Books, Reactions

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (Week 3, Ch 22-27)

Today, I will be analyzing and reacting to chapters 22-27 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 greatly enjoyed it.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

This section includes Week 3 of the prom campaign. The chapter starts with “Necessity is the mother of resistance.” I think that is interesting since the well-known saying is “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I wonder if the resistance is because Liz and Mack are a queer couple in the largely conservative Campbell County, or if because less popular girls like Liz rarely run for prom queen.

Rachel is trying to smooth over her misstep from hurting Liz in the powder-puff by passing out hot pink footballs with the words CONSENT IS SEXY on them. Um, this coming from the total jerk, racist Rachel doesn’t mean much. It is obviously just meant to grab attention. And why is it written on footballs, anyway? As far as I know, footballs have nothing to do with consent.

Rachel also replaced her giant poster in the Commons with one of her holding puppies. That’s laughable. Look, these puppies are cute, so vote for me!

Gabi wants Liz to be seen with Jordan more often, which is uncomfortable because of their complicated past but also because Liz has a girlfriend now so it’s weird to make everyone think she and Jordan have some sort of budding relationship.

Jordan has discovered that Liz is dating Mack and Liz freaks out and literally punches him. Well, my reaction to things that startle me is to punch too, so I guess I can’t judge.

Rachel warns Jordan not to hang out with Liz anymore, and he is understandably annoyed. Rachel has literally no redeeming qualities that are shown in this book so far, but some people in life do seem that way.

Liz admits that the whole prom is meant to evoke a fairy tale. The ones who become king and queen are supposed to be the best Campbell has to offer, but instead it is a popularity contest where the wealthy and well-established are given a massive leg up.

This kind of reminds me of something that happened at my college. One of my friends once entered a baking contest, and was frustrated to discover that the whole competition was basically a popularity contest. They were judged based on how much of the dessert they sold, but the competitors who were in a sorority had their entire sorority buy tons of it. I was pissed because my friend was great at baking and would have had a good chance of winning if it was not merely based on the size of one’s social circle.

Liz has an idea to win despite the skewed fairy tale, though. But because Leah Johnson wants to up the suspense, we don’t get to hear about it yet.

Mack wishes they could be alone more often since Liz cannot be out as lesbian in public–at least not without endangering her chance at prom queen. I came out recently and I know people can be weird or downright rude about it. And not everyone would be supportive for sure if Liz made it publicly known that she had a girlfriend. I have a girlfriend myself now, and many people I’ve told prefer to think she is just a normal friend, or try to avoid talking about the situation entirely. It feels like everyone is disappointed in me just for being myself and dating a girl. Most of them don’t even want to get to know her, and they don’t seem to care how happy she is making me. I can’t help but feel that the whole situation would be treated differently if I was dating a guy.

Soon they get another cute scene, this time in Mack’s car out of sight from prying eyes. They ask each other questions and hold hands and kiss. Mack always makes sure there is consent and she is not just forcing unwanted contact on Liz, and I have to admit that Rachel was right about one thing–consent is sexy.

Liz makes her move and invites Mack to go to prom with her. I never went to prom and never wanted to, honestly. But it’s cute, really cute.

Gabi makes it even more clear that she wants it to look like Liz and Jordan are dating–she even tells Liz to rekindle the crush Jordan felt toward her. I don’t even have to tell you how wrong that is. Liz is dating someone else. Jordan and Liz are friends at best. Jordan has an estranged girlfriend he is hoping will come back. Gabi’s whole idea reeks of attention-seeking behavior.

I don’t like Gabi. I really don’t. And her next actions make it worse, when she demands what Mack’s intentions are with Liz and is incredibly rude. She doesn’t apologize, and Liz uses their past friendship as an excuse not to judge Gabi.

Liz goes to Mack’s house to apologize for not telling her friends about their relationship, and Mack’s dad is enthusiastic when meeting her. I wish my dad would be that enthusiastic if I brought over my girlfriend. They make up and Mack says she dropped out of the prom campaign because she got what she came for. Liz. Omg that’s cute.

And then Liz doesn’t tell her about the scholarship or anything and why she must stay in the race, and I am like…this is foreboding. I see, the miscommunication/lack of communication trope.

The next night she attends Jordan’s party. Jordan opens the door and is apparently shirtless. Personally, I don’t really understand attractiveness and why abs are “sexy”, but Liz says he is really attractive and I guess I’ll take her word for it.

Liz enjoys her newfound popularity despite her anxieties, but is distracted when she sees Mack talking to another girl. Even though Mack is pretending not to be Liz’s girlfriend, it still bothers Liz. She voices her annoyance and things go south quickly. From a reader’s point of view, Liz is definitely in the wrong. She told Mack not to interact much with her, then gets mad when Mack doesn’t interact with her at a party. Liz gets jealous of Mack for talking to Kam, while Liz is talking to Jordan, the guy everyone at Campbell seems to ship her with.

Then Liz screws up big time. She admits that if they were seen together as girlfriends, she’d have no chance at winning prom queen. Crap. That looks really bad Liz, especially since you didn’t tell her about the scholarship. It just seems like you value your popularity over your relationships with people.

