Books, Reactions

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (Week 0, Ch 1-4)

I usually do spoiler-free reviews of books, but I am now leaning heavily into analysis and reactions on my website. Today, I will be analyzing and reacting to chapters 1-4 of You Should See Me in A Crown, a young adult romance by Leah Johnson. This is the first lesbian romance I have ever read, and I was greatly pleased by it.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

The book begins with this quote:

The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.”

James Baldwin

This matches the theme of the book so well, because the main character, Liz Lighty, thinks her main goal is to gain scholarship money, when really she wants to find her place in the world and reach her full potential.

The first real page of the book starts with “Week Zero” and is an image of a phone with the app Campbell Confidential on it. This is a creative way to start a chapter, and it looks really realistic since it includes the time and battery percentage and sign-in button.

Campbell Confidential is Liz Lighty’s worst nightmare, because it is where the mishaps and mistakes of students are immortalized in posts for the whole school to see. Being a clutz myself as well as accident prone, I would have been terrified of such an app too. To be honest, such notoriety could be obtained simply from a platform like Twitter or Instagram, but somehow having a specific app for one school makes it that much more personal.

In Campbell, a senior created the app. At Grove City College, the college I attended, a student created a website called Glance where you could look up people on campus, discovering information such as their dorm and room number and various other pieces of information. I didn’t like it, but I was glad it could at least only be viewed by people on campus. I remember being freaked out when this creepy guy looked me up on Glance and mentioned it offhand later. I imagine Campbell Confidential is similarly invasive.

Liz really wants to go to Pennington, a top-notch college. She is waiting for news back about an essential scholarship, and is 100% confident she will receive it. While lost in this thought, she is brought back to the real world by Derek Lawson’s elaborate promposal to Rachel Collins.

So, before I had read this book, I had never heard the term promposal. I never realized it was such a big deal to ask someone to prom. Like, just ask and see if you are accepted or rejected. How is that hard?

But I never went to prom. Sure, my school, PA Cyber, had a prom for those who are interested. But since I had almost zero friends in high school, I had no one to ask or be asked by. Besides, my hatred of both dancing and dresses would make it incredibly awkward.

Prom is a big deal in Campbell County. I guess it’s a pretty big deal most places in the United States, but in this county it is kinda an obsession.

It is revealed during this promposal that public events of any kind make Liz’s stomach churn. I get that, I really do. That’s part of the reason I didn’t attend prom, or almost any high school social event or field trip. I was painfully shy until a few years of taking martials arts helped me crawl out of my shell.

Jordan Jennings is the only one who does not clap at the promposal. He is Liz’s ex-best friend, for reasons as yet unrevealed.

The devil works hard, but Rachel Collins works harder.”

Gabi

Rachel Collins is obnoxious, racist, and all-in-all a terrible person. She is running for prom queen, and she has been Liz’s rival for a long time. She makes a decent villain–as in she sucks, but performs her role as an obstacle admirably.

I love the details of this first chapter, especially that this school has its featured dish, spasagna, which is a mix of spaghetti and lasagna. The concept does not seem especially appetizing to me. I didn’t have the “privilege” of having cafeteria food until college. My college was particularly inventive, and one of its specialties was weird pizzas. The worst weird pizza I had was Pumpkin Cheesecake Pizza, complete with burnt oats on the top. Gross.

We learn about Emme, Jordan’s girlfriend who mysteriously disappeared. She would have run for prom queen, and there are no hints dropped about what happened to her. At least not yet.

Liz is superbly talented, though shy. She arranged the music for concert band, even though she doesn’t want anyone to know. I relate to her pretty well in some ways. I always got high grades in high school, and was even asked to speak at my graduation. I refused, however, because I was terrified of public speaking.

Liz’s life changes when she gets an email saying she has not gotten a seat on the Pennington orchestra and–even worse–she was not selected for the scholarship. Now, I cannot completely relate to this because I got the scholarships and loans necessary for me to attend Grove City College. Which, while it is not a nationally renowned school, is locally known for its “rigorous” academics.

One time, I got an email that I had won a $2000 scholarship. After immediately checking that the sender was legit and that it was not one of those clickbait phishing emails, I was thrilled. I exuberantly told family and friends. But then, when I looked into it, it said it was a scholarship for “eligible freshmen.” I was like….ok, figured it was too good to be true. I was a first-semester senior, so no way I qualified. How had I won it? How had I been even nominated for it?

I emailed the person who had informed me and they confirmed I had won it despite being not the typical recipient, so I felt like I had it in the bag.

It all fell apart when my advisor took me aside and told me that it was a mistake. I felt deflated by the news, but seeing how uncomfortable and guilty-looking my advisor appeared to be, I ended up feeling worse for him than I felt for me. I assured him that it was fine, that I had suspected something was wrong anyway, and that I would just have to take out a larger loan.

Nonetheless, it kinda ruined my day, because I had been so excited that the financial burden of college was going to be lessened by a couple thousand dollars. To be written off as a mistake was frustrating to say the least.

Liz is on the verge of a panic attack after this news. I think it is good to have characters with legit panic attacks represented in books, especially since I remember so few if any from my childhood that properly depicted them. I have a character in the book I am writing who has panic attacks. I know a few people who have had panic attacks, and I have run it through two of them so far to make sure my depiction was realistic and sensitive. So far so good.

We get to meet Robbie in the next chapter, Liz’s younger brother. He is supportive and sweet, kind of like my own brother. He brings up one of Liz’s concerns that her grandparents will sell their house to pay for Liz’s college. And they are so selfless that they probably would.

Liz lives with her grandparents after her mother died, and they would do almost anything for her. But Liz doesn’t want them to sell the house. It has so many good memories of her mother wrapped up in it. I don’t really attach fond memories strongly to places most of the time. The only reason I would mind moving from my current house is because I don’t like change. Has nothing to do with memories. I guess I remember my early childhood home fondly, but I think that is mostly because I don’t like having neighbors so close.

Bad memories I do associate with places. Such as my terrible memories of being bullied when I was on the swim team tying in to my current dislike of a certain swimming pool, and a park where I was a camp counselor bringing back memories of overwhelming exhaustion.

Anyway, Liz does not want to sell this home. But she does want to go to Pennington and someday become a hematologist, one who specializes in sickle cell disease like her brother has and her mom had. That interests me because I have read very few books where anyone has had sickle cell disease. It’s not a topic I am very familiar with.

Robbie suggests she run for prom queen, since the scholarship for winning is at least $10,000, which is what she needs to afford Pennington. Liz is terrified yet intrigued by the idea. She hates the spotlight, but the allure of Pennington may be too much.

When Liz’s friends Gabi, Britt, and Stone hear about the scholarship, they are livid at first that she didn’t win, but end up being highly invested in the plan to win prom queen.

Overall, this “Week Zero” section establishes a strong narrative voice, an intriguing setting with plenty of quirks, and an interesting ensemble of characters.

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4 thoughts on “You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (Week 0, Ch 1-4)”

  1. Nice reaction! I haven’t read this book yet, but it sounds good. I didn’t know that getting prom king/queen gave scholarships at some schools. I don’t think my high school had a scholarship with prom. It’s cool that she used a James Baldwin quote. I recently checked out a book of his essays from the library.

    1. Thanks! I don’t think I’ve read anything by James Baldwin, so that quote may have been my first introduction. I have no idea if getting prom king or queen resulted in scholarships at my school since I didn’t bother attending.

  2. I too never thought of “promposals” as being a thing, so at first I honestly was wondering if it was made up just for this book or if some schools’ proms really are that over the top. It seems to be more realistic than I expect, so that was interesting to learn!

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