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All it Takes is You and Me and a Song: Analyzing Alyssa Greene from The Prom
Alyssa Greene is a side character in the novel The Prom by Saundra Mitchell. Alyssa is the main character’s, Emma, love interest, and the daughter of the antagonist, Elena Lannister-Greene. Alyssa is described by Mitchell as being “her high school’s “it” girl: popular, head of the student council, and daughter of the PTA president.” Alyssa is also dating the only out lesbian in her high school and closeted. Throughout the novel, Alyssa has to fight Elena canceling the prom.
Alyssa explains in Chapter 2 that her mom has “belief sparkling in her eyes; she’s a transformer hit by lightning.” (Mitchell, 2019, 10) In Alyssa’s eyes, this means that she has to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect person. Alyssa says in chapter 20, after she and Emma Nolan break up:
“I have done nothing but achieve, jump through hoops, and put on smiles. And it’s not enough. The blue ribbons and first-place trophies, my extracurriculars and my Sunday school class- I have done every single thing my mother wanted… for nothing. Because she’s never going to stop wanting me to be perfect Alyssa Greene, and I’m never actually going to be her. Never.” (Mitchell, 2019, 152)
In the stage version of The Prom, Alyssa sings to Emma:
“And you wish there was a world where you were simply free to live/And when people criticized you you had no more s***s to give/and in this other lifetime when you tell yourself 'be brave'/you won't cave/that's the one thing I truly crave” (Genius contributor, 2017)
Her mom makes it clear that being the perfect daughter includes being the perfect, straight Christian. Alyssa and Elena argue in chapter 4 and chapter 10 about Emma signing up for the school prom with another girl- used to get a ticket without exposing Alyssa as being gay before prom- where Alyssa says, “Leaving gay people alone hurts nothing.” This shows that although Alyssa didn’t want to come out quite yet, she still was outspoken about LGBT equality.
Alyssa is also incredibly stubborn on not coming out, leading to her and Emma breaking up in chapter 20. Alyssa’s mom and her two ‘friends' - Kaylee Donovan and Shelby Gonzales- arranged a fake prom for Emma to keep the prom up and satisfy what they legally have to do. When Emma asks Alyssa if she was in on it, Alyssa was clear: no, she wasn’t. However, when Emma asks Alyssa to help tell the story of what happened, Alyssa is also clear when she thinks about her mom in the following example:
“I have a feeling the whole story is going to paint a huge target on my mother’s back. And I know she’s been a monster. But I also know I listened to her this morning, leaving a message for my father again. Telling him how much she misses him and how much I need him. Admitting that things here aren’t perfect and haven’t been perfect since he left.” (Mitchell, 2019, 151)
Alyssa shows here that she knows her mom has been horrible, and how her mom targets Emma is horrible, but she has sympathy for Elena, because she knows what happens behind the scenes of Elena Lannister-Greene.
The original casting call for Alyssa Greene in the stage version of The Prom says, in the casting call for Alyssa, that she's “a high school senior; tries desperately to fit in; a cheerleader; secretly Emma's girlfriend, but afraid to come out. She can be classically pretty. She’s afraid to stand up to her mother.” (Backstage contributors, 2017)
Alyssa comes out publicly in chapter 24. When she does so, she says to Elena:
“Mom, I love you. And I’m so grateful to you, for all you do for me. For all you’ve done for me since Dad left. And I know this is going to be another thing that’s hard on you. But, Mom, I’m gay. I’ve always been gay. And to answer the questions I know you want to ask, nobody did this to me. Nobody hurt me. You didn’t do anything wrong. This is who I am;I’m proud of who I am. You know everything about me, and it’s been so hard keeping this from you. Too hard. I can’t do it anymore. Mom, I’m gay. I’ve put this off for way too long. And I’ve hurt someone so precious to me, in a way I can’t expect her to ever forgive. I was Emma Nolan’s date to the prom, Mom. We were supposed to go together, and I let her down. I’m not confused. I’m in love.” (Mitchell, 2019, 181-182)
This is her coming out to Elena, debunking her future questions, and her answering Elena’s past questions: She was Emma’s real date to the prom, so that’s why she was so invested in her being allowed to go.
Alyssa Greene is an incredibly nuanced, complex character. Her style of talking, her few monologues, and the chapters Alyssa narrates, adds to creating a beautiful, well-rounded main character. She’s incredibly well written, both in print and on the stage.