A 30-something's lovingly sarcastic journey through all of Sweet Valley High, and then some (with lots of swears)

#50 Out of Reach

Aw, a purple fake turtleneck. How cute.

Choo choooooo! All aboard the Liz Wakefield meddle train! We’re leaving the station to take a trip into some hapless soul’s life with fucking matching barrette girl here. On the left is Jade Wu, who looks totally grossed out that Liz is touching her bare shoulders, which are probably sweaty from dancing, judging by that towel. Seriously, look at her expression! She’s like, “Um, can someone come get this uppity twat off me?” And you can see that this cover has a shiny gold seal on it proudly proclaiming that it’s the 5th anniversary of the series. And they had to make this that special commemorative 50th story? Couldn’t they send the Wakefields on a cruise? (And throw Liz overboard? Just a suggestion.)

Jade Wu is somebody who no one, including the other characters in this book, have ever heard of before. That’s probably because she’s a) a sophomore, and we all know the junior class runs this town, and b) Chinese, and minorities only seem to be allowed to star in the story when their minority status is convenient to the plot. It’s not funny, but it is true! Okay, well, to be fair, she’s also fairly new in school, having just moved from San Francisco to Sweet Valley six months ago … however long six months really is in Sweet Valley time.

So let’s talk about what we learned at the end of the last book. Sweet Valley is throwing a special music and dance talent show of some kind to raise money for new dance class electives. We’ve been told all along that Jessica Wakefield is the most fabulous dancer this side of Danielle Alexander, so you think she’d try out, but it’s explained that Jess is too busy with PBA and A.J. Morgan’s drawers. How convenient. Good thing we have Liz and the Eyes and Ears column, with an item about how “J.W.” might try out for the competition. Liz put this in there with just a flippant mention from Olivia that Jade is a great dancer. She doesn’t even known who Jade is, but she’s just going to go ahead and write that like Jade is definitely trying out. And she thinks her column has so much integrity. What’s really funny is that no one sees “J.W.” and thinks that must mean Jess. They’re all, “Nah.”

Since Jess isn’t going to try out for the talent show, we have skanky old Amy giving it a go, like she did with Regina’s boyfriend. Not only is Amy annoying, but she can’t dance either. Lila is only too happy to point out that Amy should just give up now because Jade is clearly going to win it. Amy starts pouting and whines that Jade is Chinese and this is somehow supposed to disqualify her. Amy fucking sucks: “But she’s Chinese! She doesn’t look right for the part. The soloist for the finale should be blond, all-American-like me.” I think the Sweet Valley ghostwriter’s bible specifically instructed them to make us hate Amy as much as possible. It’s working. Lila reminds Amy that Jade is in fact American and tells Amy to try out for the chorus line. Wow, Lila is scoring major points with me lately. I’ll forgive that whole dumb slam book plot of hers. Soon after this wonderful conversation, Liz finds out that she has been asked by Ms. Bellasario, the dance teacher, to be the student producer of the show since Maria Santelli is now out with the flu. Liz is genuinely shocked that she would be asked to lead this talent show even though she also did the last one … and everything else requiring a lead role. Fuck, Liz probably deliberately gave Maria the flu in a plot to steal the position from her. “No one will run this school but a Wakefield!” she cried as she surreptitiously paid some little frosh to sneeze on Maria’s lunch tray.

As it turns out, Liz’s dumbass column was all it took to get Jade to consider entering the competition. So that’s Liz’s first pat on the back for this book. There’s just one problem: Jade’s father, whom we’re told is strict and traditional, is not having it. He won’t let Jade do anything that she wouldn’t be able to do back in China. Jade is very annoyed and bitches to her best friend, another sophomore named Melanie Forman, about it. Melanie thinks Jade’s parents are pretty cool because they have so many fascinating stories about life in China. Jade doesn’t even known those stories because she wants to blend in and be as “American” as possible. Jade goes out of her way to deny that there’s anything Chinese about her family, even though Dr. and Mrs. Wu are very proud of their heritage and culture. When Mr. Jaworski the history teacher asks Jade for personal insight into modern Chinese-American culture, Jade makes a snotty remark about how her parents don’t own a laundry or anything and embarrasses him. Awww, poor Mr. Jaworski.

