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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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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Anime, Reactions, Shows

Komi Can’t Communicate S1E2

This is my analysis of and reaction to Komi Can’t Communicate Season 1 Episode 2, an anime about a shy girl with a communication disorder whose goal is to make a hundred friends.

The first thing we see in this episode is that the black cat made a reappearance. As discussed in the previous episode analysis for Komi Can’t Communicate, black cats are actually usually a symbol of good luck in Japan. They also seem to be strongly associated with Komi, because she is often depicted with cat ears when she is especially shy or curious.

The narrator explains when people have social phobia and/or a communication disorder, they may struggle to communicate with others, but that does not mean they do not want to make and maintain long-lasting friendships. That is helpful and true, so even though I generally don’t like this narrator, I appreciated the comment.

After the intro, Tadano approaches a group of girls, trying to find more friends for Komi. Yamai is one of the girls, and even though she plays super nice, you can tell she immediately judges Tadano as unworthy to even speak of Komi. She whispers in his ear words to that effect. You can already tell she is not a good person.

I hate two-sided people who act like that. Friendly as a show, nasty when no one or very few people are watching. Chameleons, I used to call them. Changing based on those who surround them.

Also, I know this is a school of oddballs, but the tall girl in the background is literally wearing armor, for no apparent reason. I wonder if that will be addressed later.

Tadano has no luck helping Komi make new friends, because he struggles to make friends himself. The other high schoolers want nothing to do with him.

He decides to talk to Najimi, since they are basically friends with everyone at the school. Many fans of the show believe that Najimi was written to be genderfluid. Sometimes Najimi identifies as female and sometimes male. They tend to use they/them pronouns. I am happy that all their friends are respectful of that, because I know oftentimes people in the real world are not respectful of preferred pronouns.

Tadano is confused because last year Najimi dressed in the guy’s uniform, and now they are wearing a skirt. Najimi playfully teases him. I already like Najimi, and it’s nice to have some rep for genderfluid people. The only other examples of genderfluid characters that I can think of are Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Eri from the Webtoon Friends With Benefits.

Najimi is very much a people person, and has tons of friends despite being a compulsive liar. They basically have perfect communication skills. Najimi regards almost all the people in the school as their childhood friends.

Tadano encourages Komi to ask Najimi if they will be her friend, but she can’t bring herself to do it. Instead, she just stands there for an apparently really long time, stuttering. Tadano is supportive, and Najimi is patient.

The audience is thrown for a loop when Najimi refuses to be Komi’s friend. It is totally unexpected because Najimi is friends with almost everyone. We learn that it is because Najimi tried to make friends with Komi as a younger child, but was scared off by Komi’s silent stare. Najimi agrees to walk home with Komi and give her another chance.

Najimi maintains a one-sided conversation with Komi on the way home. Two of Najimi’s “childhood friends” approach, annoyed at Najimi for moving without telling them. They give off bad vibes.

Najimi claims they are a guy when the creepy “childhood friend” admits his feelings to them. He won’t take no for an answer, however. He grabs Najimi’s wrist and licks his lips. Man, that is freaky. Makes me hate him. It kinda reminds me in swim team when a guy grabbed me and tried to push me to the ground. I have a host of bad memories associated with swim team, but that was the worst.

The creep had dropped his keys, and when Komi tries to give them back, her stare convinces the creep that she means harm. This seems a bit far-fetched, but Komi does appear to have the effect of intimidating people by accident. I wish she had done it on purpose, but she really only intended to give him his fallen keys. I don’t like that she’s that oblivious–it makes her seem almost dumb. The creep runs off with his friend, and Najimi agrees to be Komi’s friend.

It’s kind of sweet when Komi leaps into the air with joy.

The next day, Najimi sits with Komi and asks her lots of questions, effortlessly keeping up a one-sided conversation. Najimi says that making a hundred friends is so few. I guess it makes sense for them, but I feel like maintaining even a few good friendships is challenging, especially if factors such as distance are involved.

