YA – Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry

Goffney, Joya. Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry. Harper Teen, 2021. 978-0-006-302479-3. 352 p. 17.99. Grades 9-12.

Quinn, a high school senior, keeps lists. Of EVERYTHING. Boys she’d like to kiss, movies with intense rewatchability, things people assume about her. It’s how she copes with life. The notebook in which she keeps her lists is her most treasured possession, and when it goes missing, she panics. Then it gets even worse. Someone posts one of the lists on Instagram, for the whole school to see, and blackmails Quinn into completing her list of fears, or the whole journal will be released. Hot guy Carter, who has decided he doesn’t like Quinn because she’s an oreo – Black on the outside but white on the inside, was the last person to have the journal; he offers to work with Quinn to complete her list and deduct who is holding the journal hostage. While the romance that ensues between the pair may be predictable, the book is about so much more. Quinn and Carter are two of a handful of Black students at a predominately white private school. Although they share some experiences, Carter is quick to point out that wealthy Quinn has a very different life than he does. The plot examines racial issues and stereotypes from a variety of perspectives, and focuses on the value of true friends, who just might be the people you would least expect. Besides facing her fears, Quinn also has to accept that her beloved grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease, and worries that her parents are headed for divorce. All the characters are well developed, and each story arc is satisfyingly wrapped up. This is a superbly well crafted book that is a delight to read.

THOUGHTS:  This will be a huge hit with romance fans, but hand to fans of realistic fiction as well.

Romance          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

MG/YA – Sylvie

Kantorovitz, Sylvie. Sylvie. Walker Books, 2021. 346 p. $24.99 978-1-536-20762-0. Grades 7-12.

In this graphic novel, Artist Sylvie Kantoritz shares her life growing up in France, living in an envied apartment that was part of the small teaching college her father directed. She shows the personalities of her father (easy-going), her mother (never satisfied), and her younger brothers and sister. She strives to make everything work: to be the perfect student, daughter, sister, and friend, while feeling uncertain of where she is headed. As the years pass, she changes friends, finds a boyfriend, and always tries to find her own place. Her fascination with art continues to grow throughout her life, and her father encourages her to seek a future in teaching and art. Finally, Sylvie feels that she’s found her own way to a life of her choosing. She ends the memoir with this thought: “Finding out who we are, and not who others think we are or want us to be, is the most important search in life.” The characters’ expressions are endearing and revealing, through anger and surprise to dismay and joy.

THOUGHTS: Readers will enjoy following Sylvie’s life and growth in this quiet homage to the ups and downs of family life.

Graphic Novel          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

YA -Under Shifting Stars

Lotas, Alexandra. Under Shifting Stars. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-0-358-06775-7. 262. $15.69. Grades 9-12.

After their brother’s tragic death, twins Audrey and Clare struggle to cope with their grief and changed circumstances. Audrey attends Peak, a school for neurodivergent students like herself, after being ostracized by her twin and other bullies at her public school. Clare begins a transformation herself, standing up to her friends who have treated her sister badly and becoming comfortable with her gender identity. The twins and their parents learn to communicate and comfort each other as they live their new life as a family of four.

THOUGHTS: Told by the perspectives of each twin, this story is a great addition to any YA collection as it explores difficult topics many teenagers are facing today.

Realistic Fiction     Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

Since You’ve Been Gone…is the song running through your head yet? :)


Matson, Morgan. Since You’ve Been Gone. New York: Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2014. 978-1442435001. 464p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Emily and Sloane have been inseparable since Sloane moved to Stanwich two years earlier.  But now, Sloane has disappeared leaving Emily with no clue as to where she went, why, or for how long.  After two weeks with no sign of Sloane or her parents, Emily realizes they didn’t just go on a vacation.  So, what happened?  Sloane had never disappeared before, at least not without a call or text.  What is Emily to do without her best friend?  That’s when “The List” appears.  “The List” is the final communication from Sloane to Emily and contains thirteen things for Emily to do before the end of summer.  All of the items, from “1. Kiss a stranger” to “6. Ride a dern horse, ya cowpoke” to “13. Sleep under the stars”, are all things that outgoing Sloane would do, but quiet, reserved Emily wouldn’t consider, until now.  With “The List” as the only connection Emily has to Sloane, she sets out to complete it and ends up finding herself, an Emily without Sloane, in the process.

Matson does it again in Since You’ve Been Gone.  As with Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer, she carefully crafts a bildungsroman different from most in YA because she does it without being graphic in nature.  Instead, she creates characters the reader cares about (and often wishes were their friends) and grows with throughout the novel.  In Since You’ve Been Gone, the novel seems to be plot driven, Emily trying to complete “The List”, but instead, one realizes at the end, is actually a character study and story of identity.  This is a great novel for students who may have lost someone close to them because, although Sloane isn’t permanently gone, the feeling of loss and grief from that loss is what drive Emily to complete, what some may consider, Sloane’s dying wish, “The List”.  As Emily found an identity through Sloane and with Sloane, she now, because of Sloane, has found her true self; an independent, confident Emily.

Realistic Fiction   Erin Parkinson, Lincoln Jr/Sr High School