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You Should See Me in a Crown

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Liz Lighty has always believed she's too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it's okay -- Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz's plans come crashing down . . . until she's reminded of her school's scholarship for prom king and queen. There's nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she's willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She's smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

336 pages, ebook

First published June 2, 2020

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About the author

Leah Johnson

4 books1,377 followers
Leah Johnson (she/her) is an editor, educator, and author of books for young adults. Her bestselling debut YA novel, YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN was the inaugural Reese's Book Club YA pick, and was named a best book of the year by Cosmo, Marie Claire, Publishers Weekly, and New York Public Library among others. Her sophomore novel, RISE TO THE SUN is forthcoming from Scholastic in 2021.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,786 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews153k followers
August 9, 2022
I... can’t hold enough of this book in my hands. I listened to the audiobook, and it was superb. I listened to You Should See Me in a Crown everywhere, but then it was over and I mourned its loss. I wished, then, that the story could be solid and picked up and held close, so that I could reach for it and trace the words with my fingers whenever I needed. I immediately ordered a physical copy right there and then.

You Should See Me in a Crown follows the story of Liz Lighty who wants nothing but to not feel an ache in her soul where some part of her always feels wanting. Liz hung her hopes on a scholarship to Pennington—her dream school—which she believed would be “the fast track to the rest of [her] life.” But a rejection letter douses Liz’s dream in her chest, and Liz suddenly feels she has lost her own story, fallen out of its pages, and landed in a country from which she couldn’t return. But when her brother convinces her to run for prom queen—with its $10,000 scholarship prize—the idea strikes Liz as sensible in a mad sort of way. Liz—who is accustomed to being quiet and feels secure in the near invisibility her insignificance in the high school hierarchy bestows upon her—knows this is her only chance, but dreads the exhausting artifice that comes when you put yourself onstage, and ask to be judged. A burning determination glows in Liz, nonetheless. Liz will be her school’s “infamous, subversive, dangerous, queer-as-hell prom queen wannabe” if that’s what it takes to seize her dreams. The playing field might be a steep incline with Liz at the bottom with boulders attached to both her ankles, but she is determined to push and push until something breaks in her favor, for once. That’s the Lighty Way, after all.

We feel, but we always fight. It’s the Lighty Way.

Johnson tells a deeply compassionate and tender story about the howling cold of unbelonging—that lonely dwelling-place inside that sometimes threatens to leak out and drown you—and her telling found the seams inside me and tugged. What hangs over Liz, and what the author illustrates so beautifully, is the traces of shadow where a broken system—or rather, a system that is working just as designed—has been breaking its hand against the bones of people who didn’t fit the mold of “cis, het, and white.” Liz Lighty is surrounded on all sides by people who move through the world without expectation of a door slammed in their faces, people who would look at her from the narrow parapet of their noses and finding her wanting. For years, Liz had let their words lurk quietly under the surface of herself. She learned to whittle herself down to a few essential truths—being a good granddaughter and sister, an excellent student, a first-chair clarinet player—keep her head down, and fit the small shape the world left for her. But Liz is fed up with the idea of being judged, cast in a role, given a title, measured up, inevitably found lacking—and I was buoyed by the wellspring of strength and defiance she was capable of drawing from. The heart of the novel, after all, is clear, star-bright, and powerful. There’s a fire burning in You Should See Me in a Crown like furnace doors thrown wide open so you can feel the flames, the bright fire of someone who is determined to exist in a way that is unpalatable to others, who is unafraid to take up space, to participate in the world, to reach out and grasp its beating core with bare hands, to be awake.

The friendships in this book are also so good. Liz’s friends are a calm and steady port in the storm of her life, the ones who would shore her up, and wrap up the hurt. They’re the grass between the nettles—a safe place for her to land. But friends can break your heart too and the novel doesn’t shy away from showing how friendship breakups can carve just as deep. Liz’s friendship with Jordan, in particular, pierced a little too close to my heart. Liz passes Jordan in the school hallways, works besides him on extracurricular activities, and does her best to act as if they had never quarreled, and never parted and were in fact no more than casual acquaintances in the first place. But Liz feels the distance between them keenly. The memory of what he’s done four years before is a fresh stab: not just disappointment, or anger, but grief too, real grief, for something lost. But Liz and Jordan are planets in orbit, pulling at each other as surely as gravity. Their friendship might be damaged and eroded, but it was not destroyed. They had both given each other wounds, but they were not mortal, and in their own halting ways, they were trying very hard to make amends, to make up for the hurt, so that their jagged edges might once again fit together like puzzle pieces.