Najimi tries to improve Komi’s communication skills as well by challenging her to get a special drink for them from a nearby shop. I think it is a little harsh to threaten not to be her friend anymore if she doesn’t, but I suspect Najimi’s heart is in the right place because they don’t really seem like a bad person. I remember when I was an incredibly shy kid, my parents and other adults often pushed me to be more social. It’s not the same because I don’t have a communication disorder, but I feel like that helps me to relate to Komi somewhat. My parents and the other adults obviously meant well, but it still stressed me out beyond reason.

Tadano is mistaken for a stalker by a little kid and his mother when he follows Komi. I’m not surprised. He does look like a stalker since he is following her in hiding.

Komi hesitates for a long time before entering the coffee shop, and when she does she tries to communicate her wishes through gestures and by checking the menu. Najimi’s preferred drink is not on the menu, however. Najimi really thought through everything to get Komi to speak.

The barista is apparently very experienced and decides to take matters into his own hands. But he gives her the wrong drink. When Najimi tells Komi that, she begins to cry.

Both Najimi and Tadano apologize vigorously for that. It’s clear that Najimi didn’t mean any harm, though they did cause a lot of emotional distress on Komi’s part. I am impressed by Komi’s efforts, even if they were unfortunately unfruitful.

Komi sulks after they apologize, and they both think it is super cute. Good for her for not being a pushover. She knows she’s been wronged and isn’t afraid to make that clear in her own way.

Overall, I was satisfied with this episode. It introduced a new character and new challenges for Komi, as well as establishing that Tadano is a gentle, kind person.

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Books, Reactions

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (Week 0, Ch 1-4)

I usually do spoiler-free reviews of books, but I am now leaning heavily into analysis and reactions on my website. Today, I will be analyzing and reacting to chapters 1-4 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 Ahead!

The book begins with this quote:

The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.”

James Baldwin

This matches the theme of the book so well, because the main character, Liz Lighty, thinks her main goal is to gain scholarship money, when really she wants to find her place in the world and reach her full potential.

The first real page of the book starts with “Week Zero” and is an image of a phone with the app Campbell Confidential on it. This is a creative way to start a chapter, and it looks really realistic since it includes the time and battery percentage and sign-in button.

Campbell Confidential is Liz Lighty’s worst nightmare, because it is where the mishaps and mistakes of students are immortalized in posts for the whole school to see. Being a clutz myself as well as accident prone, I would have been terrified of such an app too. To be honest, such notoriety could be obtained simply from a platform like Twitter or Instagram, but somehow having a specific app for one school makes it that much more personal.

In Campbell, a senior created the app. At Grove City College, the college I attended, a student created a website called Glance where you could look up people on campus, discovering information such as their dorm and room number and various other pieces of information. I didn’t like it, but I was glad it could at least only be viewed by people on campus. I remember being freaked out when this creepy guy looked me up on Glance and mentioned it offhand later. I imagine Campbell Confidential is similarly invasive.

Liz really wants to go to Pennington, a top-notch college. She is waiting for news back about an essential scholarship, and is 100% confident she will receive it. While lost in this thought, she is brought back to the real world by Derek Lawson’s elaborate promposal to Rachel Collins.

So, before I had read this book, I had never heard the term promposal. I never realized it was such a big deal to ask someone to prom. Like, just ask and see if you are accepted or rejected. How is that hard?

But I never went to prom. Sure, my school, PA Cyber, had a prom for those who are interested. But since I had almost zero friends in high school, I had no one to ask or be asked by. Besides, my hatred of both dancing and dresses would make it incredibly awkward.

Prom is a big deal in Campbell County. I guess it’s a pretty big deal most places in the United States, but in this county it is kinda an obsession.

It is revealed during this promposal that public events of any kind make Liz’s stomach churn. I get that, I really do. That’s part of the reason I didn’t attend prom, or almost any high school social event or field trip. I was painfully shy until a few years of taking martials arts helped me crawl out of my shell.

Jordan Jennings is the only one who does not clap at the promposal. He is Liz’s ex-best friend, for reasons as yet unrevealed.

The devil works hard, but Rachel Collins works harder.”

Gabi

Rachel Collins is obnoxious, racist, and all-in-all a terrible person. She is running for prom queen, and she has been Liz’s rival for a long time. She makes a decent villain–as in she sucks, but performs her role as an obstacle admirably.

