HIGHLY ANTICIPATED SUMMER READ: Malibu Rising Review

91+feQBCK2LSummary (from the publisher): Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over–especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud–because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own–including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

Malibu Rising is one of THE books of June, if not THE book of summer. I feel like I mentally grouped so many big contemporary June 1st releases together – including but not limited to Zakiya Dalia Harris’ The Other Black Girl, Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop, and  Elin Hilderbrand’s Golden Girl because June 1st was THAT big of a new release day. At the time of writing this post, I’ve read The Other Black Girl and still have to read One Last Stop and Golden Girl, but out of the four, I was most anticipating Malibu Rising

I’ve now read all of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books, & I do plan on sharing a fun TJR ranking post later this summer. I was semi-inspired to do so after listening to Friends to Lovers Podcast’s TJR ranking episode recorded pre-Malibu Rising. They reminded me that I still needed to read Maybe This Time, which I read before about a week before diving into Malibu Rising. Controversial opinion that I’ll probably dive into in my rankings posts, but I prefer TJR’s contemporary romances to her latest releases, which don’t necessarily have a genre but tend to fall into historical fiction, including Malibu Rising. I feel like TJR’s latest three books are definitely distinct from her contemporary romance, but having read Malibu Rising and Maybe This Time so close together, I do see some of her old writing style come in – which don’t get me wrong, I love. 

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ALASKAN ROMANCE: Wild at Heart & Forever Wild Reviews

Wild at Heart Summary (from the publisher):

51P0h7k0zmLCalla Fletcher returns to Toronto a different person, struggling to find direction and still very much in love with the rugged bush pilot she left behind. When Jonah arrives on her doorstep with a proposition she can’t dismiss, she takes the leap and rushes back to Alaska to begin their exciting future together.

But Calla soon learns that even the best intentions can lead to broken promises, and that compromise comes with a hefty price—a log cabin in interior rural Alaska that feels as isolating as the western tundra.

With Jonah gone more than he’s home, one neighbor who insists on transforming her into a true Alaskan, and another who seems more likely to shoot her than come to her aid, Calla grapples with forging her own path. In a world with roaming wildlife that has her constantly watching over her shoulder and harsh conditions that stretch far beyond the cold, dark, winter months, just stepping outside her front door can be daunting.

This is not the future Calla had in mind, leaving her to fear that perhaps she is doomed to follow in her mother’s fleeing footsteps after all.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

K.A. Tucker’s Wild at Heart WAS one of those books that always seemed to fall on those ‘books I still need to read on my TBR’ type posts. My county library recently added it to their ebook collection via Libby (if you like ebooks, I highly recommend seeing if your library provides this platform), and I found myself in the mood for a light & breezy contemporary romance. The sequel to The Simple Wild (my review is linked), the book picks up with Calla’s decision to move to Alaska permanently.

I definitely recommend picking up The Simple Wild before picking this one up (this series is the PERFECT kind of binge read), but the sequel is really a story of its own as Calla tries to figure out her place in Alaska. Despite having about a two year reading break in between the two books, it took me no time at all to get re-familiarized with the characters & storyline (and yes, Calla’s stepfather, Simon, is still my favorite). More secondary characters are added in this sequel that I did ultimately love, however, I will admit that there were a few moments where someone was mentioned & it took me a few seconds to remember who they exactly were. I loved the Roy storyline, and sorry Jonah, but Calla’s friendship with this cranky neighbor is my favorite relationship in the series. It was a tad reminiscent of Calla’s relationship with her father in book #1. The setting of The Simple Wild books is my favorite part – while I honestly am way too much of a beach/warm weather person & could never imagine living in Alaska, K.A. Tucker’s descriptions of the setting made me want to visit.

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A MORGAN MATSON FAVE: Take Me Home Tonight Review

71B40ODmXcLSummary (from the publisher): 

Two girls. One night. Zero phones.

Kat and Stevie—best friends, theater kids, polar opposites—have snuck away from the suburbs to spend a night in New York City. They have it all planned out. They’ll see a play, eat at the city’s hottest restaurant, and have the best. Night. Ever. What could go wrong?

Well. Kind of a lot?

They’re barely off the train before they’re dealing with destroyed phones, family drama, and unexpected Pomeranians. Over the next few hours, they’ll have to grapple with old flames, terrible theater, and unhelpful cab drivers. But there are also cute boys to kiss, parties to crash, dry cleaning to deliver (don’t ask), and the world’s best museum to explore.

