A debut you should not miss. Leah Johnson’s You Should See Me in a Crown is a treasure of a book.Cecelia Beckman, Sheaf & Ink
The Story: You Should See Me In A Crown
You Should See Me in a Crown is about Elizabeth (Liz) Lighty. A senior whose college plan comes to a crashing halt with a rejection letter of a much needed scholarship.
But an opportunity arises that Liz can’t pass.
With a chance to win the coveted title of Prom Queen (scholarship included) Liz will have to overcome her anxiety of being in the spotlight to reach her goal of getting into Pennington College.
And like every great story, Liz finds herself gravitating to the new girl who just so happens to be running for Prom Queen too.
After you finish the last page of a novel, have you ever had that feeling of rightness? The feeling that blossoms in your chest like a flower in spring opening to face the sun for the first time, something akin to happiness. Where you still crave to be in the same proximity of the novel (even though you’ve finished it days ago) because the book’s energy and beauty is something you want near in an otherwise dismal world. You Should See Me in a Crown is just that: the bright spot, the rays of warmth you covet in a blistering cold that seeps into your bones.
Leah Johnson is a W O N D E R. Her writing transports us into the high school scene so vividly, capturing all the drama, the cliques, the ebb and flow and crushing tsunami of adolescence.
It’s not just the exposition that captivates, but the voice Johnson writes for the main character Elizabeth Lighty. Her heady wit and clever humor will have readers laughing and feeling as though they have found a long lost friend they never knew they needed.
Though You Should See Me in a Crown is filled with a joy you want as your own, Johnson does not shy away from some significant facts and truths that Liz Lighty faces as a queer black girl.
Liz is one of the few black students who attends a private school in Indiana. We see the discrimination for being black. How she would be treated if she was openly queer, her family’s pinched financial situation, Liz’s younger brother’s declining health, and the demands of winning the title of Prom Queen. Her unstoppable ambition to attend her school of choice regardless of the cost and how she carries it all. The disappointment and longing, all of it, weighing her down like a heavy coat filled with stones, ready to pull her under.
But the triumph of this novel is the journey Liz makes. It’s powerful. How Liz comes to the conclusion that who she is, is enough. Making people uncomfortable is a way to address the problem that’s not her, but the inherent racism in society as a whole. That the fairy-tale that everyone is supposed to follow and feed on as the “be all” is not the one she wants to consume.
A Few Last Things
For me, You Should See Me in a Crown is a story that had me smiling from ear-to-ear. It made me laugh. But it also made me feel this intense sadness. And although I felt those moments so keenly, my eyes brimming with tears because of the pain Liz goes through, there was so much to be learned as well as to be celebrated. It made me remember that there is still joy in this world and it should be shared and appreciated.
What made this book for me was the message at the very core of the novel. You are enough. You don’t have to assimilate and recreate yourself in order to fit what society deems as standard or norm. There’s no reason to give up who you are or make yourself seem less or small in order to make others feel more comfortable. Be bold. And be you. That’s the message. A simple, yet meaningful truth. And no matter the note you strike, it’s one that will resonate the rhythm and song which is you.
Johnson’s You Should See Me in a Crown is as delightful as it is insightful. Because, if I’m being honest, you can’t help but fall in love with Liz Lighty or want her to achieve everything she desires because her power, her inner strength is a brightness that could light the darkest of skies.
Happy Reading ̴ Cece
RATING: – Exceptionally Inked
Author: Leah Johnson
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: June, 2020
Audience: 12 and up
Jacket Photography: Michael Frost
Jacket Design: Stephanie Yang
Title Lettering: Maeve Norton
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