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A Review of Leah Johnson's "You Should See Me in a Crown"

Jasmine is a writer, a lover of Y.A. fiction, and a 2018 graduate of Clemson University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

"You Should See Me in a Crown" by Leah Johnson tells the story of a young woman with a big dream and a little problem

"You Should See Me in a Crown" by Leah Johnson tells the story of a young woman with a big dream and a little problem

An Entertaining Read From Start to Finish

Leah Johnson’s debut young adult novel, You Should See Me in a Crown, is a strong and entertaining read that is sure to keep readers interested from start to finish. Published in June of 2020, the novel follows Liz Lighty, a graduating high school senior who has ambitions to leave her small, affluent, prom-obsessed, Indiana hometown because she feels that she is too black, too poor, and too different to excel there.

Quick Facts

  • Released: June 2020
  • Pages: 336
  • Genre: Young Adult Fiction
  • Publisher: Scholastic Inc

About the Author

Leah Johnson is an educator, author, and editor of books for young adults. Johnson’s sophomore novel, Rise to the Sun, is set to be released in July of 2021.

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Plot Summary

Liz’s path towards creating a brighter future for herself lies mostly in attending the elite Pennington College with dreams of playing in their world-famous orchestra and later becoming a doctor. However, Liz’s after-high-school aspirations are suddenly spoiled when the crucial financial aid that she was depending on falls short. The only way that Liz can now attend the prestigious Pennington College is by participating in her school’s prom king and queen contest in which the winner is awarded a scholarship—enough for Liz to make up the financial aid she lost.

Liz is initially hesitant about joining her school’s obsessive prom competition. There is nothing Liz wants to do less than endure humiliating public events in support of the contest, social media trolls, and spiteful competitors. However, because the contest is her last and only shot of attending Pennington and making her dreams a reality, she eventually comes around to the idea. Despite her fear of being in the spotlight, Liz is still willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

Then, Liz meets and befriends the new girl in school, Mack. Mack is full of life and makes Liz’s whole prom experience much more endurable with her humor and wittiness. Just like Liz, Mack is an outsider and happens to be in the running for prom queen, making the two girls competitors. While Liz grapples with chaos and condescending competitors throughout the competition, she begins to unexpectedly develop feelings for one of the other contenders for prom queen. Will falling for her competition keep Liz from fulfilling her dreams?

My Thoughts

You Should See Me in a Crown was a rare read for me and is different from anything I have ever read before in that the main protagonist, Liz, is a goal-driven, queer, black girl who will do anything to make her dreams and aspirations a reality. Liz is a character who doesn't rely on anyone else to make things happen for her and realizes that if she wants to become successful, she must ultimately take matters into her own hands and push herself to achieve them.

You Should See Me in a Crown is a great read for those looking for a story told from a perspective not often seen in many writings. This novel is a lot of things—empowering, thoughtful, witty, warm, feel-good, and one of the best young-adult reads of 2020.

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