Book Review – You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

books, reviews

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not a big fan of YA. Not only am I way beyond the age where I want to read about non-stop teenage drama but I also find it a bit basic for my tastes. I always just wish the book went further or the author went deeper. I so often get bored by the unoriginality of the plots. I’ve very rarely read a YA novel when I didn’t know how it would end after the first few chapters. However, I’m also not the kind of person that will completely write off a genre. I’m sure there must be a bunch of YA books out there that really speak to me. So, I won’t stop trying. I’ve seen this book around and heard so much praise for it. I had to give it a go.

As someone who went to school in the UK, I find the idea of American high school to be exhausting. Books like You Should See Me In A Crown just make it seem so stressful and chaotic. Especially when you’re an outsider like the book’s protagonist. Liz is one of the few Black students in her school and is hiding her sexuality from the other students. She is doing everything she can to not get noticed and blend into the background. At least until she realises she needs to become Prom Queen to achieve everything she’s ever wanted. How will she cope on such a public stage?

The ending of this book won’t really be any surprise to anyone. This feels like a classic teen movie from the 90s. There’s a whole host of underdeveloped background characters. There’s a quirky love interest, a controlling best friend and an over-the-top nemesis. It’s got everything we need from a standard and unimaginative teen rom-com. Yes, there are deeper elements to do with race and sexuality but I can’t say that any of this book did anything to stand out. It’s all stuff that has been done before and in more creative ways.

What bugs me most is that this is another one of those books that come about due to an unrealistic level of miscommunication. If these people acted even slightly as normal people would then the drama would have decreased. It’s so frustrating. We have to believe that these characters just don’t interact in ways that teenagers normally would. It’s just a way to drag out the plot until the perfect time. So we can get that last-minute revelation for ultimate drama.

Of course, there are plenty of positives about this book that shouldn’t be ignored. In terms of representation, this is an important book for both black and queer teens. It is such a positive and inspiring tale about accepting who you are and gaining the confidence to let everyone see it. The reason the underdog trope is so overused is that it’s such a positive one. It’s about not giving up and believing in yourself. I also think that the relationship between Liz and her girlfriend is pretty cute. Yes, it doesn’t run as smoothly as it should but they’re a nice enough couple.

I understand why so many people like this book. It’s sweet and there are no real dramas. It has darker moments but even those aren’t really that bad. Or they’re not really given much emphasis. It’s not a terribly written book but it’s not an ambitious one. It goes from point A to point B in the most obvious way and doesn’t try and develop anything. I enjoyed it but I won’t remember much about this in a few weeks.

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