by: Zac Soper, Columnist
The New York Times Bestseller “Red, White and Royal Blue” has blown up as a staple of ‘new adult’ books. This demographic has recently emerged as something marketable and booksellers have taken notice. New adult has been perceived the same as young adult, just with more graphic sexual and/or violent scenes. “Red, White, and Royal Blue” is no exception to this perception.
This story follows an ‘enemies to lovers’ trope between Alex (the First Son of the United States) and Prince Henry of England. It takes place in an alternate version of our world, marking it as a contemporary. In this universe, Alex’s mom is the winner of the 2016 presidential election. For the first time in what feels like a while, the author did not try and date the book by relating to youth through inaccurate texting lingo, and I am grateful for it.
It is no spoiler that Alex and Henry end up together, but my greatest issue with this book lies in the nature of their relationship. There is an annoyingly strong lack of communication and one boy will shut the other out, only for their roles to reverse three months later. Instead of talking through their problems, they just have a poorly written smut scene that isn’t fade-to-black of young adult, but isn’t descriptive like adult and just lies awkwardly somewhere in the middle and is hard to follow.
Interwoven through this romance, there are political undertones and subplots, such as the reelection for Alex’s mom and the marriage of Henry’s older brother. Though these plot lines didn’t really pick up until the last third of the book, they were my favorite parts. I wish that the beginning had been more heavily weighed on plot than character, but I suppose that’s the nature of a romance book.
Though I had my issues with the romance in this romance novel, I still enjoyed this book a great deal. The side characters played important parts in plot development (something I always appreciate) and all of the characters felt realistic. No one was forced to serve as a strong moral compass, and no one was only introduced for the purpose of being a romantic interest. I liked Alex and Henry well enough as characters, their romance did feel genuine and not at all forced, and they were layered people with hobbies and passion and, of course, flaws.
Like I said before, the historical fiction center of “Red, White and Royal Blue” was my favorite aspect. It was fun to visit England and to see teenagers partying it up in the white house, however unrealistic it may be. The presidential campaign was especially entertaining. The stress and commotion of democracy was well documented, and it helped me learn a thing or two about how presidential campaigns are run.
This book was important in showcasing topics like homosexuality, drug use, and divorce as it is seen in mass media. Some scenes may have been hard to read in their true representation of these sometimes-dismal topics. I have a feeling that Casey McQuiston’s next book will tackle important topics with truth and sympathy like she has done with “Red, White and Royal Blue,” and I look forward to reading it.