Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry is a sweet and moving YA romcom

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney. Image courtesy Spark Point Studio
Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney. Image courtesy Spark Point Studio /

Extreme ugly-crier Quinn has a lot of feelings and anxieties that she can only express by making lists in her notebook. Through her lists, Quinn can write down all the things she’ll never say and do, like the fact that she didn’t really get into Columbia, or why she really got in a fight with her best friend.

After the cocky (and way too cute for his own good) Carter shows up at her house to do homework and accidentally mixes up their notebooks, everything goes south when her notebook gets lost and her secrets get spilled by an anonymous blackmailer.

In debut author Joya Goffney’s Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry, Quinn and Carter have to form an uneasy alliance to satisfy the blackmailer and get Quinn’s notebook back, all while Quinn faces her innermost fears.

Despite a burning attraction for each other, Quinn and Carter don’t trust each other, but they have to work together by crossing off items on one of Quinn’s to-do lists, leading Quinn on a life-changing journey to face her fears.

The more items that get crossed off, the closer Quinn and Carter get and the more Quinn learns about herself–like perhaps that she doesn’t need her notebook after all. Goffney writes a romance with searing chemistry that young adult and romance fans alike will burn for.

While the relationship between Quinn and Carter is the main centerpiece of the book, Goffney deftly weaves together multiple themes and subplots to create a rich and multidimensional protagonist in Quinn.

With the title Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry and a generally anxious character, it would be easy for Quinn to come off as overly whiny or immature (even if justified). However, Goffney shows through multiple, relatable lenses why Quinn is the way she is.

One tender and moving subplot explores Quinn’s family life. As her parents have a somewhat volatile relationship, Quinn has to struggle with the task of meeting their high expectations, all while dealing with her beloved grandmother’s dementia.

Another thread focuses on Quinn’s identity as a young Black woman in rural Texas, surrounded by mostly (racist) white people. Her relationship with Carter is also one of navigating and exploring her culture as she questions her former friendship with a friend she realizes is racist.

In a less-talented writer’s hand, all of these elements could easily produce a clunky book that feels unfocused or overdone. But through the plot mechanism of the list, and a tightly focused character in Quinn, Goffney keeps everything on track, allowing readers to fully know why they’re rooting for Quinn at all times, even though she’s far from perfect herself.

While the romance between Quinn and Carter is worth the price of admission alone, Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry is also a story of self-love and courage as Quinn finds her strength and inner voice, discovering, “…I guess, all this time, I’d forgotten about that piece of me that was brave.”

dark. Next. 13 new YA releases that belong on your May reading list

You can get your copy of Joya Goffney’s Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry wherever books are sold today.