Jade goes on to easily win the lead solo part in the dance competition. Her dance instructor Eve really wants her to go for it, as does her mother, but the decision ultimately lies with her dad. Mrs. Wu promises to work on getting his permission for Jade. In the meantime, Jade has to keep her rehearsals a secret. But that’s not the only thing she has to hide. Dr. Wu won’t let Jade date anyone who’s not Chinese, so that causes a problem when Jade falls hard for David Prentiss, a kid in her history class. He’s poor, so I don’t have to tell you that in Sweet Valley that means he has a single mom. And, he also works an after-school job to help make ends meet, since the only kids in this series who work after school are the dirt poor ones. I guess you could say David is the new Roger Barrett, but I do really like David. He’s not ashamed of his family or his work the way Roger was. He’s a little pushy about asking Jade for a date, but that’s only because it’s obvious Jade likes him and he can’t figure out why she keeps making lame excuses about having to study. Eventually, David decides Jade just doesn’t want to be with him because he’s poor. Jade is upset when he confronts her with this; to show him he’s wrong, she tells him what she considers her biggest secret: her grandparents, the Sungs, do in fact run a laundry business in town. She thinks it’s too stereotypical and is therefore mortifying. David doesn’t get what the big deal is and decides this just proves that Jade is a snob. He has no idea about the rules her father has imposed on her. But he does realize that it is pretty shitty of Jade to try to hide her grandparents from everyone when it’s their business’s money that’s paying for her private dance lessons.

The pair stay friends, but there’s awkwardness between them. Things get way worse when Amy Sutton imposes her skankiness on them. Amy is already getting pissed off about having to be a chorus line girl and making scathing remarks to Jade. Then Amy and her mom make a trip to the dry-cleaner’s and meet Mrs. Sung who proudly tells them that she is Jade’s grandmother. Amy and Lila, of course, think it’s hilarious that there is indeed a dry cleaning business in Jade’s family and run around telling everyone. (You lost a point, Lila.) Jade is humiliated and yells at David for telling the secret, which of course he never did. David is so offended and hurt that he runs into the auditorium and tears down the giant backdrop he made of Jade for the show in front of everyone.

Jade, with the help of her mom and Elizabeth (but mostly her mom – thank god), sees the light and realizes she shouldn’t be ashamed of her family but proud of them. She decides she wants to learn more about her family history. Dr. Wu gives his blessing for her to dance in the show, but says he isn’t going to come out and watch. Jade is so miserable about David that she doesn’t care one way or the other; he won’t even talk to her. So of course the Pride of the Valley (Liz) butts in and tells David he needs to quit pouting and understand it from Jade’s side. David realizes he never even though that maybe Jade’s family doesn’t want her to date and feels stupid. Way to stick it to him, Liz. Well, the night of the show arrives, Dr. Wu shows up after all, David replaces the backdrop with a better one, Jade dances her best, the crowd goes apeshit, and Dr. Wu tells Jade he is proud of her. Then David decides to ask Dr. and Mrs. Wu personally if he can date Jade; they’re impressed and say yes. Dr. Wu gives Jade his blessing to make her own decisions because he has learned that “these people” aren’t so bad after all and that some actually have good values. Good thing Jade didn’t decide to date Bruce Patman. Everything is wrapped up just so nicely, because this is Sweet Valley. BUT THEN…

Then, a big pompous fool representing some dance internship conservator lady comes over and tells Jade he is going to have her sponsored by the lady to join a prestigious summer dance company or some shit. Everyone whoops and hollers and congratulates Jade. But then pompous fool man tells Jade he doesn’t want her to use her real last name Wu because the conservator won’t like it if she sees she’s to grant the dance company role to someone who’s “ethnic.” He wants her to use the last name Warren instead. Jade tells him that warrants a kick in the ass! Ha ha, get it? WARREN? WARRANT? HA HAAAAAAAAAAAoh god … these books are making me lose my head.

Everyone is proud of Jade for standing up for the family name for a change. Eve says she knows of another dance company that she could probably get Jade a role in, so not to worry about Stuffy McStufferson and his stupid name change offer. And then David and Jade go to Guido’s with the rest of the talent show crew, eat pizza and joke around, and kiss. I like them. A lot.

