Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry


Publication Date: 20 Jul. 2021
Format: Paperback / softback

ISBN 9781471410116

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    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 (as well as embarrassing and cringeworthy truths) 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 and who Quinn loathes--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.

    A razor-sharp, passionate and addictive YA romcom that readers will love.

    Information

    Book Type: Senior High
    Age Group: 16 to 19 years
    Traffic Lights: Amber
    Class Novel: No
    Good Reads Rating: 5/5
    Literary Rating: 5/5

    Review

    Quinn Jackson is used to keeping secrets. Instead of telling anyone what's going on inside her head, she writes it down in the red journal she keeps with her at all times. Things like: she has a giant crush on Matt Radd. As annoying as she finds Carter Bennett, she wouldn't mind kissing him. She lied to her parents about being accepted to Columbia. The reason she stopped hanging out with her friend Destany had nothing to do with Matt Radd.

    Her leaning tower of secrets begins to crumble when Carter Bennet finds her journal and reads the first, damning, page. He brings it to school to give back to her, but then "loses" it. And then Quinn gets a message from an anonymous account on Instagram: if she doesn't start crossing things off the list on the first page--the things she's too scared to do--her other secrets will be revealed to the whole school. To show that they're serious, the account posts the first list.

    Quinn is convinced that Carter is behind it, since he's the last person who had the journal. But he does his best to help her cross the items off her list, and as they grow closer, she becomes less sure. She meets Carter's younger sister Olivia, a person whose reputation she helped to destroy, and starts to grow more confident. Having more Black friends also helps Quinn to feel less alienated and more like she can fit in and be herself, instead of trying to pretend all the time. She goes to a concert, visits the two universities she got accepted to, and slowly falls for Carter. She decides to confess her feelings to him rather than Matt Radd, and the account releases her plan to ruin Olivia's life.

    Olivia and Quinn make up, but Quinn realises that her old friends Destany and Gia, who she helped to spread rumours about Olivia, are most likely behind the blackmail. She confronts them, tells Destany the reason that she ghosted her: she doesn't like it when her white friends say the N-word around her, assuming that she won't have a problem with it because she's "basically white". Destany's insistence on ignoring her identity as a Black person made her uncomfortable.

    Quinn confesses about Columbia to her parents and asks for help with the cyberbullying. With her mother's help, she gets Gia expelled and Destany suspended. Destany apologises, but it's clear she can't truly understand why Quinn was angry with her.

    Luckily, Quinn has better friends on her side now, and based on the strength of a truthful, vulnerable personal essay she is accepted to the University of Texas. Things with Carter are rocky: he reveals that he had actually read her whole journal, not just the first page, but apologises for invading her privacy and the two start to build a more honest, even relationship. Quinn also faces her fear and visits her grandmother, who she's afraid will have forgotten her due to Alzheimers.

    Over the course of the novel, Quinn becomes a braver, more honest person with a strong sense of identity. By surrounding herself with good-quality, talented and supportive friends she finds the room to grow into herself. The book's emphasis on trust, truth, and the importance of privacy sends an important message. The depiction of the horrible effects of bullying--both in person and offline--is also shown through both Olivia and Quinn.

    Quinn's changing relationship with her identity, and her father's internalised racism, are also shown in a complex and interesting light. Overall, this is a compelling read with a sweet romance and a strong, brave character at its core.

    Themes

    romance, truth, bravery, secrets, vulnerability, journalling, futures, university, trust, race, identity

    Content Notes

    1. Language: shit x 34, The n-- word (p. 9, 108). Christ (p. 14), f**k x 7 (p. 21 x 2, 76, 120, 123, 250, 281), bitch x 10, bastard x 1, dick x 1. 2. Quinn and her friends drink alcohol and become intoxicated. Quinn is 18, but she is considered underage in the U.S. and uses a fake ID (p. 137--172). Quinn's parents are drunk (p. 255). 3. Quinn and Carter call each other at night and tell each other what they're wearing to bed, but don't discuss anything further. (p. 201). Quinn and Carter kiss (p. 221, 238-239, 352). 4. References to casual racism and use of "the n word" by white people throughout.

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