The tenderness with which the author writes the sapphic romance blooming between Liz and Mack—Liz’s rivaling prom queen candidate—is so ineffable and aching, and it tugged at my heart. I yearned to find some way to hook myself to their story, to their soft moments together, and never leave. And oh my god, their first kiss! I must’ve played that part at least a dozen times lol.

Because here, always, we deserve this good thing.

All in all, the experience of reading You Should See Me in a Crown felt like pulling the curtains open on a sunny morning. It's sweet, moving, and so tenderly told.
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
611 reviews87.5k followers
February 1, 2021
This book was so stinkin' cute! It was hard not to smile the whole time while reading about such cute compatible characters coming together. I loved the ending, without spoiling anything it was very heartwarming. Liz was a great character and seeing her romance with Amanda bloom was adorable! Watching two girls fall in love in a small town and shake things up was awesome. But there was also a lot of layers to this story, so it had so much going for it. A great Valentine's day read overall!
Profile Image for may ➹.
481 reviews1,958 followers
July 19, 2020
gay culture be like [locks eyes with a girl] wow she has pretty eyes....... oh no I think I’m in love


- to be honest, I thought this was going to be a 3-star book the entire time I was reading this but by the end I was surprised by how much I was enjoying it!
- this book follows a Black queer girl with anxiety named Liz who must run for prom queen in her school’s prom competition in order to win the money she needs to get into her dream college. but she has to figure out how to put herself out there and deal with a crush she got on her opponent??
- I loved Liz as a character so much! her growth was really great to watch over the course of the story, and I really loved the message of deserving to take up space as someone who normally isn’t allowed any in a less tolerant small town
- I really, really adored Liz’s and Jordan’s friendship. it made me smile all the time and I love platonic boy/girl relationships!
- the female friendship was also great—conflicts arose but then were resolved and I appreciated that a lot, considering how YA contemporary has a tendency to pit girls against each other (though there was still a stereotypical mean girl but oh well)
- cute (f/f) romance too!! realistically portrayed, and they were both so sweet to each other. the blurb makes it seem like the romance is a big part of the story, and while it is important, it’s definitely not centered—Liz as an individual character is—and I loved that
- I thought this book did a really good job of introducing, handling, and resolving conflicts overall? there were definitely some things that felt like could have been developed just a tiny bit more but I was generally pretty impressed
- I ended up crying at one point, but I think that was due to me being triggered by the parts about a family member’s illness, rather than this being a hugely emotional book. but there were still a lot of sweet moments! I wish the family moments that were portrayed at the end had been more present throughout the book because I really loved them

tl;dr: surprised me! enjoyed all the character relationships, fun to read, and made me smile a lot. definitely recommended!


ownvoices reviews:
- Fadwa
- will be adding on to this as more reviews are posted!


:: rep :: Black queer MC with anxiety, wlw LI, Black side character with sickle cell anemia, Black side character

:: content warnings :: death of a parent (off-page), loved ones with chronic illness, a character being outed, homophobia (challenged), panic attacks
Profile Image for emma.
1,823 reviews48.7k followers
July 28, 2022
It has come to my attention that I have exactly one brain cell and no heart.

I have had three conference calls today, and I have another big one tomorrow, and therefore the amount of a) work and b) small talk and c) fake smiling I have done has been the cause of death for the 17 brain cells I had previous to this cursed day.

I just don't have anything else to say about tropical storms, you know? On the spectrum of light pre-nitty gritty conversation they rank more interesting than whatever people's children are up to, but significantly less entertaining than any piece of gosssip I've ever heard.


