Book Review

You Should See Me In A Crown

You Should See Me in a Crown

  • Author: Leah Johnson
  • Genre: YA Romance, LGBT
  • Publication Date: June 2, 2020
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press

TRIGGER WARNING: chronic illness, racism, off-page death of a parent, public outing

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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?

WOW! Just … wow. This was such an amazing book that I’m starting off my review by encouraging everyone and anyone to read it! Also, can we just take a look at the gorgeousness that is the COVER of this book? It’s seriously one of the prettiest book covers I’ve seen this year, which says a lot, since there’s been a lot of pretty book covers on my radar this year.

Reading this book really dredged up my own school days — the ones where I would basically do anything to avoid being noticed. Even though I have very little in common with Liz, I was able to empathize with her and see pieces of my own high school self reflected in the pages of this book.

“The idea of people’s eyes being on me for any longer than the time it takes for me to pass out their sheet music before concert band rehearsal makes me undeniably anxious. It’s why I never ran for class president or auditioned for a school musical and can barely take solos in band without wanting to evaporate.”

I was especially impressed with the way this sweet, humorous romance incorporated some serious subject matter without getting dragged down in it. Liz faces a lot of obstacles with grace and dignity, even when she’s dealing with grief, anxiety, her brother’s serious illness, outright racism, and being gay in a conservative Midwestern area.

“No one baked me a cake, no one there me a party. It just was. And a huge part of that is because I already know what it would be like for me to be out and proud in a place like Campbell County, Indiana. Silence and shame aren’t the same thing — not by a longshot. But sometimes silence is simpler.”

The romance itself was so sweet — I know we talk about cinnamon roll heroes in books, but this entire book felt like a cinnamon roll! I couldn’t put it down and it never felt like it dragged at any point. I loved the focus on friendships right alongside the romantic attraction. I even loved how the whole high school popularity contest came into play, because it felt even more realistic (unless things have seriously changed since I went to school). And while I’ve never lived in the Midwest, I could easily see this feeling occurring in any small town:

“If there’s one thing I understand, it’s feeling stifled by the place we live and the people who live here. But I also understand the other part, the part of Campbell that is charming and beautiful, though I feel it less often.”

The whole concept of the shy girl who doesn’t quite fit in with her peers taking a leap of faith and entering the running to become a prom queen (even if it’s just for the scholarship money) was especially cool — I found myself rooting for Liz all the way! She’s such a fresh, unpretentious, realistic character that it was hard NOT to love her and want her to succeed in everything. Special props to the author for creating a character who breaks free of negative stereotypes and can resonate with Own Voices readers, as well as a character who is an awesome ally to Black peers.

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