About the Book
- Francine Pascal
Oh, man, you guys! IT’S SPRING BREAK!!!!!!!!!!!!! How psyched are you? I’m psyched cause Spring Break means it’s time for SXSmas, which means FREE BEER AND BANDS AND BEER AND SUNSHINE AND BEER.
To get in the spirit of South by, I’ve been in rigorous training this week, drinking ALL THE THINGS. Cause, see, South by is one big party from the time you wake up to the time you collapse onto your bed, spent, feet aching and ears ringing. And the only way to fuel that party is with free beer, something that exists in abundance at SXSW. But you can’t just mosey on up to Austin, thinking you can have 18 free beers in a day if you haven’t been doing some serious liver-killing exercises beforehand! You’ll end up falling asleep under a tree somewhere! You have to PRACTICE this stuff, you guys.
To that end, I practiced the only way I knew how . . . the Sweet Valley High drinking game. HAPPY SPRING BREAK, YOU GUYS! Also, read on to the end to learn exciting news about SWEET VALLEY CONFIDENTIAL!
The Official Sweet Valley High Drinking Game:
Take 1 drink anytime:
• the words “blonde,” “sun-streaked,” “blue-green eyes” or “perfect figure” are mentioned in relation to the Wakefield twins’ looks
• anyone goes to the beach, or talks about going to the beach
• Liz and Jess get to drive the Fiat
• Jess mentions the number “37” (you guys, seriously, she does this a lot)
• they mention Steve, the eldest Wakefield child
• Bruce Patman shows up
• Jessica flakes on chores, Elizabeth talks to herself, or Todd or Enid are lame
• “Eyes and Ears,” the gossip column that Elizabeth writes for The Oracle, the student newspaper, is mentioned
• the fucking matching lavaliers are mentioned
Sweet Valley High 46: Decisions
In which Former Fattie Robin Wilson can’t decide between a full ride at a top-tier university and a guy she’s been dating for like three weeks.
Number Of Drinks Taken: 31
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: page 3
Main Plot: Ugh. So. Former Fattie Robin Wilson has been given early admission to Sarah Lawrence. And her aunt, who is like this nouveau riche artsy asswipe who probably does shit about, like, consumerism and dildos or whatever, has offered to pay for the full ride, because she wants her niece to become a really well-educated lesbian who then gets affronted when people make fun of her alma mater and leave comments on blogs that say things like, “Not ALL students at Sarah Lawrence are lesbians, you know. It’s not like we’refrom Smith,” even though obvs calling Sarah Lawrence alumni “lesbians” is a compliment and also, none of us State-educated people care about your petty Liberal Arts rivalries, Yankees. Unless Football is involved, we just can’t wrap our heads around it.
Anyway. So Robin is all conflicted about the fact that she has the opportunity to graduate from an amazing four-year university debt-free, because of the fact that her boyfriend, George Warren Who Used To Smoke Pot With Enid And Almost Killed A Kid, has been getting pretty close to her vagina with his penis and she thinks if she sticks with him, he may actually figure out where her vagina is one of these days. I mean, he’s worked himself up to sticking his fleshy member between her knees, which is pretty good for high school cause I hear you can make babies that way.
Also standing in the way of Robin’s premiere education at a top-tier school is how much she enjoys diving, which is an activity that you can only do in California. Swimming pools do not exist anywhere else. It is very difficult for the Summer Olympics planners, actually; they have to build a giant swimming pool in California and film all the diving events there, but populate the crowd with people waving Australia flags or chanting soccer songs or whatever. Luckily there are a lot of out-of-work extras in Hollywood, so the whole thing only costs about 50 dollars per day and some sandwiches.