Over the course of a wild night in the city that never sleeps, both Kat and Stevie will get a wake-up call about their friendship, their choices…and finally discover what they really want for their future.

That is, assuming they can make it to Grand Central before the clock strikes midnight.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

I haven’t met a Morgan Matson book that I haven’t LOVED, including her latest release, Take Me Home Tonight. I am a huge fan of her work, so I should premise here that I am likely to fall in love with any of her books. Her writing style just pulls me in – it’s has this detailed just binge-able quality with unique plots that grab my attention again & again. 

Like Morgan’s other books, the book is set in the fictional Stanwich, CT, as best friends Stevie and Kat decide to go into New York City by themselves for the night while waiting for the cast list for their high school’s King Lear production. Stevie’s dad cancels their birthday dinner plans at an exclusive restaurant, so Kat convinces her to still take the reservation while having ulterior motives: go see their theatre department lead teacher’s own play to maybe influence his casting decisions for the show. A series of mishaps early in the night leads to getting locked out an apartment with their stuff inside, taking care of the world’s cutest Pomeranian, a broken cell phone, and Kat & Stevie left figuring out what they each want for their future and friendship.  

Before I really dive into my review, I just wanted to include a sidetone that Morgan Matson still has some of the best covers in the YA contemporary game. Although Take Me Home Tonight isn’t my favorite cover – Morgan Matson’s books usually have models/real people on them whereas Take Me Home Tonight has this 3D object-like quality-, I do like that the illustrator got Kat & Stevie’s outfits to the exact detail (and of course included Brad). It might seem a little odd to people who haven’t read the book, but I LOVE the full cover image of Brad/Pomeranian on the back. I borrowed Take Me Home Tonight from my library so I wasn’t able to see it in a full detail, but I also love how the backside of Morgan Matson’s cover jackets are also illustrated. 

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An Emotion of Great Delight Review

81yS1ku0WWLSummary (from the publisher):

It’s 2003, several months since the US officially declared war on Iraq, and the American political world has evolved. Tensions are high, hate crimes are on the rise, FBI agents are infiltrating local mosques, and the Muslim community is harassed and targeted more than ever. Shadi, who wears hijab, keeps her head down.

She’s too busy drowning in her own troubles to find the time to deal with bigots.

Shadi is named for joy, but she’s haunted by sorrow. Her brother is dead, her father is dying, her mother is falling apart, and her best friend has mysteriously dropped out of her life. And then, of course, there’s the small matter of her heart—

It’s broken.

Shadi tries to navigate her crumbling world by soldiering through, saying nothing. She devours her own pain, each day retreating farther and farther inside herself until finally, one day, everything changes.

She explodes.

An Emotion of Great Delight is a searing look into the world of a single Muslim family in the wake of 9/11. It’s about a child of immigrants forging a blurry identity, falling in love, and finding hope—in the midst of a modern war.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

I read Tahereh Mafi’s first YA contemporary, A Very Large Expanse of Sea, back in 2018, and was recently fortunate enough to dive back into her second & latest YA contemporary release, An Emotion of Great Delight. Fans of the former book & readers who enjoy hard-hitting YA releases will especially enjoy An Emotion of Great Delight. I wish I could think of better word than ‘enjoy,’ as this book has some super dark and somber moment surrounding grief, loss, and harassment. 

Set two years after 9/11, Muslim American teen, Shadi, experiences both verbal and physical harassment nearly every day as the Muslim community becomes a larger target in the US. Shadi is grappling with so much loss, between the death of her brother a year prior, her father’s health issues, her mother who is deeply depressed, her sister who she feels like she cannot talk to, and her best friend who mysteriously dropped her a few months ago. The only person Shadi can remotely hold a conversation with is said former ex-best friend’s brother, Ali, who should be off limits, but helps Shadi in her darkest moments. 

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A FAVORITE YA FROM FAV. AUTHOR:We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This Review

Summary (from the publisher):

WCKMLTQuinn Berkowitz and Tarek Mansour’s families have been in business together for years: Quinn’s parents are wedding planners, and Tarek’s own a catering company. At the end of last summer, Quinn confessed her crush on him in the form of a rambling email—and then he left for college without a response.

Quinn has been dreading seeing him again almost as much as she dreads another summer playing the harp for her parents’ weddings. When he shows up at the first wedding of the summer, looking cuter than ever after a year apart, they clash immediately. Tarek’s always loved the grand gestures in weddings—the flashier, the better—while Quinn can’t see them as anything but fake. Even as they can’t seem to have one civil conversation, Quinn’s thrown together with Tarek wedding after wedding, from performing a daring cake rescue to filling in for a missing bridesmaid and groomsman.

