Cover Image: Your Plantation Prom Is Not Okay

Your Plantation Prom Is Not Okay

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Your plantation prom is NOT okay.
Harriett Douglass lives with her historian father on one of the only enslaved people’s museum plantations in the South. Both are struggling since the loss of Harriett’s mother and their pile of bills keep growing. When a neighboring plantation is purchased by LA socialites to be turned into a wedding venue, Harriett’s Rage Monster gets even worse than it’s been since her mother died. Surprisingly she finds an ally in the neighbor’s daughter, social media influencer, Layla. When the school decides to throw their senior prom at Layla’s plantation home, Harriett decides to make her voice heard.
This YA book is the first choice for TheNextGen Book Club on @fable I’ve been meaning to read this for a while and knew it would be a good one to start in a book club. While I knew some about the plantation event controversy that’s still happening today, I learned so much from @kellymmcwilliams novel. The Author’s Note especially impacted me and I will be speaking up on this topic more, as southern plantations should not be places of weddings, dances, etc. when such atrocities took place on the grounds. This title also deals with grief and anger issues very well. I can’t wait to talk about this one with the group.

CW: racism, microaggressions, anger/rage blackouts, PTSD, trauma, grief, depression, alcohol, prison, death of a parent (recounted), vomit, cancer

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Your Plantation Prom is Not Okay is a super contemporary take on the racist romanticization of the American South. For example, the way we can drool over gorgeous Antebellum-era architecture without ever acknowledging or paying respects to the people who were enslaved on the same land.

A plantation relied on the work of enslaved people to make them those profits that made the family “old money”. The plantation homes and slave quarters were all built by enslaved hands. In this book, our main character Harriet’s family owns an old plantation that they’ve renovated into a museum focusing on the history of enslaved people who lived on (but really, were part of) the property.

That’s why it’s so painful to Harriet when a neighboring plantation is bought with plans to become an event venue. Weddings, and of course proms, being held on a plantation don’t sit right with Harriet - white people partying on grounds that saw so much Black pain. And guess what. She’s gonna stop it.

She’s already been dealing with fits of rage since her mom died, and this progression DOES NOT make it better. She does have a best friend and a father, neither of who can really help, and a therapist, who does her best. Harriet also tentatively becomes friends with the influencer daughter of the neighboring property’s owner. Her personal struggles both give us an interlude from the social issues while also compounding them.

A timely and educational book with so much heart!!

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This is an interesting take on social justice and understanding our ancestors. It also touches on cancel culture and the mixed sentiments of the misunderstanding of America's past. Harriett Douglass lives on a plantation turned museum allowing people to see the true, unromanticized history of slavery. When the plantation next door gets purchased to be turned into an event venue, Harriett is determined to stop the event and save their history. When a celebrity wedding is scheduled, the true importance and ignorance of the event come to light preventing prom from occurring at the venue. It's a moving story of understanding the past and not viewing it with rose-colored glasses.

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I love when fiction has a deeper sort of commentary on society, and this book did that SO well. I'll admit I'm probably not the target demographic for this one (it's YA), but I still really appreciated what it did and had to say. I wish more books like this were around when I was a teen!

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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

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In this book, the author addresses so many different topics, but they all fit within the plot of the story. Throughout the story, McWilliams addresses grief, racism, cancel culture, history, and more. I also really appreciated how multiple aspects of one topic were explored. For example, the author incorporated themes of performative allyship vs. true allyship, historical slavery and modern day slavery (in prisons), and how history is viewed differently, depending on whose perspective it is being told through. I think this book does a great job of showing how it is possible for young people to effect real change in both their own lives and in the world.

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3.5 stars

Since this is a book that is centered around anti-Black racism and slavery, I’m going to preface this with a disclaimer about my person identity and experiences that influence my thoughts on this book. I—similar to the author—am mixed race. I was also born and raised in Hawaii, which means I don’t have the same cultural experiences of people from the US mainland. Both of my parents are people of color who were very much conditioned under the ideas of respectability politics as a means to survive and attempted to pass these beliefs on to me and my siblings.

The reason I wanted to lead with that paragraph is because there were many times where I could not identify with the main character of this book, Harriet. The story follows Harriet as she struggles with grief anger in the wake of her mother’s death. When a new family buys the plantation next to her family’s enslaved peoples museum and decides to use their location for parties such as plantation weddings and plantation proms, Harriet’s righteous anger begins to spiral out of control as she attempts to shut that plantation down.

Because this book is told in first person from Harriet’s point of view, there are many times where I found her anger to be overwhelming, or sometimes even outright annoying. I tended to agree with the opinions of the people around her, such as her farther, who were arguing for her to understand that she needs to choose her battles if she wants to make a lasting footprint. (In her father’s case, Harriet told him that his ideas are outdated because he’s old, which I had complicated feelings about). Her character does grow significantly by the end of the book, though, and I found myself mostly satisfied by the end.

