Your Plantation Prom is Not Okay

Your Plantation Prom is Not Okay
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Release Date
May 02, 2023
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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 so bad 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?

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1 review
poignant and thought-provoking YA contemporary
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YOUR PLANTATION PROM IS NOT OKAY is a thought-provoking and consuming YA contemporary. The book follows Harriet, whose world was turned upside down by her mother's death. She and her historian father are doing their best to keep their family's work afloat at the plantation where they run an enslaved people's museum, to educate people about what plantation life was really like and the lives that were lost there.

Harriet is holding onto a lot of anger that therapy is helping to resolve - but her anger only grows when a celebrity purchases the plantation next door as a wedding venue. She is determined to dislike the daughter as well, but she soon sees an ally in her, or so she begins to hope. As they try to figure out ways to prevent that plantation from becoming an inappropriate wedding spectacle, Harriet will also determine who her real friends are and what she wants from herself and those around her.

What I loved: This was such a thoughtful and compelling read. One of the main themes of the story was around the presence and manifestation of racism, not only in the culture around the antebellum south but also the use of these as wedding venues. Through the story, the reader is educated about all the ways these are problematic as well as the truths around slavery and the way this was carried through to modern times. While the individuals and children whose stories are told via museum tours or other explanations were during the plantation era, the reader is also informed about other characters who continued to work the land after slavery supposedly ended as sharecroppers or through the penal system, due to the lack of resources available to them.

Additionally, the book explores racism/microaggressions and Black fatigue as well as the ways that these can manifest in the modern day, such as through poor cross-race facial recognition, requests to be educated, and differences in access to and treatment within the healthcare system. These were more immediate to Harriet and her family, portrayed and explained well throughout the book. Allyship was another important element, as allies can be few and far between with many limits placed on what and how they will aid. Readers learn much about what it means to be an ally and, in particular, to be a good ally through imperfect examples in the story.

Another major theme of the book was around grief/loss and coming-of-age. Harriet is struggling with her anger and feelings around her mother's death, but also all the things that have happened since. She believes she knows what she wants her path to be, but she is working on accepting herself as she is and determining where she will go with her future. Her path of self-discovery was really poignant and will resonate with teen readers who are facing similar decisions around college and where they want their lives to go. The inclusion of a therapist was also really helpful.

Harriet was a really consuming character who was so easy to love. Her romantic interest was another really great character, as were several secondary and tertiary characters that showed the meaning of community, generational change, and love. The other students at school were also interesting and background as Harriet attends a mostly white private school, where the other students are stumbling as they try to do better. Along those lines, the story ultimately is one of hope for change and for humanity, even through the heavy topics.

Final verdict: YOUR PLANTATION PROM IS NOT OKAY is a critical and thought-provoking read that I highly recommend for YA readers! This consuming book will leave its audience with hope and a thirst for change.
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