Quinn can’t deny her feelings for him are still there, especially after she learns the truth about his silence, opens up about her own fears, and begins learning the art of harp-making from an enigmatic teacher.

Maybe love isn’t the enemy after all—and maybe allowing herself to fall is the most honest thing Quinn’s ever done.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

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Rachel Lynn Solomon is one of my auto-read/auto-love authors because I’ve loved every single one of her books, YA and adult contemporary alike. Her 2020 YA release, Today Tonight Tomorrow, was my favorite YA book last year & her 2021 adult contemporary release, The Ex Talk, will be making many appearances on my favorite books of 2021 lists. You might know that I am a huge fan of books that involve some sort of wedding premise, so take one of my favorite authors and a book with a protagonist whose family owns a wedding planning business, and you had me sold on Rachel Lynn Solomon’s 2021 YA release, We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This.

Quinn’s family owns a Seattle-based wedding planning business, Borrowed + Blue, often working alongside Tarek Mansour’s family-owned catering company. There are a few reasons why Quinn doesn’t want to be playing her harp at various ceremonies and helping plan weddings alongside her parents and sister. One, the family dream isn’t necessarily her dream & two, Quinn can’t help but think of the email she sent to Tarek at the end of the summer confessing her feelings for him…aka, the email Tarek also never replied to. When Tarek is home for the summer working & Quinn is forced to help plan the business’ biggest wedding yet, her and Tarek are forced to work figure out their feelings. 

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This had all of the hallmarks of what I love in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s books. Her books just feel so mature, often having thoughtful reflections and conversations surrounding sex, identity and religion. As with all of her other books, Quinn is Jewish and there are some conversations surrounding her relationship with Judaism, especially as her engaged sister, Asher, begins to adopt new religious customs with her fiancé. Tarek is Muslim, and I really liked a particularly conversation him and Quinn on a date about their relationships with religion. The book also has mental health representation, as Quinn has OCD and another character in the book (no spoiler) has clinical depression. I’ve never seen OCD like Quinn’s depicted in a book before and it taught me aspects of OCD that I hadn’t realized before. 

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5 STAR CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: Second First Impressions Review

Summary (from the publisher):
71nBJym9arLRuthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.

Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.

Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.

Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Sally Thorne is the author of one of the arguably most popular contemporary romances, The Hating Game. I remember seeing it in one of Sarah J. Maas’s email newsletters after she had LOVED it. I thus read it back in 2016, but don’t necessarily have strong memories, especially since I’ve developed into & grown as a contemporary romance reader since. I also wasn’t the biggest fan of her second book, 99 Percent Mine – I had trouble settling to the plot & dialogue – so I 100% admit that I was nervous going into Second First Impressions. I thought this book would be my make-or-break deal with Sally Thorne and I am so, SO happy to report that I not only LOVED Second First Impressions, but it is one of my favorite books of 2021! 

Second First Impressions follows twenty-five year old, Ruthie, who is in charge of a retirement village for the old & wealthy where she’s worked at for the past 6 years while her boss is on vacation. Ruthie can’t imagine her life without Providence, since she doesn’t haven’t the best relationship with her reverend father & mother based on mistakes she made as a teenager. Aside from the residents, her only company is Mel, a temp who’s been hired to help out Ruthie with admin but is much more invested in getting Ruthie back in the dating world. 

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SUMMER TIME READ: The Lucky List Review

81lEotkcWQLSummary (From the publisher): Emily and her mom were always lucky. Every month they’d take her lucky quarter, select lucky card 505, and dominate the heatedly competitive bingo night in their small, quirky town of Huckabee. But Emily’s mom’s luck ran out three years ago when she succumbed to cancer, and nothing has felt right for Emily since.

Now, the summer before her senior year, things are getting worse. Not only has Emily wrecked things with her boyfriend Matt, who her mom adored, but her dad is selling the house she grew up in and giving her mom’s belongings away. Soon, she’ll have no connections left to Mom but that lucky quarter. And with her best friend away for the summer and her other friends taking her ex’s side, the only person she has to talk to about it is her dad’s best friend’s daughter, Blake, a girl she barely knows.

