review: You Should See Me In A Crown

title: You Should See Me In A Crown
author: Leah Johnson
date: Scholastic Press; 2020
main character: Liz Lightly
YA; lesbian romance; coming of age
prom; music; friendships

Leah Johnson debuted as a YA Author in 2020 with the release of You Should See Me In A Crown.I remember the book coming out as if it were yesterday. I was happy to see a YA book by a young, Black woman from Indiana so, I ordered a copy for Kid’s Ink, one of my favorite bookstores. I couldn’t focus much so I was reading very little at that time. Unfortunately, I could not get into this book, and to be honest I really didn’t like it. It was Covid Times and it didn’t feel right, reading this book about a prom! George Floyd had been murdered on 25 May and this book released on 2 June. I’d received it about a week later and it seemed like inconsequential fluff that I didn’t want to bother with.

Timing is everything.

While many could have found this book to be a lovely distraction, I couldn’t. I almost made it a quarter of the way through when I stopped reading. I couldn’t finish it. I wanted something with teeth, with bite that would help me synthesize what I was feeling. This Black high school girl trying to become prom queen in a predominantly white town in Indiana wasn’t it.

But, timing really is everything.

I picked the book up again last week and had a much different experience with it. I know this happens to everyone: what we bring into a story has an immediate impact on what we take away from it. I’ve talked with enough LGBTQIA+ people in this area enough to know it isn’t easy to live here. Johnson writes them not only a mirror but, hope for acceptance. But, outsiders reading in isolation cannot be guaranteed that See Me In A Crown will be that window or sliding glass door (Rudine Sims Bishop, 1990) into the life of this particular young lady growing up as one of the few Black, lesbian teens in central IN. We’re not always ready for it. It’s not always the right time. Sometimes, being able to talk through a text can certainly bring a different understanding. Chatting about this, or other books, can sometimes make it a better time to experience a text. This is a story that deserves a classroom for just that reason! Readers can explore Liz Lightly’s coming of age as she navigates uncertainties followed by increasing bits of self-empowerment that define this stage of development,

Her book is about a small fictitious town in central IN (I can’t say that enough because it’s not written about enough) where the prom is everything. Adults live vicariously through their children who actively compete against each other for a seat on the court. Of course it gets ugly! Liz is grudgingly muddled up in the mess when she finds the competition to be the only way for her to get a scholarship to the private university she’s always dreamt of attending. It’s a solid story about friendships, family, alliances, and perseverance. It wasn’t what I needed during the summer that insisted all Back lives matter, but it’s what we need now because it’s a story filled with hope: interracial romance; male/female friendships; good overcoming evil; adults stepping up to protect the young; a young girl I should see in a crown and happily ever afters.