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You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson - Review

Thursday, May 27, 2021


Where did I get it? It was a Christmas present from my friend Lucinda. She read it and loved it and wanted me to read it too. 


What's it about? Liz Lighty is a senior in high school in a small town called Campbell, in Indiana. She wants to go to Pennington University and become a haematologist, but to do that she needs a scholarship for college. She applies for a musical scholarship, but right at the beginning, she learns she didn't get it. She doesn't want to tell her grandparents - who are raising Liz and her brother Robbie after the death of their mother from Sickle Cell Disease - so she and her friends come up with a plan. 

Prom is a Big Deal in Campbell, and each year, whoever gets crowned prom queen wins a $10,000 scholarship. Liz has never been on the inside at school - she's too poor, and she's black, in a town that is mostly rich and mostly white - so she's convinced she can't win, but she thinks she has to try. Her friends - Gabi, Britt and Stone - become her campaign managers. They take control of her look, her social media, and more. Gabi in particular takes this very seriously, and eventually she and Liz argue over what she's doing. But in the meantime, Liz is avoiding Rachel Collins, a shoe in for prom queen, and trying to work out her friendship with Jordan Jennings. She and Jordan used to be friends, but after a falling out at the beginning of high school, they've barely spoken since. But now they're thrown together and Liz finds herself wanting to be friends.

And then there's Mack. She's new at school and joins the school band, where Liz plays clarinet. She's also running for prom queen. Liz likes girls and is out to her friends and family, but it's in a very low key way. She doesn't think it's safe enough to be out at school, and she's sure that if she was, she would have no chance of becoming prom queen. But she and Mack have real chemistry, and start dating. 

I liked the book and I loved the romance with Mack. I liked Liz's rejuvenated friendship with Jordan, who was a sweetheart. I liked some of the rivalry stuff, and I liked how awful (and racist and homophobic) Rachel was. I thought that the end could have gone either way - either Liz won or she didn't - which I think is good writing.

I'd definitely read something else by Leah! 


What age range is it for? 14+ 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, obviously! I don't think Liz explicitly labels her sexuality as lesbian or gay or bisexual, but she definitely likes girls and is under the queer umbrella. Mack is similar. 


Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Liz and her brother Robbie - who also has Sickle Cell Disease, which affects mostly people of colour - are black. Jordan is too, but as I say it's a majority white town which affects how Liz fits in. 


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Liz has anxiety and she sometimes has panic attacks. She has methods to help herself cope with them, which I thought were put across really well, and which would probably help a reader if they were suffering from panic too! It's very well written 


Is there any sex stuff? No 


Are drugs mentioned or used? No 


Is there any talk of death? Yes, there's some mentions of the death of Liz's mother, and a little bit about Robbie's sickness too. It's not graphic. 


Are there swear words? A couple 

 

What criticisms do I have? I would have liked to see more about Liz's friendships with Gabi, Britt and Stone. They remain quite unknown, and when Gabi and Liz do fall out, I thought they should have hashed it out a bit more. I would have liked just a bit more expansion here. 

I've seen other reviews that said they thought the book was a bit too much of a fairy tale. I disagree. I think there are proper hard bits in it, and I also truly believe that queer girls deserve all the fairy tale endings in the world. 


Would I recommend the book? Yes, one hundred percent. 


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I've been wanting to get to it since Christmas! 

 

What do I think of the cover? It's cute. Liz ends up using the crown as a motif for her campaign, which I really liked. 

 

What other books is it like? It reminded me of With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. 


How many stars? Four out of five. 

 

Where is the book going now? I'll definitely keep it!

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