The reason I know I have no heart is because this book, which everyone calls "adorable" and "so cute" and "fun" and "generally life-changing levels of wonderful," and which is populated with characters that people refer to with nonsense phrases like "cinnamon roll," made me feel nothing.

And I'm a huge fan of cinnamon rolls, so honestly I'm not sure what went wrong.

This just felt...so unrealistic to me??? Sometimes I don't have a hard time withholding my sense of reason, but those are the times I read fantasy. I don't read contemporaries about high schoolers when I'm feeling whimsical.

But I've read magical realism that made more sense to me than this book about a school with a million-dollar prom where professional celebrity photographers take the pictures. And also the school has its own social media platform.

And I went to a high school where the band kids were popular and it was uncool to be on the football team, so if anyone can believe fantastical high school plotlines it's me.

The romance also didn't hit for me?? It wasn't even the love-at-first-sight thing that bugged me, it was...that I didn't understand why these two characters liked each other.

Possibly because I didn't like either of them.

Otherwise...this was fine.

Bottom line: I'm the reading equivalent of the old man in cartoons who yells at kids to keep off his lawn.
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,662 reviews5,148 followers
October 8, 2021
I don't believe in fairy tales and love at first sight and all that, but for just a second, I think this girl and those eyes and the way her freckles dot the entire expanse of her face are cute enough to make a believer out of me.

It's been a long time since I've reached for a fluffy, cutesy YA contemporary story because I thought I had gotten burnt out on the genre, but I'm here to tell you all that wasn't the case; I just wasn't picking up the right ones, and this book is absolutely the right one. This book takes literally every single thing I love to see in a fluffy YA contemporary/romance story and does them brilliantly, with a fresh take breathed into each and every trope and a narrator I would protect with everything in me. Liz Lighty is flawless and I'll hear no arguments!

"You're very Book One Prince Zuko — all honor and determination and stuff. You could use some guidance from an old pro to ease you into Book Three Prince Zuko: more relaxed, more open to adventure, better hair."

First of all, these characters are hilarious. Whether it's the pop culture references (with the above A:TLA reference reigning supreme, obviously), the banter between Liz and her love interest (I AM OBSESSED), or the playful, authentic sarcasm and wit we see not only in Liz's own narration but in her brother and her friends, too — these characters feel so REAL and genuine and three-dimensional, and I loved them so much! (Except Racist Rachel, of course. But even Racist Rachel's friends subverted some serious "mean girl" tropes and I'm so proud of them!) And I can't possibly review this book without mentioning Liz's family, whether it's her precious grandparents, or her brother supporting her with every fiber of his being despite his own daily health concerns with his sickle cell. I just cherish the entire Lighty family so damn much, y'all.

I'm so tired of the way this place treats people who are different, tired of feeling like I exist in the margins of my own life. I deserve better than that.

Most of all, though, I adored how complex and nuanced Liz Lighty's high school experience is. She has friends, she gets incredible grades and works her butt off to make her grandparents proud, and she knows she has a bright future ahead of her if she only has a chance to pursue it — but she also recognizes how unfairly she's treated as a Black queer girl in small-town Indiana, and she knows she deserves better. The moment when Liz shifts from a wallflower to someone who's going to make people listen to her and recognize her worth? Absolutely beautiful, and I was getting so emotional because I was so proud of her!

I roll my eyes so she knows that I'm joking, and she snorts with her laugh this time. It's a cuter sound than should be legal, really.

Last but not least, I gotta take a second to rave about how absolutely friggin' precious the romance between Liz and Mack is. While I don't feel that it's really the primary focus of the story, it's a prominent thread and it's executed so well! There's no insta-love, but Liz definitely crushes hard, and so does Mack. Watching them interact is so adorable, and even when there's a conflict, they work through things maturely and smoothly. I'm convinced that Liz and Mack are soul mates who would go on from this story to make it through college together and grow old and have cute babies, and nobody can change my mind.

"How does she even know what data is? The elders are evolving, and it's going to ruin us all."

