Chapter Three 

Alex and Henry’s fake friendship goes over very well in the press, and the public becomes fans of the two famous sons hanging out together. Though they continue to give each other a hard time, they slowly move away from antagonism and begin to develop a real friendship. Alex and Henry text, and Henry reveals to Alex that he doesn’t want any of the crown’s money because of his country’s legacy of genocide. Alex is impressed. Alex sends Henry a box of campaign buttons with his face on them as a joke. They tease each other about Star Wars and Harry Potter and exchange stories about their families.  

Alex goes to visit Rafael Luna, the youngest US senator and a friend of the family. Alex is trying to lobby for a political endorsement for his mother’s reelection campaign, and Luna teases Alex about when he used to intern for him. Alex, June, Ellen, and her husband Leo have a family dinner, and they each share one good thing and one bad thing that happened in their day, which is a family tradition. Ellen offers Alex and June jobs in her reelection campaign, Alex as a researcher, and June in communications. Alex is eager to accept and thrilled he doesn’t have to wait until he’s done with college to start officially working in politics. June, who wants to be a journalist, is resistant because the position would further compromise her ability to work in journalism.  

Chapter Four 

Alex learns that the turkeys that are pardoned by the president every year are put up at a five-star hotel by the taxpayers. This upsets him, and he decides to house the turkeys in his room. He finds that he is, however, afraid of the turkeys. He ends up calling Henry for moral support, and they talk on the phone for the first time. Henry teases Alex mercilessly, goading him into getting very close to the turkey so Henry can hear the turkey’s frightening gobble. Alex insists that Henry show him a picture of Henry’s dog, David, whom Alex learns is named after David Bowie. This makes the name seem much cooler than he’d originally thought.  

During Christmas dinner, Ellen and Oscar, Alex and June’s dad, get into a fight when Oscar suggests campaigning with the family. Deeply upset about their holiday meal being ruined, Alex reaches out to Henry again, and they have a heart-to-heart on the phone. Alex tells Henry the story of his parents’ divorce, and Henry listens sympathetically and tells Alex he did his best. Henry and his best friend Pez come for Alex, June, and Nora’s famous New Year’s Eve party. They all have an epic good time, and Alex teaches Henry to dance to popular American music. At midnight, Alex kisses Nora, who Alex used to date, and Henry is jealous. Alex finds Henry in the garden and Henry kisses him. Henry disappears before Alex can say anything. 


These chapters explore the link between queerness and being a mystery to oneself. As Alex and Henry become closer, Alex experiences a series of sensations that are obviously sexual and romantic but also confusing and mysterious to him. For example, after their first phone call, Alex stares in wonder at his phone, feeling a surge of static electricity about him. At the New Year’s Party, he also notices the magnetic energy between him and Henry when they are dancing but compares it to an equation he can’t parse. He can’t explain why he loves the way Henry’s mouth looks wrapped around a champagne bottle, though it’s certainly a phallic image. If he had these feelings with Nora, in the heterosexual context Alex has known himself in, these experiences would be automatically legible to him. He would be able to name his feelings as sexual attraction. But since he is not out to himself and doesn’t understand himself in LGBTQ+ terms, these experiences are mysterious. Throughout the process of falling in love with Henry, Alex is often baffled by his own strong emotions. It is as though something is happening to him that outsizes his ability to understand it. 

The novel takes place in an alternate universe which allows McQuiston to paint a picture of what the world could look like if real political events had gone down differently. The novel, originally published in 2019, shares a historical reality with real life up until 2016, with references to the Obama presidency and other past administrations. However, in 2016, the world of the novel veers into fantasy, dreaming of a reality in which the 45th president of the United States is a woman with a multiracial family and a bisexual son. The history of England also seems to be identical to our real world in some ways. For example, Henry refers to a real history of centuries of genocide, past British kings, and current pop idols. Pop culture references from Taylor Swift to Lil Jon flesh out the world, making everything the same in the novel except for the political families running the United States and the British royals and their associates. By rewriting history beginning in 2016, McQuiston’s alternate reality paints a picture of what a more progressive, inclusive world might look like. 

The two family dinners in these chapters illustrate the beauty and struggle of mixing family and politics. In the first family dinner, the Claremont-Diaz clan enacts a family tradition that helps maintain connection during busy times. They are a picture of a close, teasing family that is united both by their love of each other and their shared goal of making the world a better place. Ellen shifts from family time to political talk when she offers June and Alex positions on the campaign. The offer dovetails with Alex’s larger goals, so it’s a boon, and Alex feels excited and seen. The offer causes a disconnect between June and the rest of her family, however, because her differing priorities put her at odds with her family both personally and professionally. The friction caused by blending family and politics comes to a head when Christmas dinner is ruined by a political argument between Ellen and Oscar. This illustrates that sometimes, Alex and June’s parents lose sight of what’s best for the family. They are blinded by their passionate political beliefs.