This review is INCREDIBLY homophobic.

    Also, are you seriously complaining about Zahra? She’s a funny side character, and guess what? Stories have minor characters in them. The novel cannot slow its pacing down to develop every side character, it needs to focus on who is important.

    Your review has no value to the literary world.

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