If I haven't convinced you to give this adorable, beautiful, hilarious, heart-warming story a read, then I have clearly failed, because You Should See Me in a Crown is one of the best things I've read in a very long time — and definitely the best YA contemporary I've read in ages — and I want everyone I know to add this to their TBRs immediately. It's that good. ♥

Representation: Liz is Black & sapphic; Mack is sapphic; multiple side characters are BIPOC; Liz's brother Robbie is Black & has sickle cell disease

Content warnings for:

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Scholastic Press for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Danielle.
809 reviews403 followers
July 20, 2021
2021 F.A.B. Bookclub pick # I.❤️. F.A.B.

This was a short cute read, about a small town girl running for prom Queen. 👸🏾 She’s not the normal fairytale candidate and honestly just needs the money from the potential win for school. 😉 But, wow, she’s got gusto. I loved the courageous moments and the relationships with friends. This was a heartwarming read. ❤️📚
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,205 reviews40.9k followers
May 11, 2023
Oh myyyy... Why did I wait too long and let other books occupy me and procrastinate to have my special meeting with those amazing characters!

I’m telling you my friends defining this book as the sweetest, loveliest, coziest read is not enough!

I fell hard for this book because of many reasons which are:

One of the most inspirational, powerful MC:

There are lots of things to tell about Liz. She truly knows how challenging and hard to be a young black and queer girl in small town Indiana and how it hurts when she is treated unequally and unfairly. But she doesn’t have to stand it anymore!

She’s gorgeous, smart, brave, beautiful. She has amazing friends! She has supportive, incredible family! She is a successful student who can go to any college she wants to get out of that town to stay away its prejudiced folks! She can achieve anything she wants! I loved her girl power, getting out of the shadows to face the people, learning self respect, fueling her inner power.

Love story between Mack and Liz:

Hands down! They are adorable from the beginning and I couldn’t wish HEA more! Even though this heartfelt, extremely emotional was not only about their devoted love but it’s still a vivid piece of the story put a very wide smile on my face.

Well-crafted Supporting characters:

Liz’s brother Robbie’s brave and compelling fighting with his sickle cell disease and his struggles truly broke my heart. He was the one of the best brother for a little sister can have. And let’s not forget those adorable grandparents. It’s impossible not to fall in love with them. The one of the best things about this book is characters’ depictions. They’re so real, reminding us of people in our own lives, own families.

The inspirational approach to the sensitive issues:
Even though this book is considered as young adult book, it deals with so many important issues including homophobia, transphobia, racism with objective, realistic perspective. It awakens so many feelings including resentment, anger, sadness but in the end when you finish this book you feel extremely good, hopeful, light!

If you missed this book or accidentally skipped it, I highly recommend you to put back in your read list and urgently cancel everything to read it! It’s one of the most impressing books of this year with emotional writing, memorable characters and unforgettable messages which truly comes the author’s heart!
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,236 reviews26.7k followers
July 7, 2020
This was so freaking cute. This is a YA novel that follows this girl named Liz who decides to run for prom queen so she can get the scholarship that comes along with winning it, so she can go to her dream college. The only problem is the fact that she is falling for a girl she is competing with, so cue the forbidden romance!! This book was so cute and so soft and it made my heart so happy. It has a great message about being proud of who you are and some important own-voices representation, and I think this would be a great novel for young adults to read. I loved Liz's relationship with her brother in this book, it was so soft and precious. I also enjoyed the discussion in this book about how challenging it could be for her at times to be a queer Black girl in a small town. This is a book I would love to see get a film adaptation, I would love to see Liz on screen!

Also, side note it's super cool that this book has a character named Gabby, it's super rare for me to see my own name in books and even though I wasn't the biggest fan of her character it made the experience even more awesome for me to read this book haha. I also loved the fact that Liz was in band in her school too, it made me miss those days I used to be in band class and made me feel super nostalgic.
Profile Image for Camryn.
Author 5 books797 followers
December 15, 2019
Wow, I'm tearing up. I wish I'd had this when I was fourteen.
Profile Image for Alexis Hall.
Author 51 books10.9k followers
December 18, 2021
God, help me. This was so lovely I ugly-cried. Like, repeatedly.

Don't get me wrong, it's also unfliching as fuck: there's issues of grief, shame, identity, marginalisation, loneliness, and poverty in here.

