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It’s too late for a Sweet Sixteen but what if Mahalia had a Coming Out Party? A love letter to romantic comedies, sweet sixteen blowouts, black joy and queer pride.

Mahalia Harris wants.

She wants a big Sweet Sixteen like her best friend Naomi.
She wants the super cute new girl Siobhan to like her back.
She wants a break from worrying–about money, snide remarks from white classmates, pitying looks from church ladies . . . all of it.

Then inspiration strikes: It’s too late for a Sweet Sixteen, but what if she had a Coming Out Party? A singing, dancing, rainbow-cake-eating celebration of queerness on her own terms.

The idea lights a fire in her, and soon Mahalia is scrimping and saving, taking on extra hours at her afterschool job, trying on dresses, and awkwardly flirting with Siobhan, all in preparation for the Coming Out of her dreams. But it’s not long before she’s buried in a mountain of bills, unfinished schoolwork, and enough drama to make her English Lit teacher blush. With all the responsibility on her shoulders, will Mahalia’s party be over before it’s even begun?

A novel about finding yourself, falling in love, and celebrating what makes you you.

I got an ARC of this book.

First off, look at that cover. It is GORGEOUS. I was so excited to see a visibly queer Black woman on the cover. I needed this cover.

The rest though is just sort of eh. There were so many good lines spaced out in the book. The joke about Greta, the granola boss, who had “locs”. I was laughing so hard, it was a great call out of white people trying to appropriate culture and just being gross about it. There were a few other lines like that, like the discussion of To Kill a Mocking Bird. It was so wonderful. Those lines were buried in so much weirdness. The last line or two in the book talked about being with her two favorite people and making out in the back of the car. It was wild how bad it was.

The plot was a lot. There were so many plots jammed into one book that did not have the length to give any of them the attention they deserved. There was the rich/poor plot, the romance, the coming out, the dad, and the party. The worst of all the plots were the dad plots though. They felt so thrown on. She pretty much cut her dad out of her life and she runs to him randomly when she is sad? Why? Then sitting for an hour for a milkshake is ok, but a ride that is 10 minutes is too much? It didn’t even make sense when the dad did appear. Taking out the maybe three or four pages that were dedicated to him actually appearing wouldn’t have harmed the book, it would have made it stronger since there would have been one less plot to lose.

There there was the avocado guy. The random middle aged white dude that was sobbing in the grocery store. He kept coming back. He came to a grocery store to visit two Black teenage girls. How is that not super creepy? Him appearing as a plot device in the first scene, cool, weird, but cool. Him appearing multiple more times in the book? Super weird, in a bad way sketchy weird.

So much of this book was weird, but I wanted to like it. It was amazing to see some of the character. It could have been an amazing book if it was given twice the length or half the plots were cut. It just needed a lot more or a lot less to be amazing. There were even references to how weird and creepy that the MC was being, comparing her to Edward Cullen. Then she kept doing it. I am just lost at a lot of what happened.

Last weirdness that really threw me off. The scene when the dress comes from Etsy and the MC mentions that etsy doesn’t have logos on their boxes…did Garrett even google Etsy? It isn’t a company that sells anything. Each store on Etsy is run by an artist selling their own stuff. So of course the Etsy logo doesn’t exist on the boxes. It was just so annoying to see that detail thrown in there.

2 out of 5 stars. I would maybe recommend this book.

You can buy the book here.