Robin is super conflicted about all of it and George is mad that she is even considering abandoning his knobby-kneed-penis trick, and it’s all so upsetting that Robin nearly turns to carbs to deal with the pressure, but Annie Whitman talks her out of that. Then Robin dives and wins and tells everyone she’s just going to think about it some more. And because the site of Former Fattie Robin Wilson in a Speedo tank suit is so overwhelming, everyone agrees with her wisdom, even the bitchtastical aunt who then goes back East to start a new series called “My Niece/My Nice/My Ninny.” It’s about her vagina and also cutouts from Oprah’s magazine, or something; I don’t know. I was educated by the State of Texas.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: So Jessica has decided to earn some money in order to buy fashions at Lisettes and/or fund a Peruvian drug cabal, so she gets a typical Sweet Valley job; i.e. a job which seems to require no actual work. In this job she has to “babysit” a little girl, but really what she’s doing is keeping a kid out of her older brother’s hair while he finishes some sort of symphony. Jessica, of course, falls for the older brother, whose name is Alex.
In order to impress the swarthy, studly Alex, Jessica decides to learn how to play the recorder, which is the second lamest musical instrument known to man. I’m sorry for all the recorder-loving fans out there who I am offending, but honestly, look at your life. Look at your choices. No one ever got a groupie to go down on them in a disgusting public restroom by playing the recorder, okay? Is all I’m saying.
Jessica is horrible at the recorder, because Jessica is not allowed to ever triumph in life. Not ever. Not ever, because if she did, then the Francine Pascal Cabal would be admitting that sometimes being a bad girl is cool, and if they did that, more people might decide that they are bad girls, and if there are more bad girls in the world, then Marie Claire’s Rich Santos) wouldn’t have anyone around to praise him when he fucked their knees while trying to find out where their vagina was.
Elizabeth, of course, is naturally good at the recorder, because A) it’s totally logical that two people who share identical genetic code have different natural talents and B) it’s Elizabeth, and she shits little gold nuggets after breakfast. Little gold nuggets from which she probably fashions a stand for her recorder sheet music.
Liz gets all uppity and shizz about”stealing Jessica’s thunder”* when she isn’t busy meddling in Former Fattie Robin Wilson’s shizz, but then Jessica finds out about the recorder and all is well.
*Liz likes to do that thing that people do, where they freak out and feel guilty about perceived insults toward someone else. Like, maybe they kiss a guy that they think the other person might possibly like (even if the other person hasn’t said anything about it), or maybe they casually flirt with a girl, or maybe they read someone’s book and then give it a kind-of negative review, and it’s, like, this HUGE DEAL, because they can’t believe they’ve just WRONGED someone else in such a way. Except, of course, the someone else isn’t wronged – the someone else probably doesn’t even notice – and all the guilt is really just a way to make a person feel more important than they fucking are. One time in college there was this guy I knew who was friends with a roommate of mine, and he was around a lot and so he saw me in my natural at-home state (pajamas, AT BEST. Usually a robe, and only then as a credit to the fact that other people are around who probably don’t want to see me walk around in a bra and panties all day.) and anyway I guess he thought that meant I wanted to make tender monkey love to him, or whatever. So he very gently sat me down one day and explained to me – much the way you would to a child who you were sending off on a rocketship to Mars – that while I was a very nice girl, he wasn’t interested in me that way. And oh, his little face, so guilt-stricken at the thought of baring this bad news. And all I could think during this time was “What’s this guy’s name again? Is it . . . Scott? Sam? No. No, definitely Scott, right? Or maybe Sean? Fuck. Maybe it’s written on his shirt somewhere. Or, oh, maybe his backback. Yep, if I just tilt my head a little and look down, I can see his 3-subject Mead notebook on which he has written his name, because he’s kind of a choad, and . . . yeah. Scott. Okay, cool, Scott. Now, what’s he talking about?” Anyway, I guess he was super sad about breaking my heart, or whatever, cause a few weeks later he emailed me and apologized for the way he acted and wondered if I’d go out with him, and that was super helpful because by then I’d forgotten his name again.
Anyway. Liz is one of those people.