But it's also just full of love. Ack. My cold, dead heart just can't take it.

So much I appreciate about this: the exploration of intersectional identity, the heroine (who is just amazing), the gorgeously tender queer lovestory, the centrality of family and friendships, everything everything everything.
Profile Image for Jananie (thisstoryaintover).
290 reviews13.5k followers
June 8, 2020
this was SO CUTE. a wonderful and sweet sapphic romance about a girl who enters a prom queen contest in her small town to win the prize money that will allow her to go to her dream college. loved our main character's personality and also the very wholesome platonic friendship she has with one of the male characters. definitely recommend as a pick me up!!
Profile Image for Christy.
3,819 reviews32.4k followers
June 19, 2020
4 stars

You Should See Me in a Crown was such a delightful and fun read. This is one of those books that as soon as I finished I thought, this would make the cutest high school movie. I would love to see Liz's story on the big screen!

Liz Lighty is a senior in high school. She's an overachiever, plays in the band, and is going to be valedictorian. And now? Now she's running for prom queen. The winner of prom queen at her school doesn't only get a crown, she gets a scholarship as well, and Liz desperately needs that scholarship to go to her dream music school.

Liz is fighting an uphill battle to try to win prom queen, but she's determined. Not only is she one of the few black kids in her high school, but she's not the most popular. But with a few best friends willing to help her out, and a new girl she meets and starts to fall for, Liz comes into her own.
I'm so tired of the way this place treats people who are different, tired of feeling like I exist in the margins of my own life. I deserve better than that.

Liz was such a great character. I could see her being relatable to so many. This book kept a huge smile on my face and I loved so much about it. If you're looking for a feel-good story with a great message and sweet love story, pick up You Should See Me in a Crown.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
June 30, 2020
4.5 stars

Leah Johnson's debut novel, You Should See Me in a Crown , is about the fight to be who you are when people are telling you not to be yourself.

Liz Lighty has her immediate future planned. She’s waiting on the scholarship she needs to attend her dream college and then she can study hematology and play in their famed orchestra.

But when the scholarship doesn’t materialize, she decides to take a different route and run for prom queen. In her small Indiana town, prom is SERIOUS, and the king and queen receive hefty scholarships.

No one like Liz (read: black) has ever been a legitimate contender for prom queen and none of the popular candidates are threatened by her, except one girl who has always seen Liz as a rival. For her part, the last thing Liz wants is to have her whole life on display and have everything she does and wears matter. But her best friend Gabi is determined to lead Liz to victory, no matter what it takes.

But Liz doesn’t count on crushing on Mack, the new girl in school and another candidate for queen. Mack doesn’t care what other people think of her—except Liz—but Liz cares too much, and for the wrong reasons. Will the truth ruin any chance they might have at a relationship?

"I don't believe in fairy tales and love at first sight and all that, but for just a second, I think this girl and those eyes and the way her freckles dot the entire expanse of her face are cute enough to make a believer out of me."

Despite dealing with some serious issues such as racism, homophobia, the toxic culture of popularity, and standing up for yourself and your beliefs, there is so much joy in this book. Liz and Mack are so appealing, and even though I wanted to shake some of the characters to make them speak their minds, I enjoyed this so much. You'd never know this is Johnson's first novel!

And the great Pride Reads keep coming!!

Check out my list of the best books I read in 2019 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2019.html.

Check out my list of the best books of the decade at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/my-favorite-books-of-decade.html.

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,297 reviews2,293 followers
February 12, 2021
Super nerdy characters.
Fun writing.
Witty and humorous.
Damn cute.

***Reps: Multiculture, race, LGBTQ, anxiety

One star less because of the predictable and too convenient ending.
Profile Image for Dylan.
547 reviews228 followers
Want to read
March 29, 2019
This queer boy from indiana can't wait to read about a queer girl from indiana as she falls in love with her competition in a beauty pageant??? i'm???
Profile Image for Lauren Lanz.
689 reviews251 followers
September 22, 2020
“I never needed this race, or a hashtag, or the king to be a queen. I was born royalty. All I had to do was pick up my crown.”

