[ARC Review] You Should See Me in A Crown by Leah Johnson

Amazon.com: You Should See Me in a Crown (9781338503265): Johnson ...

rating: ☾ ☾ ☾ ☾ ☾ {5/5}
publication date: june 2nd, 2020
rep: black, sapphic mc, sapphic love interest, black side characters, chronically ill side character
age range: teen (13+)
TW: homophobia, outing, anxiety & panic attacks

Where to Find it:

Thanks to Taylan Salvati at Scholastic for providing me with an e-ARC to review via Edelweiss!

“I never needed this race or a hashtag or the king to be queen. I was born royalty. All I had to do was pick up my crown.”

Initial Thoughts

If you were a teenager that loved watching those feel good high school rom-coms, this book was LITERALLY made for you. The main character Liz, is a queer, Black, band geek trying to survive her senior year of high school. However, when her scholarship to an elite college is denied, she decides to compete for prom queen to win the hefty scholarship offered by her school. As the competition gets more difficult, Liz finds herself falling for one of the other prom queen candidates, an sweet twist that has an even sweeter ending. This story blends together all my favorite aspects of teen movies and features a wonderfully interesting and diverse main character.

The Importance of Perspective

I enjoyed this story because Liz is very honest. From the beginning, she discusses her experience as one of the only black students in a Midwestern school and readers immediately understand why it’s so important for her to get out of her town and go to college. Liz also discusses her experience with the loss of a parent and how that’s affected her growing up. With this knowledge in mind, it makes the plot points of the story feel a lot more emotional. As a child who grew up with the loss of a parent, I could relate to Liz’s constant wondering about how her parent would have reacted to the decisions she made. It’s also incredibly moving to read because Liz brings a perspective that breaks the typical white, YA contemporary mold. Young black girls get another fantastic role model to read about and watch as she lives her dreams and stands up for herself. Additionally, sapphic readers will love seeing themselves represented throughout the story and get a happy ending.

Promotion of Self Confidence

One great thing about the book is seeing Liz’s character development throughout it. Liz has always felt like an outsider around the students at the school, but we see her embrace herself as she participates in this campaign and the students around her are drawn to her confidence. I can’t tell you how many times I cried while reading different scenes where Liz takes decides to make a stand and believe in herself. While there was a great romance in the story, I love that there was a huge portion of the book dedicated to letting Liz learn how to love herself and stand up for her beliefs. Self-love is so important to have in a teen novel because teenagers should be confident in themselves and the things they want to stand up for. They have a lot to say and I firmly believe adults should be listening to teen perspectives more.

Culturally Relevant

Speaking of teen perspective, this book delivers a good balance between light hearted teen romance and commentary on social issues. There’s some great discussions on grief, privilege, and friendship in the novel, all of which, were handled very well. Johnson also does a good job highlighting performative charity and the hypocrisy behind it. It’s a good perspective to put in a teen novel because teen should be critical of the work they do, especially if they actually want to make a difference. There’s also discussion of race and privilege throughout the entire novel, which is so incredibly important. I loved reading this novel because right away Johnson addresses relevant topics that queer students of color face in schools and she uses Liz’s perspective to unpack privilege in a way that’s understandable to all readers. As a small teacher side note, I’m so excited to include this book in my classroom because Liz brings a perspective as a queer, Black girl to YA that many of my students of color could really benefit from. A lot of the books they have access to aren’t written by people they can relate to, so I’m excited to bring a new ownvoices author into my classroom this fall!

Variety of Relationships

The final thing I loved about this book was the relationships. Liz makes all sorts of new friends and even a girl-friend in the story and each relationship brings a unique perspective to the story. There’s the new girl who Liz is falling for and the way their relationship develops is so HEARTWARMING. I loved watching them develop and support each other. There’s the ex-best friend, who Liz reconnects with and their interactions are half of what makes the story so fun. Personally I love the dynamic of a jock and a lesbian being friends and supporting each other (this is my not subtle way of saying go watch The Half of It on Netflix). Additionally, there’s Liz’s relationship with her family which is incredibly beautiful. She’s always got her brother’s back and the two of them have a wholesome relationship as he encourages her to pursue her dreams. Her grandparents play a side role in the story but you know that they would do anything to see her succeed and I loved seeing the way they supported her throughout the story.

Overall

Okay, I’m definitely biased because I enjoy reading coming of age stories; there’s so many out there in teen literature but this story stands above the rest. You Should See Me in A Crown is heart-warming to read and full of spirit. I will always say yes to more Black girls beating the patriarchy and getting the girl. It’s an empowering and emotional read that more people need to know about.

What are some of your favorite coming of age stories? Drop me some recs in the comments!

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