Improbable High School Moment: Seriously, Former Fattie Robin Wilson? Seriously? You want to turn down a PAID RIDE TO A PRIVATE UNIVERSITY so that you can fuck your boyfriend and do triple back flips in a pool? ARE YOU CRAZY? Let me tell you something, Former Fattie Robin Wilson, as someone who has been to school and also had a high school boyfriend and a sport to which she was dedicated: 1) You are going to dump your boyfriend within two months of getting to ANY college. Shh, shh. I know. You think it can’t possibly happen to you and George Warren who cheated on his girlfriend to be with you. But it will. It will, and you will grieve for maybe like A DAY and then you will go to a party and drink trashcan punch and have an ill-advised hookup with some guy named Tom (it’s almost always a Tom. Sometimes a Blaine. Depends on where you go to school, I guess.), and Tom/Blaine will probably actually end up being your best college friend and come out of the closet sophomore year, but WHATEVER, the point is, someone’s tongue will be in your mouth and you will like it and realize you’re over your high schoolboyfriend, and also 2) you aren’t going to keep up with diving, because you are going to discover either booze or pot. Or sometimes soap operas. It depends on the school, I guess.
Most Offensive Portion: So at one point Former Fattie Robin Wilson ends up thinking that Annie Whitman is after George, for reasons no one really can understand. But then they make up, and Robin reflects on how much she admires Annie because, AND I QUOTE, “Annie [is] always so easygoing and light-hearted.” To which I responded in bold, Sharpie-pen letters across the entire page: “YES. EXCEPT FOR THE TIME WHEN SHE TRIED TO KILL HERSELF.”
I mean, BASIC CONTINUITY, people. That’s all I ask for. That’s all I want. If I can remember when Annie tried to kill herself, even though I have become 80% alcohol since reading that book, I’m pretty sure that THE PEOPLE PAID TO WRITE THIS SHIZZ can remember it. Seriously, you guys, do I have to come up with a flow chart or something?
Sweet Valley High 47: Troublemaker
in which Julie Porter’s neighbor Josh rushes the lamest fraternity ever
Number Of Drinks Taken: 28
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: page 3
Main Plot: Julie Porter is the younger sister of Johanna Porter, who you may remember from a few books ago had dropped out of school and then returned to school and then Peter DeHavin was an utter douchecanoe to her but it all turned out okay, the end. Anyway I guess now it’s Julie’s turn to star in an inconsequential book that no one will remember reading a year from now.
Julie Porter has her knickers in a twist over none other than my hero, Bruce Patman, which is totes understandable, because I’m pretty sure Bruce Patman is the greatest character ever written. Julie would like to match her precious lady bits up to Bruce’s un-manscaped genitalia, but everyone else is telling her that it’s not a good idea.
Meanwhile and also, Josh, who is Julie Porter’s neighbor, is busy rushing the Improbable Sweet Valley High Fraternity, Phi Epsilon. Typical rushing tasks involve things like pledges eating ice cream and cleaning up for a party. Very scandalous stuff. Elizabeth, because she is a meddler, is concerned that the frat pledges aren’t being treated well by Bruce, and also that Bruce is only pretending to be interested in Julie in order to play some mean trick on her. She’s right, of course, because Liz is always right. Always, always. Let’s all be Liz.
Then there is a party, because it’s Sweet Valley, and there is a party every 1.4 minutes, and Bruce sets it up so that Julie kisses Josh, thinking it’s Bruce. Julie gets embarassed and runs out and then later gets mad at Josh for staying in the fraternity and . . . honestly, this fucking book is SO BORING that I’ve lost the will to type.
Anyway, due mostly to Liz’s meddling, Josh and Julie make up, the end.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: Jessica has decided to try out for the part of Essie in the school production of You Can’t Take It With You. Only, of course, Jessica hasn’t really bothered to read the play, so all she knows is that Essie does ballet. Thus, Jessica throws herself into a frenzy by practicing ballet again, but she’s frustrated because she isn’t good as she once was. You can interpret this plot development one of two ways: 1) ballet isn’t something you can just put down and pick up again at will, which I happen to know from a disasterous attempt to go back en pointe a few years ago, or 2) Jessica’s not ever allowed to be gifted at anything, ever. The Cabal realized they made a mistake back in the Sweet Valley Twins’ book, Teacher’s Pet, and are now doing their best to correct it. YOU BE THE JUDGE!
Anyway, Jessica tries out for the play but flubs her dance moves. The director, of course, thinks she’s an acting genius and casts her as Essie and everybody wins, hooray. How can a book with Bruce Patman in it be so boring?
