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Book Review: Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney

Publisher’s description

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by debut author Joya Goffney is an own voices 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. Fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Kristina Forest’s I Wanna Be Where You Are will love the juicy secrets and leap-off-the-page sexual tension.

Quinn 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.

Amanda’s thoughts

I totally and completely loved this book. This is one of my top reads of the year so far!

Quinn’s notebook is full of everything—to-do lists, how-to lists, random thoughts, secrets, lies, and so many things she wouldn’t dream of sharing with anyone. When her classmate Carter grabs it instead of his own notebook and takes it home, everything starts to fall apart. The notebook goes missing, someone is blackmailing Quinn into doing things on her various lists, and they’re sharing her personal secrets with the whole school. Even though Quinn still sort of suspects that Carter is behind this whole thing, she teams up with him to do some things on the list and try to track down who has her notebook.

There is just so much to love about this book. The narrative voice is excellent. I was immediately drawn into Quinn’s world and found her so interesting. She’s a complicated character who has built so much of her identity on her lists and her lies. She has a lot going on in her life, beyond just a lost notebook. Her grandma is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s and Quinn has really complex feelings about that. Her parents are constantly fighting and Quinn is worried what will happen to her small family once she goes to college. She’s one of only a few Black students at her private school and is surrounded by white kids who are racist, throw around the n-word, and repeatedly say that they see Quinn as basically white. And there’s actually a LOT going on in this book about race, including internalized racism, colorism, and dealing with stereotypes and being the exception to stereotypes. She’s lost her best friend of the past decade but is also making new friends.

Carter sees her losing the notebook as a chance to free herself from who Quinn thinks she has to be. And that becomes true because it turns out when your personal secrets get exposed for all to see, it’s hard to hide behind the lies. Quinn experiences real growth over the course of the story, grappling with loyalty, friendship, identity, connection, privacy, and trust. She learns to let herself feel her true feelings, be her true self, because when you’re forced to come clean, you have to stop lying to everyone, including yourself. A fantastic read. I can’t wait to see what else Goffney writes!

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780063024793
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/04/2021
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years

Morgan’s Mumbles: 15 Journals to Keep by teen contributor Morgan Randall

In last week’s post, I talked about keeping journals, and I wanted to share a list of ideas of journals to keep to spark ideas of something new for you to start right now. Feel free to mix up any of these in ways that work best for you, as journaling is a super individual practice and should be a very unique experience for each person. (I have inserted pictures of my notebooks, however, know that mine definitely aren’t the “prettiest” ones of these journals, they are practical applications in my life that work. Know that yours can be more creative than mine or far more simplistic, do whatever works best for you.)

Commonplace Book

Commonplace books (or journals) are a collection of quotes you hear, ideas, and random bursts of inspiration. These were mostly kept during the renaissance, but I think that is a thing a lot of people tend to subconsciously compile, be it through notes in our phones or random sticky notes. I personally enjoy keeping quotes that inspire me (and random bursts of inspiration) in its own area so that I always have something to look at when I need inspiration.

Bullet Journal

Bullet Journals can often be intimidating by the large community that surrounds them, personally I love the practice of having one place to collect ideas and create a planner that works for my schedule depending on the week. I have made complicated ones before, but currently, my process is rather simple. I only use a black pen and a few thin markers to color code. I create a calendar (for the year, month, and then weekly setups) along with habit, sleep, and anxiety trackers. This works for me, but feel free to add to it as much as you want.


I personally do not keep a journal, however, I plan on starting one soon, I know it is something a lot of people benefit from having and enjoy the process every day of having somewhere to reflect on their emotions and the daily events. I also think it is really cool to have a record of your life so that you can always have something to reflect back on to see exactly what was happening in your life (be it mentally or physically)

Dream Journal

This is another one I plan on starting soon because I oftentimes have really strange dreams and I like to look back on them to get ideas or try to decipher what they meant. This kind of journal would be somewhere where you write down your dreams every night (or whenever you have a dream that sparks your interest), and it would help you remember your dreams as well as be able to reflect on them (if that is something you are interested in).

