Published by Scholastic Press on June 2, 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, LGBT, Own Voices, Romance, Young Adult
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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?
You Should See Me in a Crown brought me so much joy and delight in the few short hours that it took me to listen to the audiobook. It was the perfect mix of cute and fluffy, with some more serious themes of anxiety, chronic illness and homophobia. If you’re looking for a quick contemporary with a fantastic Black main character and f/f romance, then You Should See Me in a Crown is the one for you. The audiobook is just over 7 hours long and I binged it over two sittings. Because I listened to the audiobook, I’m not sure of the spelling of some of the characters’ names so apologies in advance if I’ve gotten any of them wrong!
You Should See Me in a Crown follow Liz Lighty, an intelligent and hardworking high school student and musician, whose dream (and late mother’s dream for her) is to study at Pennington College. A talented musician, she auditions for the orchestra at Pennington in the hopes of getting a scholarship to attend the college but ends up falling short. In order to realise her dream and her mother’s dream of her attending Pennington, Liz’s only option is to join the race to become prom queen and win, which will provide her with the money she needs to attend college. As Liz tackles the many challenges of presenting herself as the perfect prom queen and discovers truths about friendships, she slowly discovers new things about herself and finds that being yourself can reveal new things about those around you too.
I love, love, loved this novel! The plot was so absolutely adorable and empowering. Though I have to say that, being from Australia, I couldn’t tell if the prom court and all of the activities and hoops they had to jump through were standard things experienced in most American schools… or if it was exaggerated in the novel itself. Regardless, all of the pomp and circumstance made the book really fun and enjoyable to read and I really loved seeing how Liz tackled all of the challenges that came at her. I loved how she didn’t allow herself to get swept up in the catty things that the other candidates were engaging in and that she tried to be authentic to who she was, despite lots and lots of coercion from her best friend, Gabby. It was a fantastic coming of age story and despite the novel using some very classic contemporary YA tropes, the book felt fresh and Liz’s character really brought the story to life. She was incredibly genuine and loveable, and I really saw her as a person and not just a character from a novel.
One of the highlights of You Should See Me in a Crown was the focus on relationships. It explored friendships (both old and new), family and, of course, a romance between Liz and new girl, Mack. I absolutely loved seeing Liz rekindle her friendship with childhood friend, Jordan, a popular guy who has it all but still makes his friendship with Liz a priority. More than the romance, this friendship made me swoon. I also love how Liz’s friendship with Gabby was explored and it was also great to see her let down her walls and become friends with some of the other girls at school. I also loved Liz’s relationship with her brother, Robbie, who has sickle cell disease, inherited from their mother. It was nice to see how they supported each other and how they interacted with their grandparents who provide for them.
We deserve good things too.
I really enjoyed the romance between Liz and Mack. I thought their interactions and their relationship was extremely realistic – it’s awkward and messy and sometimes you make mistakes but there wasn’t any drama or insane unrealistic love triangle. I also really appreciated how much being queer factored into the rest of the book. The fact that Campbell was quite a conservative town and the school has banned queer couples from attending prom together really highlighted how much of a struggle it is for Liz to belong everyday as a Black girl and a queer person. And what an even larger struggle it is for her to become the first Black and queer girl to become prom queen.
I really really enjoyed You Should See Me in a Crown. It’s not only a very quick read but probably the best contemporary YA novel I’ve read this year. It was a wonderful exploration of relationships and identity and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Rating: 5 out of 5
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