I am so happy to share my review for You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: YA LGBTQ+ Contemporary
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Published: June 2nd, 2020
Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true? – synopsis from Goodreads
“And I know then what I’ve always known: Campbell is never going to make a space for me to fit. I’m going to have to demand it.”
I have been waiting all year to read this book. If you ask most of my bookish friends they will tell you that I have been screaming about this book from the moment I knew it was going to be published. Unfortunately, when my book club read it this Summer things in my personal life didn’t really permit me to get to it. But I knew I wanted to read it before the end of the year. Cutting it pretty short I know but it is done.
This is one for the not so popular kid, the socially awkward trying to navigate High School without too much drama and the lens pointed toward you. But what happens when you have to change that and try and become the most popular person at the school in order to be named prom queen.
When Liz isn’t given the financial aid she was hoping to help her attend her dream college her future is put in the balance. With encouragement from her brother and friends, she decides to enter the run for prom queen since the winner is given a scholarship. But Liz isn’t your typical candidate for the position. While one of the competitors tries to plot her demise, Liz will patch things up with an old friendship and form a new one with the new girl. One thing she was not expecting was to fall hard for this new girl, Amanda “Mack” that is also one of her competitors. Soon she’ll find that fairytales are not just in books and that happy endings can come true.
Liz was such a fun and cool character. She felt relatable and someone you could see being friends with in High School. I loved seeing her character arc go from this reserve girl trying to not make waves to this confident queer woman of colour that is tired of being overlooked. I really enjoyed that the book showed all parts of her life. The hardships with her family but also her joy of music and coming into her own. Just a positive empowering story. I loved the relationship between Liz and Amanda. That it started as a blooming friendship and just grew from there. They were just perfect together. Both of them are two of the most likeable characters I’ve read about this year I think. I could really see Leah Johnson writing a sequel which would be their relationship through college.
Though the plot in itself may seem a bit cliché and overdone, the fact that it all revolves around a queer teenage Black girl that by the end is unapologetically confident and knows who she is, isn’t at all. It really felt like you were back in High School (oh god the horror). Every character type was there. The mean girl and her possee, the jocks, the artsy kids, overzealous best friend, no one was missing from this ensemble. I could definitely see this as a teen movie on Netflix and it really should be (come on Netflix, get on this).
In difference to other young adult stories from books or movies, You Should See Me In A Crown doesn’t just circle around the high school/prom trope but within it is woven this much more serious and important discussion. It tackles an important conversation about race and sexuality and how it is regarded in a small middle of America town. It shows us how different our realities might be from people of other ethnicities. It also shows us that sometimes people do the right thing and that there is hope.
I highly recommend You Should See Me In A Crown if you are looking for a fun, cute and feel-good book to finish the year with.