Improbable High School Moment: Really, Improbable High School Fraternity? Making your pledges eat ICE CREAM? Really? I mean, I’m not a proponent of hazing, except for in the case of whoever wrote that douchecanoe-y Kappa Sigma “cocksman” email (P.S. Hey, dudebro, I know it’s, like, hard to understand this shizz cause, like, man, you are so baked, but when you say, and I quote, “Non-consent and rape are two different things,” I just want to mansplain to you, in small words so you’ll understand, NO THEY ARE NOT.), but ICE CREAM? You couldn’t paddle them or make them elephant walk or at least make them grow out their facial hair for a month? ICE CREAM?
The frat across the street from where I lived in college would have a big swimming party every year during Pledging. Only, they didn’t have a pool. So every year, the pledges would dig a six-feet deep, giant hole in the yard of the frat house, line it with plastic, and fill it up for the party. Then, the night the party was over, the pledges would fill the hole back in and re-sod the ground. That’s the sort of bonding pledge activity one can get behind – dirty, ridiculous, ultimately stupid, but the kind of thing you tell your grandkids about in a, “Can you believe what a dumbass I was when I was a kid?” sort of tone.
That said, I hated that frat, and their stupid pool parties were always loud and filled with the high-pitched shrieks of the soon-to-be-roofied sorority girls, and in an effort to strike back at them, we built a giant slingshot on our rooftop deck and launched watermelons or pumpkins (depending on the semester) across the street and into their yard. Then one year as payback, the frat got their girlfriends in Tri Delt to pee in our stairwell during a party. So in retaliation we stole their sorority flag and wrote the words “Rack Room Hoes” (a bit of an inside joke at the time) in bleach in their grass, the week before Parents’ Weekend. So by the time their parents all got there, they saw our handywork displayed proudly across the lawn. Sort of screwed up their outside tea party plan.
Most Offensive Portion: Right. So. While Jessica is busy practicing ballet and “getting into shape,” she decides to only eat carrot sticks and water, in order to look long and lean like a ballerina. No one fucking minds this, at all. Her parents don’t even notice. And, what’s worse, is that no one gives her an Academy Award for losing a bunch of weight and then talking about all the weight she’s lost! How rude!
Sweet Valley High 48: Slam Book Fever
In which Erin decided we are TOTES starting a slam book for this site, y’all.
Number Of Drinks Taken: 22. I was surprised by this. I thought there were more. I felt drunk when I was reading it. SLAM BOOK FEVER Y’ALL!
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: page 7
Main Plot: So Amy Sutton starts telling everyone at school about how “back East,” they had these little things called Slam Books, which you know and I know are the greatest things ever invented. SLAM BOOKS! The only thing worse than being listed under a negative category is not being listed under a category at all. Everyone gets in on the SLAM BOOK FEVER (drink!), except for Liz and Enid, of course, because they are actively unpleasant at all times.
Mean-to-the-while, Olivia Davidson has finally started taking the first steps on her eventual path to coming out as a lesbian in college (well, were she not to be tragically dying from an earthquake next year) by breaking up with Roger Patman and starting a literary magazine. Way to go, Liv! Liv starts crying about her feelings a lot and exorcises this emotion by writing emo poetry and talking about art in a wistful tone. Somewhere, in 1989, a younger Tori Amos is reading this book and thinking to herself, “I want to write songs that Olivia will want to hear.”
Olivia starts hanging out with J French a lot, cause J French is contributing to the lit magazine. Liz starts to think that J French is contributing something else to Olivia as well. And by something else, I obviously mean jizz. Then when Olivia and J French’s names start showing up as “Couple of the Future” in everyone’s slam books, Liz gets totes butthurt. She starts flirting with new student AJ (more on that in a minute), which pisses Jessica off.
So Jessica and Olivia team up to figure out who keeps spreading this Olivia + J French = Love equation, and there’s some nonsense Nancy Drewing about how the person who started the rumor wouldn’t have that entry in their own Slam Book and it turns out it was Lila and everyone makes up, the end.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: AJ has moved to town! AJ is this redhead from Atlanta who everyone is totally immediately in love with, which totally makes sense, because I know from my learnings that the tall, slightly gawky, Southern REDHEAD is alwaysthe most popular guy at school. I mean, what?