But that’s when Emily finds the list—her mom’s senior year summer bucket list—buried in a box in the back of her closet. When Blake suggests that Emily take it on as a challenge, the two set off on a journey to tick each box and help Emily face her fears before everything changes As they go further down the list, Emily finally begins to feel closer to mom again, but her bond with Blake starts to deepen, too, into something she wasn’t expecting. Suddenly Emily must face another fear: accepting the secret part of herself she never got a chance to share with the person who knew her best.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

Back in September, I read Rachael Lippincott & Mikki Daughtry’s All This Time, making me want to check out more books by both authors, including Rachael Lippincott’s first solo book, The Lucky List. Taking place over my favorite season, SUMMER, the book follows upcoming high school senior, Emily, whose summer is looking a little bleak: she’s just broken up with her on-and-off again boyfriend, Matt, again & maybe this time for good; because of the break-up, she’s on the outs with her friend group; her best friend, Kiera, is away at summer camp; and her dad is finally read to move out of Emily’s childhood home and start cleaning out her mom’s belongings, who died from cancer 3 years before. Emily hasn’t felt like herself over those 3 years, but discovers a new connection to her mom when she finds her mom’s summer bucket list from her own senior year. When her dad’s best friend and his daughter, Blake, move back to town, Emily & Blake team up together to complete the bucket list. Emily begins to feel like the old her, including unopened feelings about her sexuality and more-than-friends feels she is developing for Blake.

The Lucky List was a really cute summer YA contemporary while also diving into deeper themes surrounding Emily’s loss and coming out. Throughout, Emily is grieving over her mom’s death and how she just hasn’t felt like herself since. Through the bucket list, Blake helps Emily work through her emotions. The story felt really full circle near the end, as the book does connect back to the moment when Emily’s mom was diagnosed with cancer and Emily recognizing her sexuality. I always make sure to note this when a book does indeed bring on the tears because yes I do read a lot of emotional books that make me sad but so few make me cry. However, I had tons of tears rolling down my face near the end of the book involving a scene with Emily and her dad and her mom’s clothes, which led me to cry over the follow-up scenes.

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ADD THESE SUMMER READS: May 2021 Mini Reviews

I’ve been in such a great reading mood lately! I’ve been able to read 1-2 books during the week & then another book or two on the weekends. We’ve been having a few sunny Saturdays and Sundays, which means spending the day outside reading in my backyard. If you’re already preparing your summer TBR like I am, make sure you check out these 4 contemporary books below.

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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Two weekends ago on a sunny Saturday, I was craving a book that I could binge-read while sitting outside all day, which meant it was time to pick up another Elin Hilderbrand book! After loving 28 Summers back in March, I decided to pick up another one of her more recent releases, Summer of ’69. Set in, you guessed it, the summer of 1969, the book follows three daughters and their mother’s summer on Nantucket and Martha Vineyard while their brother & son has been recently deployed to Vietnam. 

I love books that place over the summer and follow the daily happenings of the main characters. Summer of ’69 exactly fits that premise, with a few secrets and minor scandals along the way. I totally admit that I was a little hesitant going into the 1960s setting, but it was so interesting getting transported to the days of the space race and the Vietnam War. There’s also commentary on women’s roles and race, between Blair’s husband’s desire for Blair to stay home & raise their family and Kirby’s relationship with a young black man. I really like Elin Hilderbrand’s books because she’s able to handle so many plot lines and conflicts while also keeping the writing style quick and easy to fly through -aka the perfect beach read. I definitely liked reading from the daughters, Blair, Kirby, and Jessie’s perspectives, more than their mother, who was a bit on the melodramatic side, but I overall loved this book!

I am SO going to read more Elin Hilderbrand books this summer – I think she’s going to be one of my go-tos when I want a book-in-a-day beach or pool read. I immediately put Elin Hilderbrand’s June release, Golden Girl, on hold after I finished reading Summer of ’69

Anna K: Away (Anna K #2) by Jenny Lee 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

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Let it be know already that I love anything having to do with Anna K because I absolutely  LOVED Anna K: Away. The sequel to Jenny Lee’s 2020 release, Anna K, the book picks up during the summer after the events of book #1, in which Anna K & co. are grieving over the loss of Anna K’s beloved (trying to avoid spoilers, but if you’ve read Anna Karenina, you can probably figure out who I’m talking about). Anna K is whisked off to Korea, Dustin, Steve, and Lolly are dealing with their own relationship troubles in NYC, and Bea is off to California for a change of pace of her own.