Art Journal

Art journals come in all different forms (as do most journals) some people keep it more as a sketchbook, whereas others use it more as a collection of collages. I do both, depending on my mood, it is an easy way to create without the pressure of impressing anyone else because it is an art just for yourself. Below is a pencil sketch that normally I would have lost the paper to, but having it in a journal allows me to look back on it in case I decide one day to make it into an actual painting.

Travel Journal

This is NOT a journal you should currently be keeping, because you shouldn’t be traveling. But once the world opens back up, and you can safely travel I recommend you log those travel times in a journal where you collect records of events that happened on that trip, ticket stubs, and pictures. This will allow you to have a record of your vacations and be able to easily remember them all. This is also a great place to keep packing lists!

Reading Journal

This is another idea for logging what you are reading, collecting quotes, and writing reviews of books. If you enjoy annotating while you read, this might also provide you with more space to write all your thoughts and ideas out while you read. This can collect your opinions on books, and noteworthy points so if you want to look back to remember your opinion (or maybe an important quote) it is easy to access. This is my reading log (that I started in June), I haven’t updated it but I think it is a good layout if you need an idea for a log.

Writing Journal

If you are an aspiring author, or maybe you just have a lot of ideas and short bursts of inspiration. I recommend keeping a journal of your writings. I have a poetry journal, and one for book ideas. These can include plot structures, studies, character creation, and even actual writing. Let it flow natural and collect important things for your current or future self, while writing.

Gratitude Journal

I keep my gratitude reflection to a line each day in my bullet journal, but if gratitude is something you are consciously trying to work on maybe keeping a journal for it would be best. For some ideas of things to include, I would recommend a daily “Gratitude Log” where you write down the thing you were most grateful about each day, a running list of things that you are grateful for that sometimes you take for granted (maybe this is family, good books, morning coffee, or even just waking up), and (if this is something you can do) just write down everything that happens that you are grateful for. Let this book act as a reminder, when you have hard days, months, or even years that there is always something to be grateful for even if it’s hard to see.

Brain Dump Journal

This journal is exactly what it sounds like, a place to collect notes, ideas, lists, and anything else that doesn’t normally have a place. Let it grow organically and just be a space to get things out of your mind and onto paper.

Time Capsule Journal

My version of this is more of a junk journal. I collect random things from daily life that when put together into my journal form a “Time Capsule” of my life. Personally, my current journal is overflowing. It has random sketches, pictures, receipts, scraps of paper, and random notes given to me by people. This is all “junk” in theory, but I put it in a journal that I can always flip through and remember each moment for each item and lets me be able to easily look back on specific moments.

Food Journal

For me, this is a collection of recipes I have tried (or would like to try) and other random food-related things. These “random things” are nutrition facts, substitutes for items, grocery lists, and even notes about what I am eating and how it makes me feel. I recently went vegetarian and am in the process of going vegan (or at least completely cutting out dairy and only using farm-fresh/locally sourced eggs), so this allows me space to consciously keep track of foods I enjoy and new restrictions I am placing on my diet.

Music Journal

Similar to a reading journal, this is a space to create spreads/collages of songs, albums, and artists. If you enjoy listening to and dissecting music, I recommend keeping a journal like this to create a space for you to reflect on new songs and albums. And allow you to rate them, mark down what you liked and didn’t like, and even how it made you feel. If you enjoy creating music, take this a step farther and include things you enjoy in music and would like to try, along with lyrics that you think of or composition ideas.

Inspiration Journal

This is probably the vaguest, but I recommend keeping a journal of something that specifically inspires you. I have a few journals like this. One is a collection of historical figures that inspire me (and that I wasn’t taught about in school), one is a workout plan/log, and one on sustainability. Create a journal full of things that inspire you.

