Author: Kelly McWilliams

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: May 2, 2023

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Book Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


This sharp-witted, timely novel explores cancel culture, anger, and grief, and challenges the romanticization of America’s racist past with humor and heart – for readers of Dear Martin by Nic Stone and Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

Harriet Douglass lives with her historian father on an old plantation in Louisiana, which they’ve transformed into one of the South’s few enslaved people’s museums. Together, while grieving the recent loss of Harriet’s mother, they run tours that help keep the memory of the past alive.

Harriet’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of mother and daughter Claudia and Layla Hartwell – who plan to turn the property next door into a wedding venue, and host the offensively antebellum-themed wedding of two Hollywood stars.

Harriet’s fully prepared to hate Layla Hartwell, but it seems that Layla might not be after all – unlike many people, this California influencer is actually interested in Harriet’s point of view. Harriet’s sure she can change the hearts of Layla and her mother, but she underestimates the scale of the challenge…and when her school announces that prom will be held on the plantation, Harriet’s just about had it with this whole racist timeline! Overwhelmed by grief and anger, it’s fair to say she snaps.

Can Harriet use the power of social media to cancel the celebrity wedding and the plantation prom? Will she accept that she’s falling in love with her childhood best friend, who’s unexpectedly returned after years away? Can she deal with the frustrating reality that Americans seem to live in two completely different countries? And through it all, can she and Layla build a bridge between them?

Content Warning: racism, mentions of slavery, grief from death of a loved one


Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours for allowing me to be a part of this amazing and important novel and to the publisher for providing me with a finished copy to read and review.

This book brought all the feelings, both the good and the bad. From the opening pages when I was introduced to Harriet listening to her discuss the all too real reality about many former plantations in the South which have been restored and while they provide tours to guests, they tend to focus more on the architecture, furniture and lives of those who kept enslaved people versus the actual truth which Harriet states matter of factly:

The true history of a plantation is violence, plain and simple. p. 15

Like Harriet, I have also heard the all too tired and contrived argument that “slavery wasn’t that bad” and “not all slave owners were bad”. These are the arguments that many tell themselves to escape the reality of what the institution of slavery was and how it continues to pose very real ramifications in the United States to this day.

While Harriet’s rage at the whitewashing of US history is one, I understood all too well, I found I was also able to connect with Harriet and her grief over losing her mother to cancer. While my dad thankfully didn’t experience the medical racism that Harriet’s mom did, I still know how hard it is to lose a parent and to feel like you’ve been set adrift and not know what to. Unfortunately for Harriet, her grief has morphed into a rage beast that rears its ugly head anytime Harriet finds herself being confronted with racist words and actions. I found that while I couldn’t personally connect with Harriet when it came to her deep-seated anger, I felt that it was such an important part of the narrative because not only does it help to fuel Harriet, but it also takes a hard look at mental health and just how important it is to find ways to support one’s mental including soliciting help from a licensed medical professional if necessary.

I loved how much Harriet grew throughout the course of the book. She’s so angry and mistrustful of white people in the beginning that it was a joy to watch her form a friendship with Layla, albeit begrudgingly, and to see how while Layla was slowly able to get her to realize that not all white people are just pretending to be ally’s but that they truly do want to help and are even willing to do the work of learning about why there are certain things (plantations being used as event venues and Confederate flags) are triggering for many Black Americans. At the same time that Layla was helping Harriet to open up, Harriet in turn helped Layla by being her first true friend and helping her to realize that she was deserving of love.

I absolutely loved this book, flying through it in a day. It’s a book that I think is important not only for Black readers, but for non-Black readers as well as it helps to provide an avenue of dialog about why the romanticization of the antebellum period and plantations is harmful. It’s a book that I will be recommending to all my friends looking for their next read and I can’t wait to suggest this to both of my book clubs.

This was my first book by Kelly McWilliams, despite having her others on my TBR, and you can bet it will not be my last as I have found my new favorite author. I love what Kelly said about this book on her Goodreads profile, especially when she said that:

At the end of the day, this is a book about how the erasure of Black history harms our mental health, our hearts and souls, and how it prevents us from healing TOGETHER, no matter what our background as Americans.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of Your Plantation Prom Is Not Okay as well as visit the Goodreads page for this book to see what else the author had to say about why writing this book was so important.

Book Inspired Playlist

Reading this book, there were so many different songs that I found myself playing or thinking of. It was these songs which made it into the book inspired playlist I created, some of the songs made me think of Layla while others were specifically about Harriet. The other songs are ones mentioned in the book that were important to Harriet or the story in some way. I hope you enjoy.

About the Author

Kelly is a mixed-race author of Agnes at the End of the World (2020), Mirror Girls (2022), and Your Plantation Prom Is Not Okay (2023). Agnes was a finalist for the Golden Kite Award. She’s also written for Time, Publisher’s Weekly, and Bustle, among other outlets. She lives in Seattle with her family.

Connect with the Author

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