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.
As someone who to this day carries notebooks around with them (and would be in a panic if I lost any of them) the premise of this one really intrigued me from the start. Quinn’s notebook comes across more as a journal, so that would make losing it all the worse. It’s apparent pretty quickly that Quinn has lots of areas where she could grow, her notebook contains a lot of things she’s scared about, dreams about and more and without it she has to learn how to gain courage and sometimes take chances to face her fears.
There are definite themes of racism, blackmailing, general high school pressures (including those from parents) and more. With everything that was packed into this book I almost felt like the romance wasn’t needed since there was so much more to unpack, but it was still a nice addition. All in all I really enjoyed this debut and would look forward to reading more from Joya Goffney in the future. The writing style flowed really well and made it a fast paced read for me.