Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Featured Review of Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry Cover Art

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney
HarperCollins / HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
ISBN: 978-0063024793

Quinn, a wealthy Black high school senior at a predominantly white private school in Austin, TX, keeps deeply personal lists in her journal, like “If I Could Kiss Anyone,” and “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud.” When a mixup with Carter, one of the few other Black students in school, results in Quinn’s journal being held by anonymous blackmailers who threaten to post her most humiliating lists on social media unless she completes her “To Do Before I Graduate” list (including confessing her love to her best friend, admitting she didn’t get into the Ivy League school her parents think she did, and finally visiting her grandma with dementia), Carter offers to help Quinn complete the items on her list and find the blackmailers.

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry finds its balance somewhere between a romantic comedy with opposites-attract protagonists and a coming-of-age story about the poignant pain of entering adulthood and taking ownership of one’s own life.The gradual friendship and then romance between Quinn and Carter is strong on its own, but Goffney’s exploration of Quinn’s life as a Black student surrounded by white friends and peers is where the book shines: as Quinn grows closer to Carter and his friends Olivia (a biracial girl who lives with her white mom) and Auden (a white boy with some antiracist education), she questions the constant microaggressions, insensitive jokes, and cultural erasure she experiences with her other so-called friends, all of whom are white. Other story points like Quinn’s grief over her beloved grandmother’s declining health and her complicated relationship with her parents (who grapple with classism and their own internalized anti-Blackness) add more nuance to Quinn’s character development.

Pitch Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry to readers as Gossip Girl meets Renée Watson’s Piecing Me Together. Give to fans of character-driven coming-of-age stories with romance, like You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, Color Me In by Natasha Diaz, and More Than Just a Pretty Face by Syed M. Masood.

Megan Jackson, she/her

Other Nominated Titles

  • The Words in My Hands by Asphyxia (November 30, 2021)
  • Walls by L.M. Elliott (July 27, 2021)
  • List of Ten by Halli Gomez (March 16, 2021)
  • Margot Mertz Takes It Down by Carrie McCrossen and Ian McWethy (November 9, 2021)
  • The Block (The Loop, vol. 2) by Ben Oliver (May 4, 2021)

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are available on The Hub.