You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Liz decides to run for Prom Queen so that she can win a scholarship which will enable her to attend her dream college. She believes she isn’t Prom Queen material and so she has to figure out how to put herself out there, in the glare of social media, a position in which she feels very uncomfortable. She is funny and smart but also anxious.
When I was reading this, I was reminded so much of the films I watched as a teenager, like Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club. In fact, Molly Ringwald, everybody’s favourite actress of the time, is even name checked in the book. The films seemed fresh and unique, not least because a story told from the female perspective (see also Dirty Dancing) was a rare thing and, in the absence of books written specifically for young adults, these films were the only way we could see ourselves in stories. There is so much to love about these films and though it feels disrespectful to my teenage self to criticize them, there’s no doubt that if I revisited them now they would feel problematic, almost certainly chauvinistic and definitely lacking in diversity.
We’ve come a long way in society to become more inclusive but we still have a long way to go. The idea of feeling other and angry and afraid and isolated as a teenager is timeless. You Should See Me In a Crown perfectly reflects the complexity of where we stand today: Liz is a gay, Black girl living in small town America. Yes, we have all the high school tropes, the mean girl, the platonic boy/girl friendship, the romance, the misunderstanding, the Prom night. However, like the best films from my school days, this book stands out because it takes Liz and her friends’ feelings and dilemmas seriously.
This is a heart-warming, life-affirming and utterly delightful take on the high school romantic comedy. I’ve no doubt that if this had been in the cinema during the 1980s, I’d have been there with my friends, on my feet, clapping and cheering as the final credits rolled.
Recommended for all fans of the RomCom but especially Years 8 and 9.