Jessica’s loins have never felt so tingly before, and as a result, she’s all shy and bashful around AJ. She just stares at his feet and keeps her mouth shut and lets AJ talk about everything.
It turns out, AJ, because he is from the South, loves quiet, shy girls who don’t have much to say. This book is reason #7452 why I can tell that no members of the Francine Pascal Cabal have ever been to the South or known anyone from the South, cause, WHAT? If there is any place in the world where women are not quiet and shy, it’s the South. We’re loud and bossy and occassionally obsessed with hair extensions. Just watch Toddlers and Tiaras; you’ll see.
So then AJ and Jessica get together even though he has no idea what she’s actually like. Ain’t love grand?
Improbable High School Moment: MAN. You guys had to wait for Amy Fucking Sutton to explain Slam Books to you? AMY SUTTON? You’re from California! It’s the 80s! You guys should have already moved on from Slam Books to Fuck Lists by now!
Also, as per uhze, all of the categories in the Sweet Valley slam books are totally lame, because the writers of SVH like to pretend that Sweet Valley is an idyllic town, even though obvs crazy-ass shit happens there all the time. Why isn’t one of the Slam Book categories something like “Most Likely to Die From Trying Cocaine JUST ONCE?” Then everyone can put Regina’s name down and there’s no arguing!
Most Offensive Portion: As a person from the South, I am offended that our good region has been sullied by the likes of AJ Morgan, who is Choadsville Extreme. We don’t all like shy, quiet people without personalities, you know. And, I mean, not only has he sullied the good name of the South (the parts not already sullied by, you know, history class and/or OP ED pieces in the local newspaper), but he has also sullied the good name of the Redhead. AJ Morgan, if I go off of ginger-bearded lumberjacks because of you, I am going to be pissed.
Sweet Valley High 49: Playing for Keeps
In which Jessica completely subverts her personality in order to get a guy. Hooray!
Number Of Drinks Taken: 32
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: page 4
Main Plot: Oh, Jessica.
Jessica has been dating AJ Morgan, the douchetastical redhead from the last book, but she is convinced he won’t like her if she’s her actual self – fun, frivolous, scheming, etc. So she does a 180 and becomes quiet and weak and has no opinions. Hilariously, she bases this New Improved Jessica on Liz’s personality, which caused me a good long laugh. So thanks for that, boo.
At some point while AJ and Jessica are walking along the beach (drink!), AJ rescues a girl named Pamela from drowning. Except it quite quickly becomes clear that Pamela’s a schemer, so I guess she faked the drowning part? But then how did she know that AJ would come out and save her, and not, like, some old dude with ear hair? I don’t really get how her brain works.
Anyway, soon Pamela is scheming to take away Jessica’s man. And AJ totally falls for all of it, because AJ is incredibly, incredibly dumb. Southerners: have red hair, hate opinions, are dumb. Good to know. Also, AJ wants a girl who’s shy and quiet, but not too shy and quiet, you know? And a girl who’s pretty, but who doesn’t care about her appearance. And a girl who always looks impeccable, but only takes five minutes to get ready. And a girl who cares about the issues, but only for like 20 minutes a day, hopefully while AJ is in class or pooping or something. And a girl who is kind of devious but not a liar or a fake or smarter than him or stronger than him.
If you’re that kind of girl, look up AJ Morgan! He’s a real prize, and in no way will you be dating down!
So anyway, then there’s an Improbable Fashion Show at Lisettes, of which the winner will receive a personally-designed wardrobe from a top designer, because that’s totally something that happens in small quiet towns or, in fact, anywhere. Jessica and Pamela both enter, and Pamela tries to sabotage all of Jessica’s outfits, but Jessica of course works it out, cause Jessica is a BAMF and Pamela’s just a shit-eating little girl. Jessica Wakefield is an Anne-with-an-E. Pamela is a Josie Pye. Josie Pyes never triumph; it is just the way the world works.