Liz starts to have a panic attack after Mack flat-out says she knows who Liz is now and is no longer interested in her. When Jordan checks on her, she pukes on his hoodie. This would be social suicide at Campbell if anyone else saw, but it seems like no one else is anywhere near. And then she literally passes out.

When she wakes up, she’s in clean clothes and in Jordan’s bedroom. I think I would panic if I was brought to a guy’s room while unconscious and woke up in different clothes. Yikes. Not the best of situations. Maybe that’s because most of my guy friends I either haven’t known very long or aren’t very close with.

Jordan takes Liz to a Steak ‘n Shake. I think it is safe to say that he is coming closer to the good friend zone after their long separation. Liz explains what happened with Mack and asks about Emme, Jordan’s missing girlfriend. He says that her secrets aren’t his to tell. And that makes me really, really appreciate him. When I had a boyfriend, he promised not to tell anyone about my schizophrenia without my permission. Then he told his mother about it without asking. I wasn’t mad, but I certainly trusted him a whole lot less after that. I’m more open about my mental illness now, but back then I had been trying to hide it from all but close friends and immediate family. Jordan knows when it is none of his business to share secrets, even with a close childhood friend.

Liz says she will miss Jordan when he goes back to his people and she goes back to hers after prom. He says it doesn’t have to be that way and mentions that she never responded to his apology letter.

His letter.

Liz didn’t get his letter, because Gabi, who gave off bad vibes from almost the very beginning, never passed it on to her. To make matters worse, Gabi started a hashtag calling Liz “Replacement Emme” and making Jordan and Liz’s relationship seem romantic. If it were me, this would have been the point of no return for Gabi. I may have forgiven her, but I never would have trusted her again, and she would have been relegated to the same status as a casual acquaintance. No more best friend privileges for her. She’s like a surprise villain. We thought Rachel was the main antagonist, but Gabi broke a childhood friendship, mistreated Liz’s partner, and tried to force Jordan and Liz into a relationship to increase Liz’s popularity.

Liz confronts Gabi and puts her in her place pretty well. She has learned to say enough is enough. And that’s good. If only she hadn’t screwed up so abysmally with Mack, things would have better and maybe she could have gotten over her best friend’s betrayal and moved on. Not forgiven her right away, because Gabi needs to give Liz some space, but if Mack was still around Liz maybe could’ve let Gabi go without as much heartbreak. Poor Liz.

This section was a rollercoaster of emotions, of elation and heartbreak and pain. It is well-written, showing how Liz dug her own grave and so did Gabi. Looking forward to analyzing the rest of the book.

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Books, Reactions

You Should See Me in A Crown by Leah Johnson (Week 2, Ch 12-21)

Today, I will be analyzing and reacting to chapters 12-21 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 Below!

This section covers Week 2 of the prom campaign, and the first page depicts Mack’s profile on Campbell Confidential. It shows that she is gaining in popularity even though her style and actions are outside the conservative norm of Campbell County.

When Liz gets to school, she is appalled by the enormous poster of Rachel that decorates a wall in the Commons. I never understood why just putting someone’s picture up would make people vote for them. I know, advertising helps, but with a boring caption like “Collins for Court,” what is the point? I never have voted for anyone for anything based on their appearance or merely on their pervasive public image. I always do my research. And while I came to a different voting conclusion when I was a Catholic then I would now, that doesn’t change the fact that seeing someone’s face plastered in posters everywhere in no way makes me want to vote for them.

Interestingly, Derek and some other students were removed from the race for prom king and queen because of their involvement in the food fight. Liz seems surprised that this happened. It does seem like the school would normally be willing to turn a blind eye to unruly behavior if it is by one of Campbell’s favorites.

Liz’s pound cake beats all the desserts that were not destroyed in the food fight, easily. Her competition might be more popular, but Liz has the pure skill to become a real contender. Girls who are less popular like Melly are thrilled that Liz is running, because she is considered one of them.

As a result of the bake-off, Liz goes up 5 spaces in the rankings. No one is celebrating yet, however. After all, Liz has to come off on top to get the scholarship. Still, I feel like little victories should be celebrated. I recently celebrated a year anniversary working as a Customer Service Rep. A small thing, to be sure, but it is special to me. And I feel like celebrating small successes is one of the keys to enjoying life.

Liz is wearing fancy clothes to try to help her rankings as well, instead of the vintage tees she usually likes to wear. So she does not feel like herself. I totally get that. I hate fancy clothes. I would much rather wear graphic anime tees then a blouse any day. And I almost exclusively wear sweatpants or leggings.

Gabi doesn’t approve of Mack. To me, that’s a red flag for Gabi because Mack is super sweet and I am already rooting for her. Apparently there are rumors about Mack, that she’s queer. Red flag number two for Gabi. She shouldn’t tell Liz not to hang out with Mack just because Mack might be queer, regardless of how the publicity might affect Liz’s chances at prom queen.

