Just as cute as it sounds…
Name: You Should See Me In A Crown
Author: Leah Johnson
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?
Blurb and image from Goodreads
I was so excited to try this. Whilst I feared that the plot would revolve around her coming out or that there would be zero relationship development (another uncomfortably recurring theme in sapphic YA novels), have you seen the blurb?
I was right to be excited.
Liz Lighty is an anxious punk-nerd who needs a music scholarship to get into the college of her dreams – but when that falls through, she decides to try and win the $10,000 available for winning prom queen. Which is definitely a reasonable amount of money for a school prom. I love that You Should See Me In A Crown tackles how ridiculous and exclusive the whole prom system is. That being said, I’m British and a lot of American traditions seem a little bizzare to me! (My prom will also be a orange-squash at the local brownie hall affair, so I kind of love the romanticized hype of this dance). Although it didn’t impact the story, I did miss a few of the references as a British person. But we have Hamilton references; Timothee Chalamet references; all-my-favourite-bands references – after reading too many romances from the early 2000s, You Should See Me In A Crown felt refreshingly modern. A romcom for the modern age.
The formatting is gorgeous. From the calligraphic chapter titles to these little fake phone screens at the start of each chapter – whilst pretty set ups don’t a book make, they sure help. Mack and Liz are brilliant. All their interactions are so cute and perfect and cinematic; I could see You Should See Me In A Crown being an amazing tv show one day. Moreover, the description was so good that you could create a really clear picture of the scenes in your head. There are more plot points than just Liz’s relationship which kept the book moving, but there’s a big enough focus on the two of them. It’s predictable in the best way.
This paragraph contains minor spoilers.
As for criticisms, I don’t have many. It sounds petty, but Liz didn’t seem to act as horrified or surpised to some of the situations as I would. Some very inspiring, or traumatic, or just really freaking cool things happened to her and I wanted a bigger reaction. Also, I was irritated that even if the novel wasn’t centered on Liz accepting her sexuality, there was still a forced coming out. Can we move past the need to have these things as plot points? It’s great to talk openly about coming to terms with your identity and I can see why you can’t totally compare wlw books to straight books… but after writing that, why can’t you? I want to read more YA that’s a teen romance, and they both happen to be girls. You Should See Me In A Crown did a pretty good job, but if you have any recommedations, let me know in the comments!
Additionally, the ending was quite fast, felt a little rushed. Liz and Mack were spending less and less time together but that did give the author time to round of all the (numerable) plots to an acceptable standard. There’s a lot of illiteration names (J.K Rowling who?) that added a fun, whimsical flavour to the book and it’s funny!
You Should See Me In A Crown is a really sweet book. With a focus on family and friends, it felt like a really fresh and modern romance. I love the idea even if I can’t see the title without singing the Billie Eilish song. A great book with a great message: that if you hold your head high enough, anyone can be a queen.
Have you read this book? Would you try it? Got any similar recommendations? Let me know in the comments!