Review of “Personal Statement” By Jason Odell Williams

A Review of Personal Statement by Jason Odell Williams

By Caitlin Donovan

Personal Statement follows three high school seniors and one twenty-something young woman with a job in politics. All of them happen to come together, toting their own personal ambitions along with them, for the volunteer effort when a hurricane threatens to hit Connecticut.

The book boasts a cast of characters with diverse backgrounds and personalities. Emily is a young Korean-American woman with an aggressive personality and her eyes set on boosting her cred for Harvard. She drags her best friend, Rani, along with her for the volunteer effort.  Robert is a young black man who also wants to boost his resume and is planning on going abroad. The final member of the cast is Alexis, a Jewish woman who’s trying to make her mark in politics and finds herself suddenly working as an advisor for the man who is aiming to be the Democratic presidential candidate for 2016. The books follows a structure of cycling between the four main characters’ points of view for each chapter.

The diverse cast goes nicely with the book’s theme of academic competition, something that people from all backgrounds find themselves entangled in. The story also tackles issues like race, sexuality and the “boys-club mentality” in politics with a deft hand.

The writing is fun and snappy.  There are some stilted lines, but for the most part the dialogue and character interactions feel authentic. The author does a decent job writing teenagers in all their openly self-absorbed and impulsive glory. The writing style is breezy and all the characters had distinct voices and developed as people.

There are some unfortunate stereotypes in the book, such as the academically driven young Asian woman and a gay boy who enjoys saying the word “fabulous”. The author’s viewpoint that the current generation was apathetic and self-absorbed came off as a little preachy on occasion as well.

However, the book holds together well overall as a simple and solid story that explores the academic ambition of young people. It’s recommended as a character driven novel that’s both an easy read and an interesting examination of academic competition.




And that’s all there is to it, isn’t there? Usagi is shocked Chibs could still think she’s nuisance to Usagi after the HUGE “EVERYONE LOVES YOU DEARLY” musical number Usagi gave.

But that might be part of it really, since Black Lady causes a lot of pain for everyone Chibs may wonder if that made her even more of a problem.

But Usagi doesn’t care about that. Usagi understands. 

And Usagi doesn’t think about Chibs as a nuisance now, perhaps she never did deep down (I mentioned before that her own deeply buried affection for Chibs may have led her to be even more fearful everyone would love Chibs more). Chibs bugs the shit out of her sometimes, sure, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy her being around at the same time. (See: Rei). She wouldn’t have it any other way. In its own way, even their bickering has become affectionate and fun. 

Finally, Chibiusa gets what she truly needed: the assurance she needs that Usagi doesn’t consider her a burden, that Usagi wants her around, that she’s important. Usagi tells her what she needs to hear. as loudly and clearly as she can. No miscommunication now.. Only love.


For additional heartbreaking- Chibs immediately apologizing when Usagi lashes out even though she probably doesn’t know what she’s apologizing for, she’s still insecure enough that she feels she probably did something wrong.

And then we find out Usagi’s snappiness here comes from being angry at Chibs for leaving. YOU COME HERE, YOU MAKE ME LOVE YOU, AND THEN YOU LEAVE? HOW DARE. 

If there’s one thing Usagi is bad at handling, it’s the idea of people leaving her, as we’ve seen repeatedly through this play. But what a twist- while before her heart was aching about the possibility of people leaving her BECAUSE of Chibiusa, now she can’t handle the thought of Chibiusa leaving. Chibiusa is now an essential part of her life, and her leaving is as painful and unthinkable as Mamoru, the girls, anyone leaving. 

Usagi is childish, but her love is boundless- she loves her people so dearly that her despair at the thought of parting from them leads her to boil over. It was the cause of her problems with Chibiusa, but now it’s become the reason Chibiusa’s parting is a dagger. 


