Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by debut author Joya Goffney is the story of an overly enthusiastic list maker who is blackmailed into completing a to-do list of all her worst fears. It’s a heartfelt, tortured, contemporary YA high school romance with epistolary elements. Fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Kristina Forest’s debut I Wanna Be Where You Are will love the juicy secrets, leap-off-the-page sexual tension and the enemy-to-lover romantic arc.
Quinn keeps lists of everything—from the days she’s ugly cried, to “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud,” to 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…
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.
Compulsively readable–Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry is a story about growing up, letting go of your fears and the status quo, finding your inner strength, and connection.
We start of EWIUC with Quinn having broken up with her best friend over reasons unknown. Everybody thinks is because her crush asked her best friend out, but Quinn swears it is because of something else. After doing a school assignment with some of her classmates Quinn notices her journal is not hers… in fact one of her classmates took hers by mistake. To make matters worse the person who took her journal is Carter Bennett, a hottie who was rude to Quinn and clearly hates her.
Freaking out Quinn contacts Carter and they meet up at school to exchange journals… only her journal disappears. The next thing she knows Quinn is being blackmailed by persons unknown–she must complete her to-do list (one thing a day) or the blackmailer is going to release her deepest thoughts to the entire school. Feeling trapped Quinn sets out to complete her to do list one thing at a time, with Carter Bennett’s help.
EMWIUC is a YA slice of life that tackles race, cultural assimilation and the consequences of it, and found family (which is one of my favorite troupes). I did enjoy being in Quinn’s shoes and seeing how she processes her life, from freaking out to going to enough is enough. She has to deal with racism from trusted people around her, including her own parent. While once upon a time she might have just written her thoughts on a journal, now that journal is stolen, and so she feels scarily liberated and is able to find herself and confront her fears, plus her peers.
I loved her friendship with Olivia, and how Olivia was able to get her out of her shell. Their relationship is not easy, as Quinn also has to deal with some guilt over some things she was complicit in when it came to Olivia’s reputation. Olivia is free, progressive, an artist. She is also half-black and is a friend Quinn doesn’t feel like she has to hide part of herself when she is around her. It is really sweet, I am hoping we get Olivia’s story next.
The romance is light and sweet–Quinn starts off the book in love with Matt, her childhood friend. Though she is not sure Matt loves her in turn, as he asked her ex best friend out. While she is in supposed love with Matt though, she fully acknowledges that Carter is super fine, and can be super annoying to who she is at that moment. Once they team up Carter really tries to be there for her, even though Quinn still has him on her blackmailer suspects lists.
The one thing I was a little iffy on is kind of spoilery; just, I felt like making Quinn complete her “To-Do list” just seems like an action born out of misguided love. Which is why when it was revealed who the blackmailer was it took me by surprise.
I did read EWIUC via Audiobook–though not really the voice was a robot voice (that I weirdly got used to/attached to) so I can’t say anything about the performance of the narrator, but I did really enjoy it in audio book format and recommend it if you like slice of life YA contemporary in the vein of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
PS; I was provided a review copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks go to the publisher!