Quinn keeps lists of everything—from the days she’s ugly cried, to “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud” and all the boys she’d like to kiss. Her lists keep her sane. By writing her fears on paper, she never has to face them in real life. That is, until her journal goes missing . . .
Then an anonymous account posts one of her lists on Instagram for the whole school to see and blackmails her into facing seven of her greatest fears, or else her entire journal will go public. Quinn doesn’t know who to trust. Desperate, she teams up with Carter Bennett—the last known person to have her journal—in a race against time to track down the blackmailer.
Together, they journey through everything Quinn’s been too afraid to face, and along the way, Quinn finds the courage to be honest, to live in the moment, and to fall in love.
Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry is a super sweet, funny and at times heart-wrenching Y/A contemporary which I found to be a completely addictive read. I saw it compared To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han and I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forrest – both of which I haven’t actually read, I know, wild! Having watched the TATB films though, I can definitely see where the comparisons come from but both stories are very different so beyond the fact that Lara Jean and Quinn keep a journal, they’re completely different stories and characters.
I really enjoyed how the story progressed, from our first introduction to Quinn and her habit of making lists as well as her family dynamic to her school life. I really liked Quinn and how she grew into herself after going through all the trials as well as her moments of joy within this book. I loved how her relationship with Carter developed, they were so cute together and I’m a huge fan of all the pining which ensued once the ice broke between them and they worked together to complete her ‘list of fears’. I always love reading coming of age type stories with BIPOC characters falling in love, going on adventures together, forming a family and everything in between. There needs to be more books like this one, where trauma isn’t the main basis of the story.
Speaking of the list of fears, I thought this was an interesting take on a bucket list type situation and really served to move the story along as well as take us on a satisfying character arc. Many of the things on the list are things Quinn has put off for ages, out of fear mostly so it’s so satisfying to read as she frees herself from her fears and learns to really live.
Part of what makes this book so good is how real it is – especially when it comes to the exploration of family relationships, high school life, grief, trauma and racism. It’s amazing how many threads Joya Goffney has woven together to form this portrait of Quinn’s life and her inner world. I really empathised with Quinn in regards to her relationship with her parents and her grandmother Hattie. I just loved how the author portrayed these bonds and how Quinn found herself and was able to be honest with herself and her loved ones and become closer to them.
Another the many striking threads to me was her relationship with her friends, she is the only Black person in the group and she is subject to microaggressions and racist behaviour which has always made her uncomfortable but prior to events in the start of the novel she felt unable to vocalise her feelings. It was especially powerful reading as Quinn confronts her ‘friends’ and stands up for herself and makes sure they know how unacceptable it always is and was to behave this way.
While the exposure of Quinn’s journal is certainly a total violation of her privacy, I really appreciated that this was taken seriously in the book and not just explained away somehow. The character/s ( no spoilers here! ) that were responsible had to face consequences and I think this is a recurring element which I really liked – that the characters had to take accountability, even Quinn herself for some mistakes she made in the past. I think this is such a great message in a Y/A novel, especially a Y/A contemporary, that you can make mistakes, – within reason of course – and seek forgiveness and maybe get a second chance. While this is definitely expressed in the book, I also found it important that the opposite is also clear – that sometimes it’s okay to move on without people who have hurt you.
Overall, Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry was every bit the cute Y/A contemporary with plenty of depth and exploration of real life issues which I felt was so well done. I’m excited to read whatever comes next from Joya Goffney and I would definitely recommend this book if you’re a fan of the synopsis!
Until next time,