So they’re sitting together and Usagi asks if she’s really going back and when Chibs says she is Usagi responds in a kind of dejected voice and Chibs seizes on that and is like “HAHA YER GONNA MISS ME!!!!” and Usagi’s response is “NO I’M NOT” and she stomps away, trying not to make eye contact with Chibs because she just can’t take it, BUT CHIBS IS GOING AFTER HER ON THIS,

So of couse they end up getting into a “WILL! WILL NOT!” bickering match because it’s them. Usagi, is of course, on an eight year old’s emotional level., But Usagi is getting so worked up over having to deal with this painful departure, OVERWHELMED WITH FEELING, that she once again deliberately breaks eye contact with Chibs and OVERSTATES TO THE MILLIONTH POWER HOW MUCH SHE WILL DEFINITELY NOT MISS CHIBIUSA!!!!

Chibs takes it to heart. She wasn’t just bickering to get a rise out of Usagi, she really wanted to hear that she would be missed. She and Usagi have worked through some things, but some part of Chibs still fears Usagi really hates her. 

But of course, Usagi was just denying in a vain attempt to fend off THE WAVE OF PAIN Chibs leaving is causing her. She was trying not to acknowledge how much she will miss Chibs because it feels like it’s going to rip her apart. The fact that Chibs doesn’t see this and accepts her denial as truth actually makes her angry. “WHAT DO YOU KNOW. YOU CLEARLY STILL DON’T EVEN KNOW ME IF “WILL YOU MISS ME” IS EVEN A QUESTION FOR YOU”.

Chibs did this at the beginning of the play too, but it’s the cutest thing istg. She  PRETENDS SHE’S TALKING INTO A FAKE MICROPHONE when she says “Shall we do it over” in a deep and formal voice, and then POINTS THE FAKE MICROPHONE AT USAGI LIKE SHE’S INTERVIEWING HER.

I imagined this is used as a bookend for the beginning and end of the play to show us that however things change, Chibs will never stop being a little shit. GOOD. SHE’S A DELIGHT when she teases Usagi affectionately like this. They overdid it in the old anime, but I think this musical balances it pretty well.

Mmmmm it’s so hard to reconcile Neo Queen Serenity with Usagi here. She’s so softspoken here, which is not something I can ever imagine Usagi becoming. 

Also the way she’s talking makes me wonder about NQS stepping back and letting this thing with Chibs play out because she knew it was the only way Chibs would transform and the only way the timeline would be correct…but that’s horrible obviously, and not something I can ever see Usagi doing, even a thousand years later. But it’s just something that popped up as a thought- not something I think actually happened.

In Sailor Moon, there are sort of multiple timelines going on- it isn’t an infinite loop immutable thing. We see that Chibiusa can blink out of existence, that history has a chance of being rewritten. The Black Moon definitely fucked around with history. And it does make me have a lot of weird time travel thoughts. Maybe NQS seems weird here because this IS a different timeline than what she’ll actually be, this is a timeline where things got screwed up a little.

But the Black Moon’s gone and Usagi now knows what to expect for her future and her future daughter and what she’ll be struggling with. Wouldn’t that mean Usagi’s actions would be different? Is is possible that once Chibiusa returns to the past to say goodbye, this future will shift a little too? NQS will be able to retain a little more of her Usaginess, be able to help Chibiusa cope a little more…which is why later we have Chibs delivering that silly, doodly letter that shows NQS isn’t that different from Usagi.

But then there’s the fact all these events definitely had to happen…I dunno, time travel stuff is weird, I can’t make sense of this. Jet Wolf is better at this stuff than I am, we’ll see what she thinks when she gets to this part.

Getting past all that, I do feel this is another scene that’s a bit weaker in comparison with the manga, because if we don’t see NQS hug and cry over Chibiusa it doesn’t sell her love as much. 

But there’s a lot of themes that resonate through this- the theme of how growing up is painful but necessary and how it’s about taking responsibility. NQS knowing to a degree how it felt for Chibs because she went through a similar thing. And then we have NQS echoing what Pluto said to Chibiusa. “My one and only princess”. This shows the audience that like Pluto, NQS loved Chibs all along and considers her irreplaceable. Her and Setsuna’s feelings about Chibs are similar, even if Chibs didn’t realize that.