I finished my first read of February! Because it’s the month of love, I obviously had to start off with a romance. I chose You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson, published by Scholastic Children’s Books. I got this from The Portal Bookshop in York, England, a local bookstore dedicated to LGBTQIA+ reads.
In You Should See Me In A Crown, Liz Lighty has to find a way to earn money for her dream college, and her answer comes in the form of a scholarship gifted to the prom queen every year. Even though Liz is far from prom queen material–shy and one of the only black and queer kids in her conservative Indiana town, she decides to go for it; she needs that money. But when a new student, Mack, decides to run too, Liz finds herself falling head over heels for her.
You Should See Me In A Crown was Leah Johnson’s debut novel, and since then she has published her next novel, Rise to the Sun. I believe she’s also working on a middle grade novel about a girl realizing her sexuality.
This YA LGBTQ+ contemporary romance was so cute. The storyline in some ways seemed reminiscent of Prom (the musical)–I mean, a gay Indiana teen being ostracized because of prom things? In other ways, the novel reminded me of my own conservative midwestern town with powderpuff football games and tall cornfields. But of course, this Indiana town goes all out when it comes to prom, including making the candidates do volunteer events and social events. All of the events certainly made for a whirlwind campaign with Liz as she tries to balance everything, complete with drama at each event.
Plus, her romance with Mack, though full of drama at some points, was really cute. I did think it was going to be more enemies-to-lovers than it was; definitely not an enemies to lovers story here, though. Liz even has to balance friendship drama with romance drama and prom drama. It made a lot of the characters and their relationships seem real.
On top of it all, Liz has to worry about her brother’s sickle cell disease, adding disability representation to the Black and gay representation. Let me be clear: this representation was done very well and all were integral to the plot. It wasn’t adding rep just for adding rep, but adding rep and showing that rep was important.
I have two flaws to bring up with the story. The first is that it was predictable, what you would expect from a teen romance. If you’ve seen any high school dance chick-flick, you will basically see how this will end from a mile away. But sometimes we just need that softness.
My second complaint with the book is that the bully, Rachel, seemed very one-dimensional. There were no real reasons to why she acted like how she acted and very little backstory. In some ways, this is okay because the story wasn’t ultimately about her. But you know how you see bullies in Disney shows acting so over-the-top crazy? That’s what Rachel felt like, and it would have been nice to have her more well-rounded.
Overall, I’d give this book four stars. It’s so important in terms of how we see Black queer girls and support them, as well as in some ways understanding disabilities. I’d recommend to anyone looking for a soft, happy book (with some minor CWs listed below) or a light read with a queer POC lead.
CWs: homophobia, racism, death of a parent, sickle cell disease, panic attacks/anxiety, attempted hate crime
Check out Leah Johnson’s Instagram here.
Check out Leah Johnson’s Twitter here.
See Scholastic’s preview of the book here.