That being said, there are a lot of really important topics that this book handles well. The author discusses things like: this countries history with slavery and racism, strategies for coping with grief and anger, queerphobia, microaggressions, defensiveness, and more. Not all of these topics may be “solved” in ways that readers may hope for, but that’s life. A lot of change has been made, but there’s much more to be done.

Lastly, I do want to note that the pacing of this book was a bit strange to me. It seemed to be a slow-build to a climax, but then once the major conflict happened, the last few chapters attempted to wrap things up a bit too quickly, with a lot of telling and very little showing. It felt like I was being given a quick synopsis of events rather than being taken through any of them. The ending is a bit open and also functions as a bit of a call-to-action for people to reflect on their actions and improve for the better.

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The title is in your face as it’s meant to be. This book melds fiction and non fiction into a learning experience. Your Plantation Prom is Not Okay is a YA novel that reminds us to look deeper at both history and ourselves. I highly recommend it for adults and teens.

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I found myself so frustrated at the way people are in the book, but I know it was an accurate representation. For example, when the book opened with a Karen flying off the hinges about how much emphasis and attention a PLANTATION TOUR put on slavery! I’m not surprised at all that someone could be so out of touch.

Harriet is such a strong character. She has lost her mother to cancer. She conducts plantation tours to people who may or may not listen. She has unintentionally separated herself from her friend group, in part of the “rage monster” that consumes her; all while watching her dad suffer with binge eating. She is so strong, and while the characters in this story may find her “outbursts” against racist people to be ineffective and childish, I think it is a sign of strength. She has the ability to confront people and even if they don’t listen, as least she can take comfort in knowing she is at least doing something- even thought it shouldn’t be her burden to carry.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. It is emotional and raw. There are so many themes that are addressed, and so many discussions that need to be addressed by society.

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Ooof, this one is a tough read! Very worthwhile and I'll be pushing it on as many people as I possibly can, but tough to get through.

I'm not American, so I don't have any personal history with the specific type of slavery suffered over there. In some ways that made this an easier read; I've no hereditary guilt or anger, so I was able to process the story more clearly. I can see how this would be very tough otherwise!

Harriet is amazing and I only wish I felt as passionately about anything as she does about her museum. I love her friend group at school, too, and how they continued to worry and care and try to help her even in the face of her anger and apathy. Found family is wonderful, and she found one she didn't even know she had.

A difficult read, but a really worthwhile one, and one that I hope as many people as possible will read. I'd love to see this in schools and book clubs.

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✨ Review ✨ Your Plantation Prom Is Not Okay by Kelly McWilliams

Harriet Douglass lives with her historian dad on an old plantation, and they run an enslaved persons museum on the site. When a wealthy mom and her influencer daughter move into the plantation next door, they start to turn the property into an A-list antebellum event site. Harriet's struggling with her grief from the death of her mom, the horrible transformation of the neighboring plantation, and the day-to-day racism she experiences at school. Harriet, along with Layla the nextdoor influencer and her recently returned childhood bestfriend (and resident hottie) to try to change public ideas about the use of plantation land in the 21st century.

I loved that this tackled really serious issues around race and racism, the use of plantations for celebrations and tourism, memory around enslaved peoples, mental health, Black mortality rates and health care issues, the stereotype of angry Black girls, the impact of TikTok and social media, and more. This does not hold back in really digging into these topics, and it's perfect for YA and adult readers alike.

In places this is really hard to read because of the depths of Hariett's anger and the injustices she's facing. There are also parts where this might drag a bit for an adult reader. Overall, however, Hariett's evolution throughout the book with her mental health, her friend and family relationships, and her own self image really provides a powerful read. I really appreciated this book!

Genre: YA with some f/m romance
Setting: Louisiana plantation outside of New Orleans
Pub Date: out now

Read this if you like:
⭕️ YA that tackles serious topics
⭕️ issues of history and memory of plantations and enslaved peoples
⭕️ sweet YA romance + friendships
⭕️ coming-of-age

Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and #netgalley for an advanced e-copy of this book!

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5 Reasons to Read

The Heavy Stuff

This book tackles racism, grief, and mental illness. I felt the author did a magnificent job of making the reader feel all of the emotions that came with addressing each of these topics.


Harriet’s world fell apart when her mother died but with the help of her historian father and an old friend she’s able to face her grief. The relationship between Harriet and her father is so sweet, and although there are moments where her father’s grief overwhelms her, the bond between them is strong.


Harriet is livid when she finds out who bought the property next door and her anger only heightens when she finds out they’re turning it into a wedding venue. Harriet fully expects Layla to be all for the venue as the influencer she is but as Harriet gets to know Layla an unlikely friendship emerges. Not everyone is who you expect them to be once you get past what’s on the surface.


There’s a bit of romance when Harriet’s old friend Dawn shows back up in her life. I appreciated that this was not a love story but enjoyed how much support Harriet got from Dawn. He helped bring balance into her life and supported her as she navigated through her grief.


