You Should See Me in a Crown follows Liz Lighty who has big plans for her life and the first one of these is to get out of Campbell, Indiana. She has applied to the prestigious Pennington College and had hoped her exceptional music skills would allow her to be in their orchestra and help give her the scholarship that she needs to work toward becoming a doctor, specifically a hematologist. she is devastated when she learns that her scholarship plans have been dashed and she needs to find a way to get to Pennington, without letting her grandparents know.Liz and her younger brother live with them and she knows that if they realize she needs the money that they will sell the home the two grew up in. She can’t let that happen and that means she is going to have to find another way. It just so happens that winning prom queen leads to a scholarship that could solve everything. The problem is, Liz never though she would ever have to do something so public and has never thought she would have a chance of winning such a title.
Liz not only dislikes public events where she is the center of attention, but she is also one of very few Black students at her high school and beyond that, we learn this a bit later in the book, she is into girls. Ever since her freshman year when one of her two best friends made her feel like she was too loud and too much herself, she retreated into herself. Her anxiety has also been something she’s been working on and while recently she has found methods that help her feel more centered running for queen is not exactly a low stress event. With her friend Gabi leading the charge for her campaign she finds herself in outfits that don’t feel like her and at a certain point feeling like she is being forced to be someone she isn’t.
Two bright spots in the sea of stress that is running for court are Jordan, her former best friend who seems like he wants to work on fixing their broken relationship, and new girl in school Mack, who we later learn is named Amanda. Mack is funny and takes everything a bit less seriously than Liz and with their time together Liz starts feeling butterflies. These feelings become something more and when she realizes Mack reciprocates the same feelings she finds herself in uncharted territory. While she might be out to her closest friends and her family, Liz isn’t out at school. She’ll have to make a lot of choices and ultimately decide what is important to her as her run for court puts her firmly in the center of one of the biggest traditions of her high school.
I absolutely adored You Should See Me in a Crown. While I do not know what the experience of being Black in Midwestern America is like, I do though remember growing up and always feeling like I didn’t exactly fit in. By high school I definitely knew I was interested in women, but didn’t really know how to go about handling this knowledge about myself. I mentioned it to two of my best friends, but ultimately didn’t come out until I was in my mid-twenties officially. The struggle Liz has with her interest in girls I felt so connected to throughout the story. She is also just such a well written character. There are so many dimensions to her and seeing her coping with feeling like an outsider because of where she is such a relatable story. The additional major element of this is Liz being Black. We see her discussing cultural touchstones with other students and seeing the divide. There is also a fun nod to the differences in food that she has had to put up with at sleepovers. Leah Johnson has done an exceptional job of creating a story that will resonate with readers and that showcases growing up not only in the Midwest, but as someone who is a minority in that region. You can get your copy of You Should See Me in a Crown today.