Getting Liz’s coming out story when she came out to her grandparents was interesting. They are so accepting, even asking if they should stop going to Chick-Fil-A to support her. (Chick-Fil-A has a famously anti-LGBTQ+ stance. Probably why it has such a good relationship with the Christian college I attended. I’m only half kidding.)

I’m never going to be the type of person who makes sense to other people.

Liz

I really feel this quote. I have always felt like I could not be understood. As an agnostic, schizophrenic, biromantic asexual, I don’t exactly fit into the “normal” category. People frequently pretend to understand, but they really can’t get what it is like to be me. No wonder Liz is on the brink of tears.

We get another scene with Mack and Liz together volunteering, and this time Liz catches a glimpse of the stickers on Mack’s skateboard. I love love love stickers. My laptop is literally plastered with them.

Case in point:

(Can you can guess the shows and movies these stickers are from? Comment with which ones you recognize!)

The chemistry between Mack and Liz is adorable.

Later on, Liz has the horrible experience of receiving texts from her grandma that Robbie is showing signs of a crisis again. This doesn’t seem to happen all the time, but it happens enough for Liz to be in a frequent state of dread. The only thing I have experienced that is even remotely comparable is with friends who experience suicidal thoughts. I worry, on their worst days.

Robbie, Liz’s younger brother, has sickle cell anemia, a disease in which red blood cells in the body as shaped like sickles instead of circles. In You Should See Me in a Crown, these cells are described as moon-shaped. This is a little confusing unless you are somewhat familiar with the disease, since the moon’s shape is also round, though it does often appear in different phases such as the crescent. It may have been better to say the sickle cells look like a crescent moon, but this is just a minor observation.

I didn’t realize how much pain a person with sickle cell anemia would be in when those cells failed to circulate through the body. I really didn’t know much about the disease at all, other than the shape of the cells, which is literally in the name of the disease, making it easy to remember.

Jordan checks on Liz, and it’s sad because they still aren’t back to their old childhood relationship. He really seems to want to renew that. I can understand why they aren’t close friends, though. It’s hard to recover a friendship once it is lost.

When Gabi meets up with Liz to give her buttons for her campaign, Liz thinks it’s over the top. The buttons have Liz’s face on them. I would hate buttons that had my face on them. Yikes. I’ve never much liked pictures of myself. But it makes sense if you are running for prom queen.

Apparently Gabi’s number one fear is the robot band at Chuck E. Cheese, which is totally understandable–they are nightmare fuel. They honestly look like something out of Five Nights at Freddy’s.

The next chapter is Mack and Liz learning more about each other. Liz invites Mack to do community service with her in an area that won’t win them any points for the prom campaign. Bryant House is where they go, a day care. There they spend time with young children. Gabi was invited before, but after one of the kids finger painted her tote and the day ended in tears, she never came back.

Mack has a great time and fits in well there. The kids like her. One of the kids even points out the obvious, that Liz has a crush on Mack, but luckily for Liz she is the only one who hears that.

In the next chapter, Jordan gives Liz a ride to work, and they call a truce. Finally.

And now we are in the exact middle of prom campaign season, during the prom powder-puff football game. Liz is super nervous because this kind of physical, public event is exactly what scares her the most about running for prom queen.

Quinn hugs Liz from behind and Liz respectfully tells her she does not like physical affection much. I have done that a couple of times too. Not fully rejecting all physical affection, but rejecting it when it is not initiated or at least fully expected by me. It just makes me uncomfortable. When I had a boyfriend, I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that at best hand holding and touching did not make me feel anything, and at worst it just made me uncomfortable. I thought I had to make sacrifices for him to like me. But with him I was never really myself. I admire Liz for setting boundaries.

Liz happens to be actually good at sports, despite her lack of experience, since she is pretty physically fit. She scores close to the beginning of the game. Good for her–I suck at sports.

Then that jerk Rachel Collins floors Liz with an illegal hit. Quinn annoys me immensely by grabbing Liz’s face, and then saying that Liz is fragile and that’s why she doesn’t like being touched. Liz decides to make this public spectacle work in her favor by having Jordan carry her off the court dramatically. Smart.

Bonus points for Liz since despite her injuries, she throws out an Oscar Wilde quote.

Mack treats Liz’s injuries and asks her out on a date. Yes yes yes! And Liz says yes, forgetting that she is not out as lesbian yet to most people and that she needs to focus on the campaign. They are even going to a Kittredge concert, which is a band they both adore. It’s perfect.

Liz tells Mack that only her best friends know she is queer. That is a definite lie since her family knows. I am already starting to be concerned. And when the previous chapter ended on such a high note! Mack thinks it is unsafe for Liz to be out, and Liz doesn’t correct her and explain that she really is only hiding it for the prom campaign. Yikes.

Mack gets Liz in to see the band since the bassist is her cousin, and she gets to meet her hero Teela Conrad. I don’t have any celebrity heroes, but I understand that this is the sort of thing that people are crazy happy about.

Mack asks before doing things like grabbing her hands, even though she didn’t do that earlier. That makes me feel like an extra piece of conversation was not recorded in these pages, where Liz explained to Mack how she feels about physical touch. She asks again before they kiss, an awkward affair that includes bumping teeth.