This was a really sweet, empowering story!
You Should See Me in a Crown was brought to my attention when the Black Lives Matter protests in America started this year. BLM protesting sparked here in Canada as well, and I came across several lists of books to support by black authors. This one was mentioned a lot, with a premise that seemed lovely!

~★~ What is this book about?

Liz Lighty is stuck: she has no way of paying for her dream college.
An unlikely opportunity presents itself in her high school's prom; the king and queen will receive the money she badly needs.
Though Liz's chances of success seem slim to none, it's her only shot. The only problem is that she's falling for the competition, one of the girls trying for top spot alongside Liz.


You Should See Me in a Crown was enjoyable to the last page, with a romance that warms the heart. When thinking about it, there are plenty of prom stories out there. What there aren't plenty of are prom stories that black girls and queer girls can see themselves in. It makes me incredibly happy to know books like this one exist, which give visibility to groups that don't receive enough representation.

Liz was a character that I took a liking to immediately. There was something about her personality that really clicked with me from the start. I loved her approach to challenges; she never entered something expecting to fail, but instead did her best to surpass her expectations for herself.

While Leah Johnson's writing didn't differ much from your typical contemporary narrative, I still enjoyed it. The content of the story and Liz herself more than made up for the rest. I would recommend this one for sure!! :)
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
547 reviews3,542 followers
March 2, 2020
I received an early copy of this book from the publisher in exchange of an honest review

CW: anxiety, panic attacks, death of a parent, chronically ill loved one, outing, homophobia.

YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN was such a nice balance between pure sapphic fluff and important discussions of some more or less heavy topics. It delivered exactly what it promised. All the cuteness that comes with a queer girl falling in love for the new girl in school, the coming of age element of her trying new things and growing into herself, realizing that really taking risks and putting yourself out there isn't so bad, while giving the proper space to the discussion of a Black girl growing up poor and fighting for her dreams, how stressful that is and how much of a toll it takes on her and her relationships with the people around her. Especially since it can come with shame and struggling to letting people into your...struggles? no matter how close you are to them or how much you want to let them in.

I really loved that this book explored all kinds of relationships. Not only the blooming romance between two HUGE music nerds who are equally awkward and laugh about it together, but it also showcases amazing family dynamics: Lizzie, the MC, is really close with her younger brother, they respect and tease each other and she also has a good relationship with her grandparents who more or less raised her. Other than that there are also some amazing friendships and girl support in it as well as a reluctant rekindling of a friendship that at the end, turned out amazing, it was one of my favorite parts of the story. If there's one opportunity I found was missed in this book, it's regarding to one of the friendships in it (not going into detail because spoilers) I thought that it could have used a bit more spaced to be explored properly and I would have liked to see more consequences for some actions relating to it.

An element that I also really appreciated from the start is that YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN uses most classic YA tropes and subverts them or puts a unique twist on them, especially when it comes to the school popularity pyramid and the hierarchy and tradition of everything pertaining to it. I was apprehensive the whole prom side of thing wouldn't work for me, as high school centered contemporaries haven't been working for me lately, but I found myself entertained by everything happening. It was just really fun!
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,909 reviews4,818 followers
July 7, 2020
This was definitely a solid 4.5 stars!

TW: death (off page), homophobia (on and off page), illness, and outing

What a beautiful book! This is the book that I could have used when I was growing up. I needed a book where the main character was a Black queer girl who was trying to not only figure out her identity, but just wanted to make the best of her high school experience and be successful. Leah Johnson captures such a beautiful narrative in this novel and I need more stories like this in my life.

When I originally read the synopsis, I thought that this was going to be an enemy to lovers plot line, but I couldn't have been more wrong. It was a book about family, love, identity, and friendship. Liz not only spent the novel attempting to figure out who she was and who she wanted to be, but she also spent a great deal of time healing from the loss of her mother (not a spoiler). I LOVED the way Johnson dealt with her grieving and healing process especially since I just read a book last month that did not handle these topics well. There is also this subtle discussion of being Black and queer and going to a predominately White school as a Black student. It's not that Johnson didn't want the reader to be aware of these narratives; however, I think that they were a perfect background to Liz's overall discovery of her self. This self-discovery and relationship building that Liz had with her grandmother and brother were perfect and absolutely beautiful.

