You Should See Me in a Crown: A Review

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah JohnsonLiz Lighty has never been one to break from the ensemble to go solo. That has served her quite well during her time at her high school in Campbell County, Indiana where she’s been able to focus on band, getting good grades, and doing everything she needs to in order to attend her mother’s alma mater Pennington College.

Unfortunately, even doing everything right isn’t enough to get Liz the last scholarship she needs to be able to afford tuition at Pennington. If her grandparents find out, they’ll want to sell the house to help Liz. But if they do that Liz and her younger brother will lose the last link they have to their mother who died from Sickle Cell Anemia. Liz isn’t going to be the reason for that. Not a chance.

Instead, Liz realizes her best option is running for prom queen. Liz has never cared about prom–not the way people are supposed to in her town where prom is a full-time obsession–but becoming prom queen comes with a crown and a scholarship.

Now Liz will have to complete community service, dodge spontaneous food fights, and deal with the friend who broke her heart when he he chose popularity instead of their friendship. That’s all while campaigning to climb the ranks running for prom queen and figuring out what to do when new girl Mack turns from enigmatically cute to new crush and maybe even potential girlfriend.

Prom season is always hectic in Campbell and competition is always fierce. Liz knows most people in Campbell don’t see her as prom queen material. The better question is if Liz is ready to step out of the ensemble and use her solo to convince them otherwise in You Should See Me in a Crown (2020) by Leah Johnson.

Find it on Bookshop.

You Should See Me in a Crown is Johnson’s debut novel. This funny contemporary is set over the course of the six weeks of Liz’s prom campaign culminating in the prom itself. I won’t spoil the prom queen results, but maybe you can guess. Despite the prom focus the main event is watching Liz come out of her shell and embrace all of her personality (and her queer identity) while making space for herself in both her school and her town.

Campaign shenanigans and gossip from the school’s social media app Campbell Confidential add drama and humor to this story. Although she doesn’t tell them everything she’s struggling with, Liz’s grandparents and brother are great supports for her and quite funny in their own rights.

Liz’s friends also try to help with the campaign which leads to questionable decisions from best friend Gabi as she lets winning overshadow being a good friend–an ongoing problem as Gabi begins to understand that being a friend (and an ally) has to more than offering campaign advice.

Then of course, there’s Mack and one of the sweetest romances you’ll find in YA Lit.

You Should See Me in a Crown is a prom-tastic read with a story that is as funny, smart, and endearing as its heroine. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest, Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin, The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby, The Prom by Saundra Mitchell with Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin, Matthew Sklar, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, Who Put This Song On? by Morgan Parker, Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud, The Summer of Jordi Perez and the Best Burgers in Los Angeles by Amy Spalding, The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne, Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

The Night of Your Life: A Review

The Night of Your Life by Lydia SharpJJ and Lucy made pact to go to prom together if they both wound up dateless. While JJ’s being single is pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point, he’s surprised to find Lucy still dateless and going with him on the day of the prom.

Prom is the perfect chance for JJ to have a last hurrah with all of his friends and he can’t imagine anyone he’d want to spend it with more than Lucy.

Except everything goes wrong.

JJ wants nothing more than to forget that prom ever happened. But when he wakes up, it’s prom day again.

With endless chances to try and fix things, JJ has to figure out if he can chase his perfect prom while holding onto his best friend in The Night of Your Life (2020) by Lydia Sharp.

Find it on Bookshop.

This standalone contemporary takes on a speculative twist as JJ relives his prom over and over again trying to improve events and break the loop. Despite the high concept premise, The Night of Your Life‘s main strength is the LGBTQ+ representation which adds a nice layer to an otherwise flat story.

JJ is an extremely vanilla narrator with few defining traits beyond being excited about prom and an unfortunate predilection for making up words (like “twibble). He is a terrible friend who chooses not just to ditch Lucy when a cute girl’s car breaks down but also never tells her what is actually happening. Why he deserves numerous chances to fix his prom night, let alone why he deserves a friend like Lucy, remains unclear.

