Chapter Nine 

Alex comes out to his mother as bisexual. At first, his mother is relieved, but then Alex tells her that he’s been in a relationship with Henry for seven months. She says that he needs to be serious about Henry because the relationship presents a significant risk to the administration. Ellen schedules an official debriefing meeting to discuss Alex’s sexuality and the political ramifications of his relationship with Henry. She creates a PowerPoint and makes him sign a series of documents to ensure he’s not misusing any funds to pay for his trysts. She also tells Alex that she’s removing him from the campaign because he’s too much of a liability, given his relationship with Henry. Later, he comes out to his father, who immediately picks up on the romantic nature of his relationship with Henry and is accepting and loving of Alex’s sexuality.  

Henry and Alex continue their increasingly romantic email correspondence. They include a historical quote from a famous LGBTQ+ person about someone they love in nearly every email they write. Alex empathizes with Henry because he finds himself stuck with nothing to do after being removed from the campaign. In his free time, he researches Alexander Hamilton, who he’s named after, and suspects that Hamilton may have had a romantic relationship with a male friend. Henry, feeling bad that their relationship got Alex booted from the campaign, says he’d understand if Alex wanted to take a step back. Alex, instead, doubles down and invites Henry to come to his family’s annual trip to their lake house in Texas. Henry says yes. 

Henry joins Alex, June, Nora, and Oscar for their trip to the Diaz house, which is on Lake Lyndon B. Johnson. They ride in the car to the lake, listening to music, and Alex feels giddy that Henry is with him in Texas. They talk about American history and their family history, and June teases Alex, remembering that the first time he ever got drunk was at the lake house. Alex and his father talk about Luna and how they are both disappointed and feel betrayed by the fact that he joined forces with Richards. Alex is moved to be in Texas, his home that he loves, and is moved to be with his family and to have Henry fit in so seamlessly. He thinks about the future and begins to imagine Henry coming to the lake house regularly. He realizes what has been sneaking up on him all along: he is in love with Henry. He gets Henry to go down to the lake with him in the middle of the night. Alex begins to talk about next year, after the election, imagining there will be less pressure on the two of them, less scrutiny. He talks about slowing down the pace of his singular focus on his career and instead taking it day by day. He talks about enjoying spending time with the person he’s with, gesturing to Henry. He starts to tell Henry that he loves him. Henry becomes distant and formal and swims away. The next morning, Henry is gone.  


This chapter illustrates the power of humor to move through difficult discussions as Alex comes out as bisexual to both his parents. When Alex tells his mother that he’s been seeing Henry, she creates a hilarious PowerPoint with joking slides to move the two of them through a painful discussion that dips into both Alex’s sexual life and issues of international relations. For example, one slide is titled “Exploring Your Sexuality: Healthy, But Does It Have to Be with the Prince of England?” This allows Ellen to both express support for Alex and to broach the thorny logistical issues that arise because of both their roles in the political world. She also uses humor to maintain a connection with Alex while making it clear how serious his actions are. When Alex comes out to his father, Oscar similarly makes a joke, calling himself “the patron saint of gender-neutral bathrooms” to emphasize his comfort with the spectrum of different genders and sexualities. Alex laughs, and he’s put at ease, opening the space between them for a deeper conversation about how this experience has been for Alex.  

Throughout the novel, McQuiston uses musical choices to emphasize plot elements and character traits. The fierce argument about the playlist emphasizes how important music is throughout the novel, and McQuiston often mentions specific songs to create an aural backdrop for the narrative. In the Jeep on the way to the lake, Nora’s playlist has fun, upbeat songs like “Loco in Acapulco” and “Summertime,” and these sunny songs about relaxation contribute to Alex’s feelings of well-being and giddiness to get away from work and spend time with his family and Henry in his home state. Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again,” a song about meeting up with a lover after time apart, syncs with Alex and Henry meeting up. Dolly and Alex both express how overwhelmingly beautiful their lovers are. These songs create a sense of hopefulness and joy and create the idealized summer dream that leads to Alex wanting to confess his love to Henry. 

This chapter explores the painful consequences of the conflict between love and duty. In this chapter, Alex and Henry’s relationship becomes more serious, both in terms of Alex’s emotions and in terms of sociopolitical ramifications. When Alex comes out to his mother, she emphasizes how serious this is and encourages him to decide whether he feels like this relationship is forever. This throws into relief that, because of his position in the world, Alex isn’t completely free to explore his feelings and is pushed to define them. It’s something he feels is coming about a decade too early for him. Also, as a result of his relationship, he loses his job, which means Alex has already started to put his career on the line for Henry. When Alex verges on admitting his feelings for Henry, Henry puts on his press voice and makes an offhanded remark about how the mosquitos endanger him as the “spare” leader of the throne. His distance and the nature of this remark suggests that Henry feels the gravity of his duty to the crown, and it causes him to flee from Alex’s love.