I was in a bit of a reading slump recently and decided to pick up ‘You Should See Me In A Crown’ after a day of feeling restless and indecisive. I got sucked straight into the story and, within 24 hours, had finished the book. It well and truly ended my period of not being able to sit still and get lost in a book!
Liz has always felt like an outsider at her small-town high school in Indiana. Things are very traditional, and prom is the highlight of the year for not just the students, but the surrounding community too. Liz, however, believes that she is too black; too poor; too awkward to really shine amongst the other students in her year. People like Uber-popular Rachel Collins always win prom queen, so why should she even try?
But then she finds out she hasn’t got the final bursary she needs to go to Pennington – the university she has had her head and heart set on for years. It looks like her dream might be over.
Until Liz remembers that not only do the Prom King and Queen become idolised by the entire school population – they also win $10,000 each. Liz has always feared the spotlight and the idea of being scrutinised is not one that particularly appeals to her, but she reluctantly enters the race to win the crown to keep her dream alive.
With the help of her friends, her brother, and the new girl at school, Mack, Liz must compete against classmates. She traverses new experiences with grace and must use her wit to outmanoeuvre her opponents. However, as the race develops she discovers she might just be becoming something other than herself…
I have always enjoyed reading about the American prom. It is something that we have brought to the UK – but let’s be real, on a much smaller scale – and despite being a culture we might see as quite similar to our own, shows the huge difference between British and American schools. I always find it fascinating how different schooling can be, not only academically but also socially as well! The drama and gossiping that American proms create always create interesting books (and films!). Although, my own prom was a good 14 years ago (how am I that old!) so I might be corrected now and be told British proms are the same level of extra!
YSSMIAC, though, gives us a fresh perspective. Liz is black and gay, which in a small-town is not only frowned upon but has rules that stop her from truly expressing herself the way she wants to. Not only is she running for prom queen – where, if she wins, she would be the first black prom queen at her school – but she is also running against the rules her school has in place. Rules which include her not being allowed to take a female as her date to the event itself. Liz challenges these rules, along with her friends, and forces people to recognise that the status quo is not acceptable.
I thought the interesting combinations of characters – their backgrounds, experiences and interactions – really helped to highlight the need for change to both individual attitudes, and also society itself. But beyond this, it also a really fun read which I loved – I read it in a day and found it hard to put down; I just kept wanting to know what was going to happen next!
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