Stilted writing in both JJ’s first person narration and the dialog make most of the relationships in the novel feel forced and do nothing to hint at even a little chemistry between JJ and Lucy as the next phase of their friendship (and if they should pursue anything more) becomes the main question of the story.

The Night of Your Life is an uninspired take on a familiar premise. Unless you’re all about that prom setting, skip this one and read A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody for a better executed version of the same conceit.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Two Summers by Aimee Friedman, Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein, Parallel by Lauren Miller, Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Shuffle, Repeat: A Review

Shuffle, Repeat by Jen KleinJune knows with every fiber of her being that high school doesn’t matter. The friends she makes, the traditions, the classes–none of it matters in the long run. At the start of her senior year of high school, June already has her eye on starting college when her real life can begin.

Oliver loves high school. He revels in the rituals like prom and sports, the traditions like senior pranks. Oliver plans to make the most of his high school experience and be able to look back on every moment fondly when he gets older.

June and Oliver have known each other for years, an annoying side effect of their mothers being best friends. But they don’t get to know each other until the start of their senior year when their mothers arrange for Oliver to drive June to school. Every day.

Awkwardly quiet drives slowly begin to shift to heated debates about music, musings about life, and more. As they get to know each other, both June and Oliver will have to decide if young love has a place in a world where high school doesn’t much matter. Unless maybe it does . . . in Shuffle, Repeat (2016) by Jen Klein.

In this standalone contemporary, Klein throws together complete opposites and explores what might happen next. Despite much of this story taking place during car rides, Shuffle, Repeat has a strong sense of place with evocative descriptions of June and Oliver’s quaint town.

June and Oliver are both white but the book is filled with a varied cast of misfits among their unique groups of friends. June’s best friend–a gay boy with Indian family–gets an especially heartwarming side story throughout the novel.

Philosophical discussions about what matters in life contrast well with vocal discussions of music and classic high school moments (the book begins with June nervously making her way to prom and then backtracks to the start of the school year).

June is an often abrasive first-person narrator. She is not afraid to state her opinions and she is stubborn when those convictions are challenged. She jumps to conclusions and is, frankly, judgemental when it comes to her preconceived notions about Oliver.

But Shuffle, Repeat isn’t about June being right all the time. Instead, through her relationship with Oliver and generally moving through the school year, June begins to realize she might have been wrong about a lot of things.

Shuffle, Repeat is a smart story with a fun romance. Snappy dialogue, an honest-to-a-fault narrator, and plenty of senior year shenanigans make this a great summer read. Recommended.

Possible Pairings: Never, Always, Sometimes by Adi Alsaid, The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Bookish Boyfriends: A Date With Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt, The Night of Your Life by Lydia Sharp, P. S. I Like You by Kasie West

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick: A Review

Au Revoir Crazy European Chick by Joe SchreiberPerry Stormaire had no intention whatsoever of attending his senior prom. Not when his band had their first ever actual gig in an actual club in New York City.

Unfortunately his parents have other ideas when the foreign exchange student staying with Perry’s family expresses her wish to attend prom before going home to Lithuania.

Why Gobija Zaksauskas wants to attend prom is anyone’s guess. Frumpy, quiet, not to mention epileptic it seems like Gobi’s entire mission as a foreign exchange student was to blend into the background.

All of that changes on prom night.

As Gobi embarks on a night-long mission of vengeance, Perry is dragged along–sometimes literally–for the ride. A week ago Perry’s biggest problems were choosing a college and working up the nerve to defy his father. Now, Perry isn’t even sure if he’ll make it through his prom night in one piece in Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick (2011) by Joe Schreiber.

Though completely improbable and often needing a lot of suspension of disbelief, Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick remains a fast exciting read of pure escapism with refreshing humor and oddly authentic characters for such an outlandish story.

Schreiber has created a fun blend of unlikely adventure and the more usual coming-of-age story. Structured with college essay question at the start of each chapter, Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick perfectly captures the panic and scrambling so often associated with the college search and application process.