The sub-plot is the worst one we’ve had in some time. Mr. Wakefield is having a mid-life crisis. Haha, that’s all I have to say, isn’t it? …

Welllll, the only way that could be interesting is if he went out and bought a flashy new Porsche Boxster and then drove around town banging hot young paralegals. Instead, he sits around moping that life isn’t fun enough. Now we know where Steven gets his bullshit from. The twins decide the best cure is to take him out to the Beach Disco and whatnot so he can realize that a life of loud music and wiggling underage cockteases is not for him. It definitely makes for an awkward evening. All the twins’ friends get in on the plot and I can’t believe a bunch of high schoolers really want to get that involved in someone’s dad’s life. I mean, picture yourself at 16, then ask yourself how YOU would react if one of your friends was like, “Oh yeah, I’m totally bringing my dad to the rock club tonight so make sure you dance suggestively around him and make him feel weird, okay?” (By the way, Amy has no problem dancing suggestively around Mr. Wakefield. What a surprise!)

WTF: Mr. Wakefield wears an insane purple tie with paint swirls on it in an attempt to feel young again.

A heavy metal band called The Razors plays at the Beach Disco. That’s funny. This book was published in November 1988 and heavy metal saturated MTV, so I guess Francine wanted to keep up with the times. (Of course, if she really did she’d get rid of the name “Beach Disco” right?)

The Beach Disco is described as having lots of cigarette smoke in the air … wow, never thought I’d see that casual of a mention in this book of such a thing at a teen hangout.

Random characters of the day: Kevin Johnson: Jade sits behind him in history class. Betsy Weiss: another sophomore who is also a dancer in the show. And holy crap, two other random seniors I thought we’d never hear from again return in this book.

I know I mentioned Danielle Alexander, but she’s not actually in this book. Strange since she’s supposed to be a professional dancer and all.

I’m starting to get very irked by how every book mentions that it’s Jessica and Elizabeth’s job to make dinner because Mrs. Wakefield works long hours. Yes, because MISTER Wakefield shouldn’t have to cook anything? Seriously, WTF? Meanwhile, we have Jade’s family presented as an anomaly because Jade and Mrs. Wu are supposed to be the ones fixing dinner every night for Dr. Wu. This is supposed to be a Chinese-only trait.

Guess what? Jade wishes she could be more like Jessica and Elizabeth. Those are the girls she really admires and looks up to. I know, right? I can’t believe it. Someone thinks if they could just be like the twins, life would be perfect. I’m so shocked, also.

I did kinda like this book. I was surprised. Jade is one of the first secondary characters that’s been introduced in a while that I really do like. The book wasn’t fabulous, but it wasn’t horrible either. I know I’m speaking from white girl perspective here, but I thought we did get some good insight into what it’s like to feel trapped between two cultures. And while I ripped Liz a new one on the cover, in truth, she’s not in this book nearly as much as you might think she is. Jade confides in Melanie and David way more than Liz, which is refreshing. Hear that Liz? She didn’t need your listening ear, biatch!

Coming up next: Nicholas Morrow has fallen for some weird chick in our third Super Thriller! Woooo.

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Comments on: "#50 Out of Reach" (7)

  1. I had to edit this to add a WTF about the Wakefield girls being the ones who are expected to make dinner, while this is strange for the Wus. Honestly, the fact that Ned never has to help out has been bothering me for a long time, so this just made it worse!!!

  2. In book 65, he does – but am sure you’ll comment on why he is forced to do so 🙂

    This book does show Francine’s efforts at diversity. And what a Chinese name – Jade. I hated Amy to bits here!

    • Amy SUCKS at LIFE. I wanted to reach through the page and smack her after she made the comments about how “all-American” she was and how that meant she should get the part over a Chinese person. Guh!

  3. My favorite scene has to be when Amy’s doing so badly at the audition.

    I can’t wait for your recap and commentary of the Nick Morrow book as I have not read that.

    • Yeah, that book is worse than I remembered. I guess most of them are, haha. I just feel like the Super Thrillers are too weird and out of place. I can’t believe I’m saying that when I know there are werewolves or something coming, but I am!

  4. pibetaalpha said:

    I never understood how Amy could be so callous and tacky and cruel YET POPULAR at the same time! She’s not like Lila, who has dashes of awesomeness in her edginess.

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