A TIME Magazine Best YA Book of All Time
A Stonewall Honor Book
A Reese's Book Club YA Pick
Liz Lighty has always believed she's too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it's okay -- Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz's plans come crashing down . . . until she's reminded of her school's scholarship for prom king and queen. There's nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she's willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She's smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?
Debut author Johnson easily channels the self-effacing coolness of 1990s teen comedies with a 2020 sensibility in this heartfelt and laugh-out-loud funny YA rom-com. Indiana high school senior Liz Lighty has two goals: attend prestigious Pennington College like her late mother, and become a doctor to study the disease that ended her mother's life. When the music scholarship she's counting on falls through, Liz's brother persuades her to do the unthinkable as one of the only black girls at wealthy, majority-white, and sometimes racist Campbell County High run for prom queen and win the $10,000 scholarship that accompanies the prom-obsessed town's crown. An offbeat new girl's arrival throws Liz's carefully drawn plans for victory out the window: talented drummer Mack McCarthy is beautiful, and she's running for prom queen as a legacy. With wit and grounded optimism, Liz answers the book's burning fundamental question: can a poor, black, queer girl be prom queen? In Johnson's emotionally resonant storytelling, the pragmatic, hopeful, awkward Liz Lighty comes alive, complete with fear, regrets, hopes, and dreams. So too do her cheer squad of devoted friends and the impressively drawn setting of Campbell High School. Ages 12 up.