disclaimer: I amended my original review which was low-key harsh. I know everyone and their grandma loved this book and I’m sorry that I don’t feel the same way. McQuiston is by no means a bad writer, it just so happens that her book did not work for me.
Red, White & Royal Blue has the merits and demerits of a piece of fanfiction.
If you LOVE tumblr or BL manga and you want to read about two hot guys making out, look no further (added bonus if you are American, because there are an abundance of cultural references—almost one on every page—that went way over my head). It wasn’t a bad novel, I even liked the first 20% or so but by the halfway-mark I was starting to get bored and ended up skim-reading the last few chapters.
I will try to break down the reasons why I wasn’t able to enjoy Red, White & Royal Blue :
One of the biggest drawbacks to me was that the tone of the novel kept vacillating between being a light & fluffy YA to a steamier NA.
The story seems to shy away from tackling political issues seriously, which I can understand, given that this is meant to be a “romcom” but towards the end the story tries to make it seem like Alex actually cares about his country so there is a sketched out impression of his mother’s campaign.
The story fails to depict realistic political parties or issues. The simplified depiction of “good guys vs. bad guys” assigns the characters in either the “democrats (super uber good)” and “conservatives (aka villainous grinches)”. Look, I admit that I sometimes do the same thing but here this binary was just so over-the-top.
Also, the way in which Britain and British culture are depicted is full of not so funny clichés. I got the impression that the story elevated America and made fun of Britain. I do not identify as British nor do I like many things related to Britain (its history, recognising that the ‘goold ol’ empire was far from good, the glorification of Churchill) but it didn’t seem fair for it to be the ‘joke’ of the novel. Also,Brexit was only mentioned once! Wouldn’t Henry want to talk about it more?
The book tries to make it seem like it cares about important matters, ending up instead with a lot of ‘cute’ scenes that interrupt would could have possibly been important and serious discussions (about race, sexuality, etc.). Having one character mention once how bad the British empire feel insufficient. There are some many one-liners about how a certain thing or person is “bad” (bad how?! Tell us!) but then the characters don’t go on to develop their arguments. A few comments on how homophobia and racism are bad are not really enough.
The humour too seems to waver between a young one and a more mature one. Having characters eat pizza or talk about Star Wars doesn’t make your book into a comedy. There were a few one-liners that were funny but they are drowned by an endless sea of cultural references.
This book shies away from portraying political issue or acknowledging how privileged the two main leads are. Instead we get ‘cute’ scenes that are meant to show us how relatable these two are. They eat pizza, just like us!
A lot of the female characters (Alex’s sister, his best-friend, his bodyguards, and his mother) are interchangeable with one another. Really. They all incredibly supportive, passionate, and have a no-nonsense attitude towards everything. They often speak a weird ‘tumblr’ jargon that just grated on my nerves. Just because they swear doesn’t cancel out the fact that everything else they say sounds unbelievably soppy or make them into unbelievable adults. Additionally, having one of your characters use ‘mansplaining’ does not make them into a feminist…
A lot of the time I just found myself not really believing in what the characters were saying.
It happens far too quickly! They are already ‘lovers’ by the 30% mark. Arch-enemies ? Enemies? Where?! For two seconds?! Maybe I would preferred the romance more if it hadn’t been reduced to how hot/cool they are. Maybe I did not like the romance because I found both Alex and Henry to be…unrealistic..I didn’t care for their relationship. These two just came across as teens rather than young adults men.
my rating: ★★½