But it’s freakin’ adorable.

And just like that, they’re girlfriends.

This section is the highlight of the book so far. It was so adorable. I like an awkward and cute romance, even if I don’t want kissing or handholding in any relationship of mine. But that’s ok. I somewhat understand that other people are different, and that romances vastly different from one I would want can still be fun to read or watch.

That’s the end of Week 2 of this book. I will start working on my analysis of Week 3 shortly and publish it as soon as possible. Anime analyses are coming up too. Let me know as always in the comments if you have any suggestions.

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Music

Cardigan Song Analysis with Ashley from The Perusing Muse

Cardigan is one of three Taylor Swift songs in a series that she calls the “Teenage Love Triangle.” This story is about three teens, Betty, James, and an unnamed character who James cheats on Betty with. Each song takes place from the perspective from a different teen, and Betty is the first one to share her perspective in her song, “Cardigan.”

Ashley and I decided to analyze each song in the series and offer our thoughts and opinions. We love a good song analysis, and this was a lot of fun.

Vintage tee, brand new phone

High heels on cobblestones

When you are young, they assume you know nothing

P. A. Wilson: I automatically get modern vibes or 2010s vibes at least. It seems recent mostly because of the new phone, but vintage tees have been popular for a few years now I believe. I am not great at keeping up with what’s in style, but I see teenagers still wearing vintage tees. High heels and vintage tees are a weird combination. I kind of wonder if there are two people in this scene due to the mismatch. Reminds me of how on my first date I wore a dress and nice sandals and my date wore a hoodie and sweatpants. High heels on cobblestones mostly makes me think of how I never wear high heels because I am so clumsy. On cobblestones, I would probably end up tripping and falling. I wonder if high heels on cobblestones is a metaphor for the relationship between these two people. Like if they are going through a rough patch or are uncertain in their footing. The last sentence is super relatable because adults always assume that teenagers, or even younger adults, are simply too inexperienced to know anything about the world or themselves. When I came out as asexual and biromantic, and even before that when I implied I was sex-repulsed, I was told that I was too young to understand how I felt. So yeah, this hit home.

Ashley: I’m curious about the vintage tee and high heels. It is an odd combination of clothes to wear, and I’m guessing there are two people there. The brand new phone also sounds like one of the people is able to afford a new phone, maybe they’re more wealthy, but they prefer to dress in vintage tees for comfort. High heels on cobblestones sounds slippery. I would probably fall over, myself. Cobblestones maybe indicate that they’re in someone’s driveway or maybe they’re walking through town. I like that last sentence. I feel like we don’t take young people very seriously, and it’s quite annoying.

Sequin smile, black lipstick

Sensual politics

When you are young, they assume you know nothing

P. A. Wilson: “Sequin smile” is a wonderful usage of descriptive imagery. Sequins look like they are diamonds or some other gem, but they are fake in reality, mere plastic. A sequin smile is shiny and looks genuine but masks a different feeling inside. Black lipstick also suggests a somber mood. Sensual politics seems to refer to the subtle manipulation and deliberate impression made by this behavior and clothing choice–like the intentional maneuvers and diction of a politician. The final line about adults assuming young people know nothing takes on a different vibe in this section, because it seems like the adults came to this conclusion because of the smiles and makeup/clothing choices of young people. Like it is a judgement based on appearance.

Ashley: “Sequin smile” is an interesting phrase. It feels plastered on or fake, almost ornamental. This person is dressing up, maybe in sequins. I have personally never worn black lipstick, and from what I’ve heard, it sounds like it is hard to pull it off. I kind of want to try black lipstick now. But, I get the vibe here that she’s (or the person wearing lipstick) is dressing up for the other. The phrase “sensual politics” sounds like it is a younger person trying to be more mature. Politics reminds me of politicians having secret affairs with each other. Sensual makes me think that this is a liaison between two people, if not a cheating situation. I can see where the second phrase comes in. Maybe older people observing their relationship saw it as them pretending to be adults, and her dressing up for the person she’s with is seen as exaggerated and overdone. She says the phrase dismissively like they assume, but she knows the truth.

But I knew you

Dancin’ in your Levi’s

Drunk under a streetlight, I

P. A. Wilson: Knowing someone when they are in a different state from one in which they would normally like others to see them suggests a kind of intimacy. It’s a personal moment that the narrator has shared with one they love. Being drunk and dancing also suggests a kind of vulnerability and implied trust.

Ashley: They’re definitely out at night. The image here also just feels intimate. It is one of those moments that not everyone knows about a person. Although this person is drunk, they seem vulnerable. They’re carefree, dancing around. I also find it interesting that the two of them are not dancing together. One is watching while the other dances, at least that’s how I interpret it.

I knew you

Hand under my sweatshirt

Baby, kiss it better, I

And when I felt like I was an old cardigan

Under someone’s bed

You put me on and said I was your favorite

P. A. Wilson: She sounds like she feels left behind often, abandoned as unwanted, but that the lover made her feel like she was special. The old cardigan was an interesting choice, as a piece of clothes, something that you put on sometimes for comfort but that you might not wear around others as often since it is old. Almost suggesting that her lover “puts her on” when it is convenient or just as a means of comfort. “Baby, kiss it better” is kind of childish, suggesting that the singer is vulnerable and believes the lover’s affection would have a healing effect.

