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.