I love the details of this first chapter, especially that this school has its featured dish, spasagna, which is a mix of spaghetti and lasagna. The concept does not seem especially appetizing to me. I didn’t have the “privilege” of having cafeteria food until college. My college was particularly inventive, and one of its specialties was weird pizzas. The worst weird pizza I had was Pumpkin Cheesecake Pizza, complete with burnt oats on the top. Gross.

We learn about Emme, Jordan’s girlfriend who mysteriously disappeared. She would have run for prom queen, and there are no hints dropped about what happened to her. At least not yet.

Liz is superbly talented, though shy. She arranged the music for concert band, even though she doesn’t want anyone to know. I relate to her pretty well in some ways. I always got high grades in high school, and was even asked to speak at my graduation. I refused, however, because I was terrified of public speaking.

Liz’s life changes when she gets an email saying she has not gotten a seat on the Pennington orchestra and–even worse–she was not selected for the scholarship. Now, I cannot completely relate to this because I got the scholarships and loans necessary for me to attend Grove City College. Which, while it is not a nationally renowned school, is locally known for its “rigorous” academics.

One time, I got an email that I had won a $2000 scholarship. After immediately checking that the sender was legit and that it was not one of those clickbait phishing emails, I was thrilled. I exuberantly told family and friends. But then, when I looked into it, it said it was a scholarship for “eligible freshmen.” I was like….ok, figured it was too good to be true. I was a first-semester senior, so no way I qualified. How had I won it? How had I been even nominated for it?

I emailed the person who had informed me and they confirmed I had won it despite being not the typical recipient, so I felt like I had it in the bag.

It all fell apart when my advisor took me aside and told me that it was a mistake. I felt deflated by the news, but seeing how uncomfortable and guilty-looking my advisor appeared to be, I ended up feeling worse for him than I felt for me. I assured him that it was fine, that I had suspected something was wrong anyway, and that I would just have to take out a larger loan.

Nonetheless, it kinda ruined my day, because I had been so excited that the financial burden of college was going to be lessened by a couple thousand dollars. To be written off as a mistake was frustrating to say the least.

Liz is on the verge of a panic attack after this news. I think it is good to have characters with legit panic attacks represented in books, especially since I remember so few if any from my childhood that properly depicted them. I have a character in the book I am writing who has panic attacks. I know a few people who have had panic attacks, and I have run it through two of them so far to make sure my depiction was realistic and sensitive. So far so good.

We get to meet Robbie in the next chapter, Liz’s younger brother. He is supportive and sweet, kind of like my own brother. He brings up one of Liz’s concerns that her grandparents will sell their house to pay for Liz’s college. And they are so selfless that they probably would.

Liz lives with her grandparents after her mother died, and they would do almost anything for her. But Liz doesn’t want them to sell the house. It has so many good memories of her mother wrapped up in it. I don’t really attach fond memories strongly to places most of the time. The only reason I would mind moving from my current house is because I don’t like change. Has nothing to do with memories. I guess I remember my early childhood home fondly, but I think that is mostly because I don’t like having neighbors so close.

Bad memories I do associate with places. Such as my terrible memories of being bullied when I was on the swim team tying in to my current dislike of a certain swimming pool, and a park where I was a camp counselor bringing back memories of overwhelming exhaustion.

Anyway, Liz does not want to sell this home. But she does want to go to Pennington and someday become a hematologist, one who specializes in sickle cell disease like her brother has and her mom had. That interests me because I have read very few books where anyone has had sickle cell disease. It’s not a topic I am very familiar with.

Robbie suggests she run for prom queen, since the scholarship for winning is at least $10,000, which is what she needs to afford Pennington. Liz is terrified yet intrigued by the idea. She hates the spotlight, but the allure of Pennington may be too much.

When Liz’s friends Gabi, Britt, and Stone hear about the scholarship, they are livid at first that she didn’t win, but end up being highly invested in the plan to win prom queen.

Overall, this “Week Zero” section establishes a strong narrative voice, an intriguing setting with plenty of quirks, and an interesting ensemble of characters.

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