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Kelly McWilliams

Author of Agnes at the End of the World

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Works by Kelly McWilliams

Mirror Girls (2022) 170 copies
Doormat (2004) 57 copies

Associated Works

The Spoken Word Revolution Redux (2007) — Contributor — 85 copies


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Harriet Douglass is a rising high school senior whose mother died of cancer and whose father runs an enslaved people's museum on the plantation where they live. When a white actress buys the plantation next door and plans to turn it into a wedding venue, Harriet's "rage monster" raises its head. She finds an unlikely ally in the actress' daughter, an influencer Harriet's own age. Harriet isn't sure how much she can trust Layla, but her best friend Sonya - the only other Black girl at their tiny private Catholic school - is studying abroad in Italy and only available via text message. Sonya encourages Harriet to open up to their white friends and allies at school, but Harriet remains closed off. Then her old friend Dawn returns and offers to help Harriet with her project to "cancel Belle Grove" by shooting videos to put on TikTok. Meanwhile, St. Anne's announces the prom venue: Belle Grove.

Harriet is grieving and angry, and with good reason. (She also finds out that her mother's doctor ignored her pain, leaving treatment too late, and then she was treated with expired chemo drugs, likely because of her race in both cases.) Her dad is depressed, but hasn't gone to therapy (Harriet sees Dr. Maples, a childhood cancer survivor herself). All these modern elements combine for a quick, absorbing read; the history should convince anyone who needs convincing that no, your plantation prom (or wedding) is not okay.


I don't know why I keep letting the rage monster win - except, I guess, that anger feels better than the sadness that yawns beneath. (8)

"You've got to be smart with your anger, Harriet. Or it'll get the best of you." (15)

I want to believe that I'll do better this year, but it's hard to get back to the world after shutting it out for so long. (23)

...all of it depends on some white person, somewhere, doing the right thing. And lately, waiting on white folks to do better feels utterly hopeless. (92)

...I don't want anyone to see how sick I am....Dr. Maples says I shouldn't be ashamed of what's happened to me, but I am. (144)

"But it takes so much effort to present this respectable outside that..."
"They don't always take good care of themselves inside." (Harriet and Dawn, 205)

Some say anger is only sadness by another name. (219)

"Learning to live with the past is part of being human." (Dad, 297)

Author's note: see Clint Smith's How the Word Is Passed
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JennyArch | Jun 11, 2023 |
This book is mostly about faith and religion. I did find the premise interesting but I was hoping for more of an apocalypse type book and this was not. It's an exploration of Agnes' faith in the face of the lies that have been fed to her and their community from their flawed and sinister religious leader, Prophet. Red Creek is considered a cult by the outside world. With the Rapture approaching Agnes needs to face the truth and try to save her family. I did find it interesting but the faith based content took up maybe 90% of the book. This meant there was a lot of thinking and musing and not a lot else happening. You know what would have jazzed it up for me? The virus should have been a zombie virus. Nothing like someone trying to nibble on you to add a bit of urgency and action. Just OK for me.… (more)
Mrs_Tapsell_Bookzone | 4 other reviews | Feb 14, 2023 |
This is an unusual but riveting story about a girl trying to escape the polygamist cult she grew up in, only to face a weird apocalyptic pandemic in the outside world, and then discovers she has some sort of paranormal gift tied up in her spiritual beliefs. Some reviews call this a religious novel which is a fair judgment I guess but I don't want people to be discouraged in picking up this book because of that. The religious elements play a central role in the story but it's not in any sort of preachy way, it's more about how Agnes comes to realize that the environment she grew up in presented a really twisted and abusive view of Christianity and how she forms her own ideas of what faith and God are. And I love the fact that her strength comes from her faith and spirituality, which isn't something you find in YA novels (or many modern novels, I think). I'm not religious myself but I'm really into the idea of girls and women who have a sort of quiet, even understated, strength that comes from the conviction they have in themselves and their own beliefs rather than any sort of physical abilities.

I did think Agnes's transition from being extremely devout to rejecting Red Creek and its cult happened too quickly. It felt unrealistic and clunky, as if the author didn't want to really delve into it and wanted to get to the rest of the story quickly. I'd like to have seen Agnes struggle more with the realization that everything she believed in her entire life was a huge lie. I think I just wanted more from the book in general-- it's a really strange and fascinating mishmash of elements (the sci-fi-ish virus, Agnes's gift, the apocalypse theme) but none of it was really explored all that deeply. I guess because it's not really what the book is about. Overall an enjoyable but kind of a surface-level read.
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serru | 4 other reviews | Oct 6, 2022 |
This historical novel set in the 1950s Georgia reads like a thriller with supernatural touches. Charlie and Magnolia are twin sisters, but they don't know it and they couldn't come from worlds further apart: Charlie is a Black civil rights organizer in New York City and Magnolia is a white Southern girl raised on a plantation who knows nothing of her racial heritage. Fast-faced, Charlie and Magnolia uncover secrets quickly when their grandmothers pass away and soon they learn of a curse that threatens their future. An enjoyable read, but also one that tackles the difficult topic of racism and its deep roots in the South.… (more)
wagner.sarah35 | 3 other reviews | Sep 2, 2022 |



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