This book is powerful, important, and relevant in today’s world. We need more books like these out there that make you feel all the emotions while learning about others and yourself in the process. It is one that I will never forget reading.

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Your Plantation Prom Is Not Okay is about a young girl, Harriet who lives and works on an old plantation that her family has turned into an enslaved person’s museum. Based on the real Whitney Plantation in Louisiana, Harriet’s family chose to use the plantation as a tool to fight racism with education, running tours that explain the real history and violence that occurred on the land. When a neighboring plantation gets bought by a wealthy celebrity and is being turned into an event venue for weddings and proms, Harriet can’t allow the history to be erased and used as a place of celebration for white people so close to the “proximity of suffering”.

“ But blood was spilled across that endless green. Thousands of enslaved people suffered to build these white mansions, and before that, the land itself was brutally stolen from the Indigenous tribes by German farmers. The true history of a plantation is violence, plain and simple. Why would you want to get married in a place where the ground still screams?”

This book tackles so much from grief, mental health, white privilege, ally-ship, the negatives and positives of social media, white washing history, and so much more. My stomach turns every time I hear about weddings on plantations or the fact that the majority of plantations these days belong to white people who are still profiting off of the hard labor and violence of Black people. How is this accepted and allowed in 2023? To move on and create a better future we need to begin with accepting and learning about the past not turning a blind eye and choosing to forget.

Harriet’s story is an important one and a great gateway for readers. Not only for learning about the racist themes still prevalent in today’s culture but also as a great look and guide of dealing with grief, anger, and the importance of seeking out help for our mental health. McWilliams is a wonderful writer and I was excited to learn she is the daughter of writer Jewell Parker Rhodes, my daughter’s favorite author!! This phenomenal YA novel is a must read for everyone and is a wonderful resource of the dos and fonts of being an ally and stresses the importance of learning from the past, not forgetting it.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I’ve never been a big fan of nonfiction but this was the perfect balance of being a fiction book with historical context. The enslaved museum is actually based on Whitney Plantation located outside New Orleans, it is now on my list of places to visit. This is a great easy to read story and very relatable to those of us who grew up in the South. I was frustrated along with the main character in her struggle to not only find her voice but to use it effectively.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. #NetGalley #yourplantationprom

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This book took me a long time to read - not because it wasn't holding my interest but because I needed some time to digest it as I was reading. The plot was powerful. What happens when a white celebrity buys a plantation with the plans to create a space for wedding and proms - right next door to a plantation museum telling the story of the enslaved people who lived there? If you are Harriet Douglass, a teenager whose family runs the museum, you fight back for what you believe in. Along the way, you learn about how Harriet (and her father) are dealing with the grief of losing her mother, how Harriet finds friends in places she might not have realized they were, and what is missed in our telling of history.

I highly recommend this book. I found it to be raw, thoughtful, and mind-provoking, particularly in a time when we need all that and more in our lives.

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This book was so good. It's one that will stick with you for awhile after you read it. The depiction of Harriet's grief and anger is so real. There aren't a lot of books for teenagers about the anger stage of grief (Harriet is dealing with the loss of her beloved mother to cancer) and this depicts it very accurately both in the ways she and her father handle it. She takes her broken heart and puts it towards working for something that both she and her mother would support - speaking out against plantation weddings and events after her new movie star neighbor moves in for that reason. The audio book for this one is really good. You will laugh and you will cry.

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“When it remains abstract, horror’s hard to catch hold of. Misty as a dream and all too easy to forget.”

When Harriet Douglass was in elementary school, her family moved to a plantation in Louisiana and turned it into an enslaved people’s museum—one of the only ones in the South. After her mother passes away from cancer when Harriet is in high school, she throws herself into giving tours of the museum to help her keep the past alive and feel close to her mom at the same time. Harriet loves her home, and she loves history. When she finds out that a celebrity bought plantation land right next door to the museum with the hopes of turning it into a wedding venue, Harriet is rightfully angry. She gets even angrier when she discovers that her private school is planning on hosting their prom on the grounds. Is there anything she can do to make people realize just how horrible plantation weddings and proms are?

This novel is one that I would recommend to everyone. It tackles the topic of racism head-on, exposing the micro-and macro-aggressive actions of multiple characters. It points out how common white saviorism and performative activism is, as well as the direct harm it causes. McWilliams has crafted a compelling story that weaves in threads of important social commentary, grief, mental health struggles, and identity. It tackles heavy topics, and readers see Harriet experience a lot of anguish, but the novel also highlights the importance of community, hope, and education in the fight against racism. This is a novel that will make you laugh and cry, and you won’t be able to help falling in love with Harriet. She has her flaws, but her stubborn heart is in the right place—as a reader, you’ll either be able to relate to her struggles and her frustration, or you’ll be able to listen to them and learn how to be a better ally to the Black community.

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This engaging book unflinchingly shows how slavery and racism continue to impact the US, really making readers take a step back and think.

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