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Book of the Week

You Should See Me in a Crown

By Leah Johnson

Grade Levels: 7-12 and Parents

With a title referencing a hit Billie Eilish song, itself a reference to the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes series starring Benedict Cumberbatch, You Should See Me in a Crown is in many ways a reflection of author Leah Johnson’s own experience - although it’s certainly not autobiographical. It centers on a queer black girl growing up in a mostly-white town and feeling that she’s “too black, too poor, too awkward.” Published this year, at a time when conversations about race, and particularly the black experience in America, are being had more and more in public, this book grapples with issues of shame and silence that may resonate with readers for a number of reasons. Although it’s too early to see what the full critical reception will be, the novel has already been profiled by Forbes, Time, and Goodreads, and it’s almost guaranteed to be nominated for awards in 2020.

Protagonist Liz Lighty has nothing but contempt for school proms, until her financial aid becomes unavailable and she hatches a plan to join a contest awarding scholarships to the high school prom king and queen so that she can attend elite Pennington College. However, things become more complicated when she starts to fall for her prom queen competition, the bright and witty Mack. At its core, a story about a young girl coming to terms with who she is - her blackness, her queerness, and what the combination of those two mean to her, this book paints the picture of, in the words of the author, “a world that’s as messy as it is beautiful.”

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