I just love everything about Anna K: Away so much, from Jenny Lee’s writing style to the glamour and drama of these teens’ world. Yes, it is super extravagant and probably unrealistic, but this book is the absolute perfect kind of escape. I loved all of the settings, from California to the Hamptons to South Korea. I think Anna K’s storyline was particularly my favorite because I loved the K-pop and paparazzi storyline while Anna K deals with loss and figuring out her next steps. I really like Bea as a character so it was fun following her storyline, and Lolly and Steve’s relationship always made for some fun drama. I read Anna K: Away nearly a year after reading book #1 and don’t think you necessarily need a reread to get invested in this sequel. You definitely need to read book #1 before book #2 — and should just read this series regardless because it is such a refreshing and mature take on Gossip Girl-esque YA contemporary. 

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GILMORE GIRLS MEETS GAP YEAR: The Marvelous Mirza Girls Review 

Summary (from the publisher):

91DHMxk5y5LTo cure her post–senior year slump, made worse by the loss of her aunt Sonia, Noreen is ready to follow her mom on a gap year trip to New Delhi, hoping India can lessen her grief and bring her voice back.

In the world’s most polluted city, Noreen soon meets kind, handsome Kabir, who introduces her to the wonders of this magical, complicated place. With Kabir’s help—plus Bollywood celebrities, fourteenth-century ruins, karaoke parties, and Sufi saints—Noreen begins to rediscover her joyful voice.

But when a family scandal erupts, Noreen and Kabir must face complicated questions in their own relationship: What does it mean to truly stand by someone—and what are the boundaries of love? 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

In a world where we are traveling less than we used to, I’ve been really attracted to books taking place in other countries than the US, which helped lead me to Sheba Karim’s The Marvelous Mirza Girls. A year after the loss of her aunt Sonia, Noreen decides to take a gap year in between high school and college and join her mother on a work trip to New Dehli for a few months. There, Noreen meets Kabir, who shows her various sites around New Dehli to help Noreen confront her grief and learn more about her culture. 

The Marvelous Mirza Girls has so many great elements that were all really well-balanced. Noreen is a writer and dreams of writing a TV show one day, but has struggled to write since the unexpected death of her aunt Sonia. The book starts off a year after Sonia’s death, and Noreen remains in deep grief. Her mother, Ruby, hopes that a change in location to New Delhi will help lift both their spirits and get Noreen back to writing. I’m usually hesitant about comparing books to TV shows, but The Marvelous Mirza Girls completely deserves the Gilmore Girls comparisons. Ruby and Noreen have such a relaxed, yet strong mother-daughter dynamic. They both easily agree to spending some of Noreen’s gap year in New Dehli together, they talk about dating and relationships with ease, and like Lorelai and Rory, they have a penchant for junk food. I also thought Noreen’s grief and emotions surrounding her aunt’s death were well developed. With each site Kabir takes Noreen to, she works through her grief and feels a closer connection to her aunt. The book also somewhat delves into Noreen’s relationship with her estranged father, making Noreen all the more grateful for her relationship with her mother. I loved the emphasis and inclusion of positive female relationships, especially between a mother and daughter. 

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Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry Review 

Summary (from the publisher):

8100TK7bG4LQuinn keeps lists of everything—from the days she’s ugly cried, to “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud” and 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 . . .

Then 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.

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

If you’re looking for YA contemporary that mixes adorable YA romance with real themes, look no further than Joya Goffney’s Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry. The book follows high school senior, Quinn, a girl who just kept seem to tell the truth unless in it’s in her notebook. Quinn keeps lists about everything, from things she’d never admit out loud to everything that annoys her about one of her classmates, Carter. When someone gets a hold of the notebook and threatens to blackmail Quinn, like exposing her fake college acceptance and her help vandalizing a fellow classmate’s artwork, she has to team up with Carter to figure out who has the notebook. 

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I liked Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry’s balance between cute YA and serious themes surrounding race. The book has slight To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before vibes, between Quinn’s notebook/notes being stolen and having to team up with a guy she never would’ve imagined spending time with, let alone developing feelings for. Quinn identities as Black, and much of the book revolves around a really horrible incident with two friends involving racial stereotypes and the Quinn’s feeling that she isn’t “Black” enough based on the things people say about her. Quinn has tough conversations with her parents, new friends, and ex-friends about race, and the book provides a ton of perspective on prejudice and micro-aggressions. 

While I appreciated the book’s themes and I especially loved Quinn and Olivia’s friendship, I had trouble really getting into Quinn’s mindset. I think there was too much going with plot, between her relationship with her parents, their own relationship problems, her grandmother’s health, Carter, her crush on Matt, college, and friendships. It was almost hard to understand why she lied so much about what was going on in her life & her feelings. Although I liked having a glimpse into all of these elements of Quinn’s life, it was often difficult to keep track of characters and some of these factors felt surface-level, despite the book’s conversation surrounding race. 

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