Ashley: She is definitely confident, telling him to kiss her, and we definitely know this is some sort of relationship now. I like the cardigan image. I don’t have any clothes under my bed myself. If anything, it would be a cardigan on the floor of my closet or hung up somewhere. It sounds like she feels like she is forgotten. Maybe she feels like no one sees her as a romantic prospect, and then he chooses her and she feels good and warm. I’m not sure if this extends into other categories of life too. Does she feel like family and her peers don’t notice her much, or does she just feel like this in a romantic context?

A friend to all is a friend to none

Chase two girls, lose the one

When you are young, they assume you know nothin’

P. A. Wilson: I understand very well that “a friend to all is a friend to none.” I try to be on good terms and build relationships with many people, including people who don’t get along with each other. Because I do not choose sides, I am often resented by everyone involved. James chased another girl, and now has lost Betty. Losing the one could also be interpreted as losing “the one.” Like the one person who is a perfect match. I never believed in “the one,” instead believing there are many potential partners who would be great, even if you only choose one in the end. The repetition of “they assume you know nothin'” now seems like it means they assume one cannot be held responsible for such actions if one is young, due to ignorance.

Ashley: I feel like she’s pretty right here. You can’t please everyone and be everyone’s friend, but I’m not sure if you’d be a friend to no one. You’d have to have someone, right? The next phrase totally contradicts the first one. If only one girl is lost, they still get the other girl. I’m guessing Betty is the girl that was lost, because she says she knew them in past tense. Again, the refrain maybe reinstates that her lover didn’t know how to keep her, so maybe in this case, at least James really did know nothing.

But I knew you

Playing hide-and-seek and

Giving me your weekends, I

P. A. Wilson: Playing hide and seek sounds cute and sweet like the children’s game, but it could mean James is hiding something more serious, like his affair with another girl. Giving weekends makes it sound like it is a gift that James is giving her. Oddly, she does not consider that she is also giving him her weekends. The gift is mutual. It becomes increasingly clear that Betty has low self-esteem.

Ashley: I feel like this relationship is starting to show its disfunction some more. Playing hide and seek first sounds fun and a bit childish, but it maybe carries another meaning. James might not be as consistent with meeting up and hanging out with Betty. We know from Swift that James is cheating on Betty, and it sounds like he might be hiding when they are in public or isn’t very consistent with making plans. Giving me your weekends also shows how Betty sees James’ weekends as a gift. She doesn’t see herself as giving her weekends, and it sounds like she felt special to get weekends together. Their relationship could only exist on weekends, and James spends the other time with this other girl. But Betty didn’t seem to care. She just liked feeling special.

I can understand that, enjoying whenever you’re around someone. You soak up all your time together like a sponge because he makes you feel special, and it feels like you don’t get that feeling anywhere else. And that’s all you can think about. Your head is so filled with love that you forget all their flaws and the circumstances you’re in.

I knew you

Your heartbeat on the High Line

Once in 20 lifetimes, I

And when I felt like I was an old cardigan

Under someone’s bed

You put me on and said I was your favorite

P. A. Wilson: Not really sure what heartbeat on the High Line means, other than it is a straight street in New York. Maybe it refers to how Betty thought James’ heart would not deviate from her. She felt like this love was so special it would only be found once in 20 lifetimes. The repetition of the cardigan line emphasizes her low self-esteem and how he made her seem special.

Ashley: I looked up High Line. It is a straight street in New York City. I’m not exactly sure what she means with this image. I’m imagining that if she feels like his heartbeat is on a straight road, then maybe she doesn’t see him as pursuing another girl. She is the road to happiness and their love is a straight line. It feels extra special, once in 20 lifetimes. So, it doesn’t matter if she is young. She feels like with this person she has lived and has now finally experienced true love. I also feel like she’s justifying her love for him. She felt so special and she had no idea they’d break her heart.

To kiss in cars and downtown bars

Was all we needed

You drew stars around my scars

But now I’m bleedin”

P. A. Wilson: Cars and bars both seem connected to the fast life. Interesting they are kissing in places where the instinct to kiss or the alcohol could impair judgement. Is that really all she needed? She is apparently emotionally or psychologically scarred, and being around him distracted her from that. Drawing stars around them does not heal her, but it does distract her from her pain and make the world seem brighter. That’s why when James leaves it is especially devastating.

Ashley: Ouch. Cars and bars are pretty secretive. They aren’t together in public but somehow it is enough for both of them. But is it? It might be all they wanted in the moment, but look at the next lines. I’m imagining James is drawing stars with a pen on Betty’s arm. I’m not sure how metaphorical and literal they are. Also, stars seem like they’re nearby forever, but then the night ends and we can no longer see them.

Scars indicate she’s been hurt in the past, either emotionally or physically or both. She seems like she’s healed, but she’s still fragile. If we’re thinking of physical scars, drawing around the scars seems like they’re creating a distraction. She isn’t being healed, but she feels better with this person who seems like a ray of light. The only problem is that she’s rested her happiness on this person and once they leave her, the pain is worse and she is alone.