My favorite part of this book? The romance. I can't tell how you how many people seem to forget or negate the fact that Black women can be queer. I wish I had this story when I was going through the process of figuring out my identity. The relationship literally gave me butterflies. The moment that there was a flicker of attraction, my heart began to swoon. It's rare that I feel that way in a book. But Leah Johnson did such a great job building such a beautiful relationship and romance that gave characters self-confidence and hope for a better future in this small town in Indiana. And there was hope. Was the ending perfect? No. Did it completely solve the issue of homophobia in this town? No. But we got to see a Black girl filled with joy AND a community that was committed to one day turning away from the traditional values that have been set forth in many countries. I've heard stories of proms where students are not allowed to wear what they want if their gender does not align with "traditional standards" or rules where same sex couples aren't allow to interact or engage with each other at the event. It's disgusting, but I know it happens and I'm so happy that Johnson uses her characters as catalyst to address these very same issues that are faced by high school students all over the world.

I could not give this book a solid 5 stars because there was a conflict between two characters that I could not get over. The character in the wrong was selfish, conniving, and in some ways self-righteous. The fact that they ended up getting off so easily bothered me especially when they made Liz feel uncomfortable in her own skin. I mean at one point Liz was afraid to wear her hair in a certain way or wear certain colored clothes because she was fearful of standing out. In my personal opinion, an apology doesn't fix that. It would have taken a much longer time to fix that relationship.

Other than that I found this novel to be amazing and I hope that so many more people have the opportunity to read it this year.
Profile Image for Starlah.
393 reviews1,600 followers
February 16, 2021
This was adorable! I read this book mostly via audio and the narration by Alaska Jackson was amazing. This story is just bursting at the seams with delightful teenage, high school shenanigans - and I never thought I'd actually care about things like that, but honestly, make it gay and I'm all for it. There were so many fun things like bake sales, prom campaigning, powder puff games - which I didn't even know what that was before reading this - all while still addressing a lot of important things. The reality of navigating a rigged system as a lower-class, queer, Black girl. Being someone surrounded by privileged people while you constantly get the door shut in your face. Homophobia, chronic illness, parental death, family, friendship, relationships. It was all just so well balanced and well rounded.

Liz doesn't even realize that she begins to conform to what these white folks around her expect from a prom queen as she is desperately trying to get the scholarship money she needs to pursue her dreams. And it was such a sweet story to watch her learn that winning by her own rules, and on her own terms is so much sweeter. Watching Liz grow confident and finding her way and realizing how much love she has in her life, was just so heartwarming. It has perfect humor and wit. Just the right amount of pop culture references. A second-chance friendship, which was so sweet. An adorable f/f romance. And just everything. I couldn't put this book down - which is why I read it in a day! I loved this.
Profile Image for Jessica .
2,083 reviews13.3k followers
December 12, 2020
TW for loss of a parent, anxiety, outing, homophobia, and chronic-illness.


I flew through this audiobook and adored every second of it. This is a sapphic romance about Liz, who has to run for prom queen in order to get a scholarship so that she can attend her dream school. There were so many things addressed in this book that I could relate to and that I think all teens can relate to. Liz has to confront her best friend and they really have to work towards understanding and changing in order to not hurt one another. Liz also has to deal with being really into the new girl in school, but having to hide it because she can't ruin her chances of winning prom queen. Then, an old friend who cut her off come high school is coming back around and they're making amends. And then throw in the fact that Liz is still trying to hold her place as first in the class and maintaining her good grades. This girl is going through a lot! I really loved all of the relationships in here and everything Liz was going through and how her outlook on the whole prom race and her place in school really changed throughout the book.

I will say, the only thing I wanted more of is stronger character development of Liz's grandparents and brother. I loved her brother and how close she was with him, but he really wasn't seen a lot until the end of the story. I would have loved more scenes with him and more scenes with Liz's grandparents so that we could get a better sense of their characters firsthand and see Liz's relationship with them.

