Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Book Review: You Should See Me In a Crown by Leah Johnson

"I'd love to go to prom with you, Liz. We deserve good things too. No matter how we have to get them."

Never in ten thousand million years would I say a book about becoming high school prom queen would not only reduce me to a blubbering-yet-feel-good-mess, it would also likely be on my top ten reads of 2021, but ha! jokes on me because this book has done both.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Scholastic Press, 2020
Copy via my public library
Read Harder 2021 Task 17: Read an own voices YA book with a Black main character that isn’t about Black pain

I do not even know where to start in my squeeing.

I picked up this book for Read Harder 2021 Task 17: "Read an own voices YA book with a Black main character that isn’t about Black pain" but stayed because it was SO CUTE, so compelling, so bittersweet, so perfect.

Our narrator Liz Lighty is just ... omg, adore her. Her voice is so genuine, consistent, real, compelling, and human. She felt like a person on the cusp of (college-aged) adulthood, someone who had to grow up fast and has all the skills and scars that come with that. Liz's desire to become prom queen starts because of the scholarship it comes with, but as she begins the process of drawing attention toward herself, navigating that very painful and complicated journey of adolescent social interactions, and trusting that she deserves every happiness presented to her, the prize at the end of all this represents something else entirely. I have never been so emotionally invested in any prom, and it's all because of Johnson's writing.

The romance in this book is sweet and cute and bumpy -- I'm #TeamMighty forever -- but I just uh-dored Liz and Jordan's friendship. I have struggled with male friends growing up due to the way people treat male- and female-identified persons in high school being friends -- as in there can only be romantic and/or sexual desire at the root of it -- and seeing how Liz and Jordan rekindled their friendship was escapist and cathartic. I wept for the male-identified friends I lost in high school -- I'm still missing them! -- as I celebrated what Liz and Jordan cemented.

I started this actually via the audiobook, read by Alaska Jackson, and it was wonderful -- Jackson makes a fantabulous Liz. I only quit the audiobook to stay up all night to race to the end and I feared listening would prompt me to fall asleep in a way that holding the book and reading wouldn't.

So either way you want to consume it, this book is worth your time.

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