Cause I knew you

Steppin’ on the last train

Marked me like a bloodstain, I

P. A. Wilson: Stepping on the last train suggests he wanted to be with her for a long time, but ultimately left her. A bloodstain leaves no positive memories and has no good associations, just the notion of pain. In addition to her scars and bleeding, she feels stained.

Ashley: He is leaving her. The last train might indicate he cares for her too, he is spending every moment that he can with her. But marking her like a bloodstain, that hurts. He still causes a harmful wound whether he means to or not. She is too in love with him.

I knew you

Tried to change the ending

Peter losing Wendy, I

I knew you

P. A. Wilson: I understood the Peter Pan and Wendy reference, because they were really close, even though I do not recall the ending of that story. It seems like James is trying to backpedal and change this ending where he loses the girl of his dream, but he fails.

Ashley: I haven’t seen Peter Pan since I was a kid, and I can’t remember the ending. I think Wendy leaves Neverland. I picture Neverland a place where nothing ever changes–where they can stay young and carry out their romance forever. He seems like he’s trying to get back together with her after leaving. He wants to keep their romance, but he has already hurt her and they can’t go back.

Leavin’ like a father

Running like water, I

And when you are young, they assume you know nothing

P. A. Wilson: “Leavin’ like a father” is a painful line. It seems like Betty’s own father might have left her, but also like this is a commentary about how fathers sometimes leave their children. Running like water makes it sound like she thinks it was natural that he left her, if unexpected. She shows that she has experience and doesn’t really know nothing.

Ashley: The speaker seems like she’s pretty vague about her own past. I can’t tell if her father or another family member left her in the past and that is why she has these scars. I don’t get the sense that James caused her initial scars. The metaphor of running like water. Well, water runs, but it leaves an impact on the ground that it runs under. It also keeps moving forward, regardless of the feelings of the people around it.

But I knew you’d linger like a tattoo kiss

I knew you’d haunt all of my what-ifs

The smell of smoke would hang around this long

P. A. Wilson: A tattoo is long-lasting and often permanent, so his love has marked her permanently, whether that is desired or not. She is haunted by what could have been. Smoke comes after a fire and is a sign of destruction. Usually, it fades away, but this smoke is lingering, suffocating Betty.

Ashley: She says they’re lingering, and lingering means someone stays longer than intended or wanted. It seems like she doesn’t necessarily want to keep him on her mind, but she can’t let it go. A tattoo feels more permanent than a lingering stranger. A tattoo is meant to be permanent, and it is pretty painful to remove. Haunting what-ifs shows that she made decisions too. Maybe she could have gotten with James when he fought for her, but she gave up. The smell of smoke reminds me of a fire burning or a cigarette. Also, fire is quick and passionate in the moment, and you don’t expect smoke to hang around after.

‘Cause I knew everything when I was young

I knew I’d curse you for the longest time

P. A. Wilson: Young people know more than they are usually given credit for, even if they are inexperienced. They learn about life, and their experience should not be disregarded. She knows even now that she is going to hold a grudge and not be able to move on for a long time.

Ashley: She knows that she won’t forget him. She knows her feelings and that she’s in pain, and she won’t get over how he hurt her for a while. Just because she’s young doesn’t mean she doesn’t know herself or hasn’t learned from her experiences.

Chasin’ shadows in the grocery line

I knew you’d miss me once the thrill expired

And you’d be standin’ in my front porch light

P. A. Wilson: Even though Betty knows James is gone, she looks for signs of his presence in public places. She knew he would come back to her. He is no longer the person drawing stars–now he relies on the porch light instead of being a source of light himself.

Ashley: I like the image of chasing shadows. I wonder if she sees him at the store and watches as he walks away from the store. I like how she continues the metaphor of light. But instead of a shadow, he is now present in the light.

And I knew you’d come back to me

You’d come back to me

And you’d come back to me

And you’d come back

P. A. Wilson: I didn’t expect this confidence that he would return. I had hoped the end of the song would show her moving on and happy on her own or finding someone new. The repetition makes their reunion seem more likely.

Ashley: She’s pretty confident. This ending surprises me a little. But he did care about her, so it makes sense. It sounds like maybe they’ll get a happy ending.

And when I felt like I was an old cardigan

Under someone’s bed

You put me on and said I was your favorite

P. A. Wilson: This song was a good one. I appreciated the imagery, especially the cardigan and the sequin smile. I personally hope they both move on. It’s hard to trust again after being cheated on, and I am not sure that Betty will be able to heal if she re-opens old wounds by being with James again. The positive ending makes me think that they may have a chance, though.

Ashley: I liked this song. It tells a story in the details. I feel like if these two get together, they have a bit to learn, even if she does know herself pretty well. James has to make it up to her for leaving, but I feel like coming to her doorstep is a start at least.