So then I guess AJ is wowed by the full force of Jessica’s personality and decides she’s interesting enough to date after all. Well, don’t put yourself out or anything, AJ, it’s not like she’s 137% better than you in every way.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: There isn’t one. This is the entire plot of the book. Let’s use this space to talk about the fact that we celebrated International Women’s Day this week! (Slogan: “We get a whole day!”) Here is what I learned on International Women’s Day this year:
• When an eleven year old girl is raped by 18 boys and men, we should victim-blame her, cause, oh my gosh, maybe she shouldn’t have been wearing that shirt on the playground. That sort of thing just invites trouble, you know. Also, gee whiskers, I’m so sad that 18 people who decided it would be a good idea to rape a child, and think themselves so above the law as to videotape the crime, are going to have to “live with this the rest of their lives.” Poor them.
• People who don’t know me – and who laughingly call themselves Constitution-lovers – still feel they have the right to pass legislation about the contents of my body.
• Women trying to take an active stand in their country’s future are beaten up and told to “go home where they belong”.
• Daniel Craig doesn’t look good in a dress, and also I would listen to Dame Judi Dench narrate the E! Celebrity News ticker.
Happy International Women’s Day, you guys! We get a whole day!
Improbable High School Moment: Really, Sweet Valley High? A fashion show IN THE MALL nets someone a custom-designed wardrobe from a designer? REALLY? I mean, okay, sure. Maybe if it was a fashion show sponsored by Chicos, and the fashion designer was actually a student’s mom looking to get a job outside the home, or something. Maybe. I don’t know, even then, it’s a stretch. Also since obviously no one under the age of 40 shops at Chicos. Although I bet Elizabeth would. “I’m a size .5,” she would think to herself, while trying on a knitted caftan in the dressing rooms. “That makes me better than Jessica!” And then she’d wear the caftan to school, but Olivia Davidson would steal it from her.
Actually, I like this storyline. Maybe I’ll write a Sweet Valley High novel called Elizabeth Goes to Chicos. Look for it in stores!
Most Offensive Portion: We get a whole day!
Sweet Valley High 50: Out of Reach
In which Jade Wu learns a valuable lesson about racism from white people.
Number Of Drinks Taken: 22
First Page On Which the Twins Are Described As “Blonde, Blue-eyed, All-American Good Looks” or equivalent: page 16. The high page number is how you know that we’re about to learn A Very Important Lesson.
Main Plot: Jade Wu is a sophomore at Sweet Valley High, who is kept in the windowless room of Sweet Valley High Characters No One Has Ever Heard Of, until such time as she needs to be trotted out to teach people A Lesson About Racism.
There is this big music-and-dance show at Sweet Valley High, since it’s been at least two weeks since the last big music-and-dance number, and everyone thinks Jade should try out for the dance solo, because of how they’ve heard she’s an amazing dancer, even though no one has ever mentioned her before.
Jade would like to try out, but her father, who came to California from China (no clue where in China, of course. Just, you know, China. Such a small place; everyone’s pretty much the same.), is a traditionalist who doesn’t want his daughter dancing in public.
Well, actually, he doesn’t seem to MIND if his daughter dances in public, he just doesn’t want her to do modern dancing in public. Like, ballet is okay, but not modern dance. For some reason, everyone in this book seems to think this makes him a hardass, but maybe he’d just rather not have to suffer through the secondhand embarassment of watching his only child pretend to be a fucking tree by waving her limbs around to an Enya song? I mean, I’m just sayin’.
Jade Wu is super-conflicted about this, though, because she doesn’t want to be seen as “ethnic;” she wants to be an American! Which the writers in the Francine Pascal Cabal kindly point out means blonde-haired, light-eyed. Also she’s kind of sick of being asked by everyone about her “culture” and also told how “exciting” and “unusual” her family is, and lest you be thinking to yourself, “Um, yeah, OBVS, because that shizz is annoying as hell; I don’t blame her,” then you are missing the point of the book. The point of the book is that Jade is supposed to be PROUD of her culture and unique, ethnic family. Not for the sake of being proud, or because China is cool or whatever, but because without her, all the white people would be sad and wouldn’t have anyone “different” to talk to. By all means, Jade! Definitely start becoming a walking encyclopedia on Chinese culture so that the white kids feel better about themselves!