Philosophy and Theology Journal

This one is slightly more targeted at people who enjoy studying thought processes and ideologies. Create a place where you can collect notes on major philosophers and their thought processes. And if you are religious/spiritual, or enjoy studying those things, extend this into theological beliefs and study the differences between religions and how they have evolved over time. If you are religious/spiritual, you can extend this into a prayer or meditation journal if you are comfortable with it.

Here are some additional TLT posts that you may find helpful in your journaling journey.

Morgan RandallTeen Contributor

Morgan recently graduated high school and is currently enrolled to attend college in the fall getting her BA in Theatre and Dance with an emphasis on Design and Technology. She loves theatre, writing, reading, and learning. But something that has always been important to her is being a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one, and being a catalyst for change in any way possible.

Book Review: Love from A to Z by S. K. Ali

Publisher’s description

love fromFrom William C. Morris Award Finalist S.K. Ali comes an unforgettable romance that is part The Sun Is Also a Star mixed with Anna and the French Kiss, following two Muslim teens who meet during a spring break trip.

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.


Amanda’s thoughts

First thing first: this is easily in my top five for books I’ve read so far in 2019. EASILY.


Second thing, well, second: I am in the very fortunate position to receive a ton of books to consider for review. And while I am so grateful to get them, look through them, tweet about them, include them in posts for collection development, and read them, there is just no way I can actually read most of them for review here unless I quit my job to be a stay-at-home dog mom and then do nothing but read (hmm…). So I sort through options and almost always choose something that I already assume I will like (because of the content or the author’s previous work or the genre or a particular issue). I don’t “have” to review anything and certainly don’t want to waste my time reviewing something that isn’t good or doesn’t hold my attention—unless I find it so problematic or concerning that I want to review it to warn people away from bad rep etc. Alllll of that is to say I went in assuming I would like this book and it totally blew my expectations out of the water. And what a joy when you think you’ll love something and get to find out that you LOVE it.


Am I just going to gush at you for multiple paragraphs? Maybe. I save my academic review writing for SLJ. Here at TLT, I get to be conversational and less professional and GUSH. So yeah, my notes include things like “I’M IN” and “I am so here for this!” and hearts and exclamation points.


The summary up there is really thorough. It captures the plot points really well, but does nothing to capture the real spirit of the story or the characters. All it took was the first few pages, meeting both Adam Chen and Zayneb Malik and seeing their marvels and oddities journals, and I was swept up into the story. I scratched the rest of my to-do list for the day and just read this book straight through. There is so much heart to this book, whether with family or friends or support or passions or convictions. It is full of strong feelings, of passionate convictions, and of complicated characters who don’t always do or say the right thing, but make choices for logical and important reasons. This book is about love, family, and the changes and challenges life throws at us. It’s also about Islamophobia, justice, peace, activism, social justice, civilian casualties of war, righteous anger, and being Muslim. It is SO MUCH about being Muslim. Zayneb was raised Muslim from the start and Adam converted, along with his father, a handful of years ago. Zayneb’s father is from Pakistan and her mother (who also converted) is Guyanese and Trinidadian. Adam is Canadian by way of China and Finland.


There was so much in this book that either I was cheering for (Zayneb repeatedly calling people out for their racism, Islamophobia, white feminism, and cultural appropriation) or marveling (sorry) over (have I read a book set in Qatar before? Have I read a book where there are characters who converted to Islam before?). Despite their bumps along the road, it’s so clear to the reader that Adam and Zayneb were meant to meet and be in each other’s lives. For very different reasons, they both feel so alone, but find more connections than just each other. This is a beautiful, complex, and important book. I hope that all libraries will get this on their shelves and on display. A wonderful story that centers the Muslim experience and shows the power of anger, peace, and connection. 



Review copy (e-ARC) courtesy of Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781534442726
Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 04/30/2019