I feel like she’s captured the experience of being young and in love. Betty both knows herself and James more than people think she does, but she still makes mistakes and learns from them. She feels so happy about being someone’s favorite. It feels special and exciting, but she also feels comfortable with him. That isn’t something you want to let go. Cardigans are something that you keep for a long time in her case.

In real life though, I had a cardigan that, like this one, I left in my closet for years. It was grey and thin. It was comfortable enough, but it didn’t match many of my clothes. I enjoyed wearing it at the time though, but I ended up donating it. I don’t really miss it. I got a white cardigan this Christmas, partially out of my love of Taylor Swift. It is shorter and has two buttons. I hope to wear it again in the fall when it gets cooler outside.

So, that’s our analysis of “Cardigan.” Next, we’re going to analyze “Betty.” What did you think of the song? Do you think Betty should have taken James back? Let us know in the comments below!

Books, Reactions

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (Week 1, Ch 5-11)

Today, I will be analyzing and reacting to chapters 5-11 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 Below!

The Week One section of this book starts with Liz Lighty’s profile on Campbell Confidential, showing that she is slowly gaining more followers and likes. I think that was a really smart way to demonstrate that right off the bat without explicitly explaining it.

Liz Lighty is determined, but she is not fully prepared for the campaign. She runs late to the orientation meeting, making a poor impression, despite the fact that Gabi has prepped her for what to expect.

Gabi’s last message to Liz before she enters orientation made me laugh, but for personal reasons having nothing to do with the story.

Don’t forget to show teeth when you smile, but show no fear.”

Gabi

See, the reason I laughed is because people always tell me some variation of this, because I blatantly refuse to smile with teeth. My parents thought I was embarrassed about my slightly crooked teeth and assumed that was why I didn’t smile with teeth, so I ended up with braces. But the braces have been off for several years now, and I still smile the same close-lipped slight smile when the camera is on me.

The reason is that I am incapable of faking a convincing smile. Any smile with teeth when I am not genuinely and naturally smiling looks like a terrible grimace. To avoid how overwhelmingly fake and displeased my smile with teeth looks, I just Mona Lisa it.

My first impression of Madame Simoné is that she is obsessed with other cultures. She puts on a convincing French accent even though she grew up in Campbell. She wears a kimono, which are traditionally Japanese.

Mack is introduced a moment later as she blusters in late. The fact that Mack likes Madame Simoné is a testament to Madame Simoné’s character.

The rules for the prom are terribly outdated and just plain wrong. There is no consideration for non-binary or trans individuals, and same-sex couples are not permitted to attend as dates. That frustrates me because it is true of many schools. I didn’t attend prom when I was in high school, but if I wanted to attend with a girl as my date, I hope my school would have been supportive.

Rachel Collins reveals herself as an asshole, voicing concerns that there may be “affirmative action” involved in the contest and looking straight at Liz. As if the only way that Liz could win would be in an affirmative action situation. Mack points out that the group that benefits the most from affirmative action is white women.

She shoots, she scores!

Mack says that both good and terrible people should not be allowed to get away with doing terrible things. I think that is pretty mature for a senior in high school. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to those who are doing wrong, especially if they are good people acting out of ignorance.

Mack becomes the new drummer for the band since Kevin Kilborn had gotten badly injured during a promposal where he did a backflip off his roof. Not only was he rejected, it was also livestreamed on Campbell Confidential. He never did come back.

This is another example of how toxic the environment of Campbell can be.

While Gabi and Liz and Britt are meeting about prom at Gabi’s house, Gabi’s parents are fighting upstairs. Even though this is a book, I can almost hear it. The girls trying to make plans, and trying to ignore the shouting. It’s cringeworthy.

When she gets home she has plenty of homework, but just falls asleep by mistake. I didn’t understand this as much in high school because I didn’t have a social life to distract me from constantly focusing on my academics. In college, however, when I developed friendships and deepened the couple of lukewarm friendships I already had, I ended up making a social life much higher on my list of priorities. And that wasn’t a bad thing at all. I got to have close friends and still got A’s, I just sometimes had to stay up late to finish homework. I even had two all-nighters in a row once, which is a story for another time.

All this to say that I too have fallen asleep when I had plenty of homework and studying left to complete.

The next chapter starts with saying that anxiety looks different for everyone, though there are some commonalities. That is a very good point that many people fail to acknowledge. For me, as a schizophrenic–yes, I have been diagnosed as such–my stress makes me hear voices more often and more intensely. Sometimes it even leads to visual hallucinations, though for me those are rarer than auditory ones. I get a constant fight-or-flight feeling as well as a pervasive fear that something terrible is going to happen.

For other people, anxiety looks much different. Three people I know have panic attacks. Others struggle to focus, pace, sweat, throw up, or start to cry. I hate when people say anxiety is unimportant or shouldn’t be taken seriously just because it is so common. Like, what the heck? It can be freakin’ debilitating, and even when it’s not, it’s a real pain in the ass.

I am so lucky to have a job where my coworkers are kind, my boss is supportive, and I can feel confident in my abilities. Where my successes are appreciated and my failures are considered learning opportunities. And having a wonderful support group of friends who know and sympathize with my struggles is even better. Those two great things, along with my prescribed meds, help me to curb the anxiety somewhat.

