Cover of Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry: A girl clutches a red notebook and looks over her shoulder at a boy with his hands in his pockets.

About the Book

Title: Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry
Published: 2021
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Eventually
Talky Talk: Baring It All
Bonus Factors: Grief, Journaling, Family
Relationship Status: Friend Date

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

GIF from Montell Jordan's music video "This Is How We Do It"

These cartoon covers don’t seem to be going anywhere, are they? I can’t help but love this one, though, and it’s mainly because I love good attention to detail that shows the artist was actually told pertinent details (or read the book). The clothing, the character looks, even the red journal cover—it’s all spot-on. Also, kudos on the title choice because the silliness of it is what made me pause long enough to read the synopsis.

The Deal:

Quinn is a list person. Purging her deepest, darkest thoughts and fears in her journal in the form of lists about the days she ugly cried, the boys she’d want to kiss, and the scary life things she should be doing is her form of therapy.

Quinn is also a liar. So when her journal falls into the wrong hands, blackmailer’s hands, she’s forced to do their bidding otherwise her embarrassing lists will come out, like the ones that detail why she didn’t get into Columbia and lied about it to her parents, or the one that reveals she had a hand in vandalizing another girl’s artwork.

Reluctantly, she accepts help from the last person who had her journal (in a mix-up gone wrong), Carter, who is hot but kind of an ass, but also feels guilty enough about losing her journal to help her find it.

BFF Charm: Eventually

BFF Charm with a sweatband on

As I mentioned, Quinn is a liar, and she’s lying to herself most of all. She convinces herself she’s not brave or smart and that she isn’t as privileged as she actually is. And while I can get behind a good list, she purges her thoughts and emotions into her journal so she doesn’t have to actually process them. This book is very much about her exposing herself (emotionally), so I have to give credit where credit is due by the end.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

When Carter first looks at Quinn, he sees nothing more than a pretty face hiding a rotten interior. Quinn thinks Carter is completely hot but, quite frankly, a judgmental asshole. They’re both mostly wrong, and it was sweet to see them open up to one another. Carter does something later in the book that is quite reprehensible, but I think Goffney does a great job at treating his transgression with the gravity it deserves while also allowing both characters space to feel remorse, grow, and reflect on their actions.

Talky Talk: Baring It All

Within the first few chapters, you’ll have this book’s plot all figured out. But did that lessen my enjoyment? Nah! I found Goffney’s voice quite fresh and amusing; even when Quinn was being kind of annoying, I understood her and her motivations. I enjoyed the little moments of reflection when Quinn got real and delved into her grief and remembered the things that really mattered to her. Goffney inserted discussions on family relationships, consent, friendship, race, and honesty and never made any part feel preachy or overwrought, but at the same time I felt like important lessons were being handed out left and right. I’m excited to see what comes next from this new author!

Bonus Factor: Grief

Quinn’s formidable grandmother, Hattie, has Alzheimer’s and has been living in a home over the last year, and while she isn’t dead, Quinn is still experiencing an overwhelming grief that the person she loved is not…the same. Quinn can’t even bring herself to visit Hattie for fear that she will not remember Quinn. This part was particularly poignant for me, because I am going through a similar kind of experience with my own grandmother, whom I grew up very close to. It is quite heartbreaking to see someone so feisty’s spirit diminished in that way, and I could relate to Quinn’s desire to avoid it, but, hon, you need to woman the fuck up and be a good granddaughter.

Bonus Factor: Journaling

While Quinn’s over-dependence on her journal isn’t healthy, I am a proponent of writing down your messy thoughts to sort them, or to keep a chronicle of your life. I used to be really diligent about it, though the last few years I…definitely have not, but this made me want to ease back into it.

The only part that constantly made me cringe was Quinn just toting her super-private journal that exposes ALL her secrets everywhere. Carter accidentally took it from her when he was at her house studying because it looked like his notebook, but she talked about taking it to school and such. GIRL, NO. Something as private as that stays tucked under your mattress or gets password-protected! This whole situation was amateur hour.

Bonus Factor: Family

7 family members of all ages in a group hug

Quinn’s parents have a complicated relationship, and she’s constantly worried that once she goes away to college they will have nothing left in common and divorce. It’s a lot of pressure put on one’s self. Some of my favorite moments in the story came from Quinn working through her issues with her parents and exploring the bonds of what it means to be a family.

Relationship Status: Friend Date

We bonded over our love of journaling in the lunchroom, Book, and though graduation is drawing closer, I think there might be a friendship forming. Let’s catch a movie sometime and see where this could lead!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from HarperTeen. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.