Book Review: Your Plantation Prom is Not Okay by Kelly McWilliams
When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal.
Little, Brown. May 2023. 320p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316449939.
Gr 8 Up–A white soap opera star purchases a Louisiana planation with plans to turn it into an event venue, spurring a neighboring Black teen out of her grief shell and into righteous indignation and action. Harriet Douglass is heading into senior year and reeling from her mother’s death from cancer. She lives with her depressed father, a historian, and busies herself working at her family’s museum, which honors and centers the narratives of the enslaved. Though she’s been working on grounding techniques and coping skills through talk therapy to help with her complex PTSD, Harriet’s anger and sadness overwhelm her, sometimes giving her amnesiac events fueled by what she thinks of as her “rage monster.” The plantation next door becoming a place to hold weddings and proms (where guests can enjoy the romanticized “antebellum aesthetic”) is the last straw. Harriet teams up with Layla, an influencer and neighboring soap star Claudia’s rather fickle daughter, for sabotage through social media activism. Layla and Harriet, with the allyship of classmates and childhood-friend-turned-maybe-boyfriend, Dawn, hope to get Claudia and her plantation canceled. As she works with her community, Harriet realizes she’s not nearly as alone as she has felt. Though secondary characters are not nearly as richly developed as the impassioned Harriet, this is a well-written, insightful, and emotional look at healing, stewardship, action, shame, and traumatic grief.
VERDICT A powerful, unflinching look at the hard truths of the legacy of slavery, mental health issues, and the connection between medical neglect and racism
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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