So yeah, anxiety is different for everyone. Please respect that.

The first time Liz does community service for the prom campaign, she is paired up with Jordan, that dude from earlier who apparently left her for his “cooler” friends. Lovely. She almost asks him about his MIA girlfriend Emme, but is not spiteful enough to hurt him on purpose.

We get the backstory of how Jordan pretended not to know Liz when he made new friends. Even though I haven’t had that exact scenario happen to me, I know what it’s like for a friend to replace me with cooler people. She never officially cut ties with me, but when she was with her new friends they pretty much ignored me. It sucked, and when I tried to make new friends, I ended up with some very toxic “friends” who were kind to me when no one was watching and then bullied me when they saw other people were watching. Kind of backward from what you would expect, but whatever.

I was so sad when Liz described how she had changed from Jordan rejecting her as a friend, wearing different clothes and a different hairstyle. And she said after that she knew where she was in the social hierarchy.

Crap, I wish that wasn’t super relatable. After being bullied in almost every sport I took part in, I changed. Since I developed the first schizophrenia symptoms when I was 12 or 13, after the bullying at swim team took place, my doctor suspects the bullying may be involved in how quickly my schizophrenia advanced. After swim team, the voices I started hearing began saying terrible things about me. But they also made me a promise. If I did what they said, bullies would never pick on me again.

I took their advice. I stopped sharing my opinions on anything. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone. If someone insulted me, I agreed with them and then walked away. I didn’t initiate conversations. I never disagreed with anyone. With my family, I was a little less guarded, but that was the way I was socially.

Because I knew where I belonged in the social hierarchy. At the bottom.

But no worries, I’m FINE. Like I said, I have a good job now and a phenomenal support system.

Jordan apparently is one of those friends who really knew Liz, though. Enough that when he sees the signs of an incoming panic attack, he performs a ritual that calmed her in the past, a habit a counselor taught her. It’s so important to have friends that you can share your struggles with, even if it might feel embarrassing. I can understand why it hurt her so bad when such a close friend betrayed her.

And oh my gosh, the Avatar: The Last Airbender reference was great. Ill-timed and poorly worded, but finally, a reference I can understand. Uncle Iroh is a gem.

Liz gets paired up with Jordan a couple more times and it seems like there might be room for their relationship to improve.

At the end of Chapter 9, Liz mentions that she watches Robbie take his meds because when he starts to feel better, he gets cocky and doesn’t take them. I KNOW I can’t do the same thing, but I understand the urge to not take meds. It’s frustrating, taking meds when you are so young. I know, he’s younger than me. But I’m 23, and I take five kinds of meds for schizophrenia and other health problems. Two other meds I take only when necessary. I have one of those AM PM daily pill organizers because my memory is bad. I don’t believe anyone who is in their early twenties should have to deal with that, so I hate that many kids like Robbie have to take various meds just to have a normal level of health.

Ooh, the next chapter is lighter in mood. Mack and Liz. Liz teaching Mack the new music for band. Sweet. Mack has no filter to her words. With her, it seems to make her charming. With me, not so much. Sometimes I say things I don’t realize are ridiculous or mildly offensive. Many people say I talk too much. Mack is cool and fun though, even though she’s a bit talkative, and she has an attitude very unlike mine.

I like her immediately. It’s nice to have a book in which I like the main character and the potential love interest.

The Bake-Off event for the prom campaign is the focus of the next chapter. Baking has never been my specialty, but both Liz and Mack appear to give the competition a run for their money.

One of the contestants literally dips fingers into the food she is making repeatedly and licks them. Ew ew ew ew ew. That would never fly in a normal baking competition. She wants to stick her finger in Liz’s dish, but she is flatly told no. Thank goodness.

Rachel comes over to insinuate that if they were not filmed baking, she suspects Liz would have cheated and bought a gourmet dish. She says that she will be prom queen and Liz will be forgotten. Joke’s on her. Liz is not doing this to be remembered by crappy Campbell County, she is doing it for the scholarship money to get the heck out of there and start her life at college.

Even Rachel’s friends don’t like her much–Quinn, a person Rachel trusts, reassures Liz after Rachel is a jerk. I don’t know why attractive bullies gain friends so easily, but Rachel definitely fits into that category.

Liz is in denial that she is falling for Mack already, but it is so blatantly obvious, almost as obvious as the main couple in Yuri on Ice.

Then a food fight starts, and is almost as good as the one in RWBY. One of the guys literally calls another guy “sentient belly button crust.” That made me crack up. It wins in the creativity department, but it is too hard to take seriously. When I was much younger, I used to criticize bullies who called me un-creative names. “Like ‘four-eyes,’ honestly? Can’t you do better? Take a page out of Shakespeare’s book!”

My favorite part had to be when Madame Simoné starts shouting at them and drops the faux French accent. Mostly because it is fun to see a character who tries so hard to maintain an air of refinement losing her shit.

That’s the end of Week 1 (Ch 5-11), and I can already say with absolute confidence that I would never in a million years even consider running for prom queen. You go Liz Lighty!

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