I really don't have any more to say. I loved this book and the audiobook was fantastic. The romance was adorable and I was rooting for an HEA for Mack and Liz! I can't wait to recommend this one to my students!
Profile Image for sarah.
393 reviews262 followers
December 21, 2020
“I never needed this race, or a hashtag, or the king to be a queen. I was born royalty. All I had to do was pick up my crown.”

You Should See Me in a Crown took the book community by storm around June, so naturally it took me six months to pick it up. I feel like the last person to have read this- but if you haven't either- here is your push to start it!

This book is a YA contemporary following Liz as she competes for prom queen in order to go get financial support to attend her dream school. But when Mack, a new girl enters into the race too, things begin to get complicated. It is filled with amazing rep- in terms of race, sexuality, chronic disease and mental health among other things. This is one of the few f/f books I have read, something I hoping to improve on in 2021. I adored that the main relationship was between two girls, but there was also a strong platonic relationship was between a boy and a girl. It was like the book took typical teenage rom-com plots and flipped them on their heads, refreshing them entirely.

I read this audibly which I would really recommend. The audiobook was narrated by Alaska Jackson, who I think did a brilliant job.

I do think there were some elements of the book that left something to be desired. I would have liked certain side characters to be developed more, I felt the romance to be a little insta-lovey and found some parts to be unrealistic. But that could also definitely be due to cultural differences. As a non-american, I was incredulous about how much prom meant to not only the students, but the school, community and even colleges. That is just so bizarre to me that the whole story took on a sense of unbelievability. Anyway, I quickly learnt to suspend my disbelief and just go with the flow of the story- not thinking too hard about what was happening.

The writing made it really easy to do so, supported by the audiobook. It was an immersive experience, and really easy to be absorbed in. If you are in a reading slump, or need something quick and light hearted to break up heavier reads- I would without a doubt recommend You Should See Me in a Crown. I am now also super excited to read Leah Johnson's sophomore novel coming out next year- Rise to the Sun.
Profile Image for Rachel  L.
1,830 reviews2,187 followers
June 6, 2022
4 stars!

“When you already feel like everything about you makes you stand out, it just makes more sense to find as many ways to blend in as you can.”

Liz Lighty is a black, not exactly openly queer, teen in Indiana hoping to go to college on a scholarship. When her original scholarship plans fall through, she enters into her high schools prom court in the hopes of winning the coveted Prom Queen which also happens to come with a college scholarship. But navigating the social circles at her school is really difficult when you’ve spent your entire high school career trying to remain in the shadows.

“I know then what I've always known: Campbell is never going to make a space for me to fit. I'm going to have to demand it.”

Going to come clean, I picked up this book because I love the cover! Covers really do sell a book. Prom stories have never been my favorite YA trope. I have to admit halfway through I was a little bit tired of all the prom antics and challenges and considering quitting the book. But I’m glad I powered through because the second half of the book really shined bright with the heart of the characters in this book.

The best part of this book for me was Liz navigating her relationships with her friends, family, and her crush on Mack. There were a lot of really heartfelt moments that I do think teens go through on a day to day basis and it was captured beautifully in this book. I am so glad that this book exists, and I’ll be sure to recommend it very often.

“I never needed this race, or a hashtag, or the king to be a queen. I was born royalty. All I had to do was pick up my crown.”
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,093 reviews6,578 followers
June 20, 2020
“And I know then what I've always known: Campbell is never going to make a space for me to fit. I'm going to have to demand it.”

representation: ownvoices Black rep, queer rep (f/f romance), anxiety and panic attacks, disability (sickle cell disease).

[trigger warnings are listed at the bottom of this review and may contain spoilers]



trigger warnings: death of a parent (in the past due to sickle cell disease), homophobia, bullying, racism, panic attacks, being outed, medical emergency.
Profile Image for elena ❀.
259 reviews2,881 followers
January 3, 2022
headed over to the four library accounts i have and added gay romances to my wish list. if only more books had similar power like this one, my life would probably be more blissful, joyous, and carefree.
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