You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Liz Lighty isn’t one for being the centre of attention; even when the school orchestra is playing her arrangement of a piece, Liz would rather keep her head down and just get lost in the music. And considering that music is going to be her ticket to getting a scholarship for college, Liz especially wants to keep her head down and stay focused. Because she’s a shoe-in for the scholarship, right? She’s got it in the bag, until, – suddenly hang on wait what? – she doesn’t, and it looks like following her Mom’s footsteps and attending Pennington will have to wait. That is, until her younger brother Robbie and prom obsessed best friend Gabi remind Liz about the $10,000 scholarship for prom king and queen.
Ten thousand dollars just for winning prom queen? Liz really, really doesn’t want to enter the running; she thinks she’s too Black, too poor, too freaking awkward to get through the rounds of work, to survive the rankings on the school social media site Campbell Confidential, to beat off the competition (including the rude and evil Rachel) and make it to Prom Court, let alone the final vote for queen. But if that’s what it’ll take to get to Pennington, then it looks like running for prom queen just made it to the top of Liz’s priorities. Even if it means enduring more of evil Rachel’s… well… evilness and suffering through conversations with ex-best friend Jordan.
Luckily, Liz isn’t the only new entrant for prom royalty; new girl Mack has decided to join the running too, and she’s just as much of an unlikely option on paper for queen. Liz discovers that Mack is a brilliant drummer, picking up Liz’s arrangement instantly and playing it even better; that she’s into the same music as Liz; that she’s funny and smart and kind and makes the whole process slightly more bearable, which is so, so great… but if falling for Mack means jeapordising her chance at Pennington, will Liz be able to follow her heart?
I completely, 100% ADORED this book. It was entirely cute and oh so joyful, whilst also feeling honest and real, not shying away from discussing racism, homophobia, family illnesses and financial worries. Liz was such a wonderful main character, and her relationships with friends and family felt relatable and believable. I do love a friendship group that builds each other up! I’m not usually one for rom-coms or prom settings (seriously, what is with all the hype for prom?), but if more were like this then I’d be a very happy reader. Perfect for fans of contemporaries, 90s rom-coms, Jenny Han and Becky Albertalli. My only complaint is that it had to end.