Meanwhile, Jade is experiencing tingly ladyparts feelings for one DAVID PRENTISS. Yes. YES. DAVY PRENTISS IS IN THIS BOOK!!! Only this Davy Prentiss’s father has run off, leaving his mother with, like, ten kids to feed. So they all work hard to help pay the rent. Maybe what actually happened is that David’s dad took off . . . and went on a SPACESHIP and landed on a NEW PLANET and then decided to control everyone’s mind but also took time to have another son, and decided to name this new son David Prentiss as well. I mean, I bet Mayor Prentiss was like, “Look. I have got A LOT OF SHIZZ going on right now. I’m trying to take over this whole planet, control men’s thoughts, and kill all the women. I ain’t got time to remember another kid’s name. Just call him David as well; it’s not like I’m even going to like him that much.”
Anyway, Earth Davy keeps asking Jade Wu out, but she can’t date cause her dad’s extra-strict, but instead of TELLING HIM THAT (cause she’s all ashamed about being Chinese or whatever), she just keeps turning him down. So he thinks it’s because he’s poor and his father abandoned Earth to create New Prentisstown, so then Jade lets him in on her deep, dark secret – her grandparents run a laundry and dry-cleaning service. This is apparently a big, bad secret because there is a stereotype about Chinese people running laundries and Jade’s ashamed that her family is so stereotypical and I guess this is a West Coast thing? Because I have never once in my life heard of this stereotype, other than in this book. Is this a common stereotype?
ANYWAY. So then Amy Sutton, who’s mad that Jade was picked for the solo instead of her, goes with her mom to the laundry place and then tells everyone at school that Jade’s grandparents own a laundry. Again. Not really understanding the point. Jade’s grandparents own a business that allows them to pay for their granddaughter’s ballet lessons, Amy. Your mom can’t keep an anchor job for more than three years at a time.
So Jade thinks Earth Davy told everyone about the laundry, and they fight, and then Elizabeth meddles and tells Jade how proud she should be of being Chinese-American, because she is enriching the white folks’ lives with her diversity and delicate ethnic features and . . . oh, how unfortunate, I’ve just vomited up my spleen.
Anyway, everyone makes up, Jade dances, her dad is proud of her and decides that white people aren’t so bad. Well done, white people! You can pat yourselves on the back!
Then after the show, some Mr Guffman type shows up and offers Jade a scholarship to come dance at his company for the summer. But, just one tiny thing, she’ll need to change her name from Jade Wu to Jade Warren, so as to avoid upsetting the “old-fashioned” sponsor, and Jade loudly refuses, because she is proud of her Chinese heritage. And that is great, because it allows this book to teach young, impressionable kids that racism is just when you tell someone their culture is wrong, and not also when you, say, ask the only demonstrably Chinese person in class to fill the whole class in on “China,” even though that person has never been to China in his/her life, or when you tell someone their features are “so exotic,” or when you tell someone that their hair is “Just So Different” and ask to touch it. Which is awesome, cause I can’t see where this life lesson could EVER go wrong in the hands of this nation’s youth.
Meanwhile, it’s not racist to say all Asians are good at math cause, like, that’s a compliment. DUH.
Sub-Plot Not In Least Bit Related To Main Plot: Ned Wakefield randomly decides he is getting too old, even though the books are quick to point out that Ned looks just like Stephen/Steven everytime Ned enters a room! So Jessica and Liz devise a plan in which they take their dad around to parties and make him wear hip clothes not from Chicos, and basically show him what a pain in the ass it is to be a kid again. Which, I mean, I understand where they’re going with that, but what they really should have done is dress Ned in awkward-fitting clothes, slapped some braces, glasses and zits on him, and told him that, in the unlikely event he is able to convince someone else to have sex with him, he isn’t allowed to Do It until marriage. And be home by nine pm, young man!
Improbable High School Moment: So Jade Wu’s solo is ten to fifteen minutes long. TEN TO FIFTEEN MINUTES LONG. Who the fuck can manage to dance an entire solo which is sustained for TEN TO FIFTEEN MINUTES? I know what you’re thinking; you’re thinking, “How hard can it be?” I urge you to go ahead and put on either “American Pie” or “Stairway to Heaven” and choreograph a dance that lasts for the entire song. Please write back with your results.
Most Offensive Portion: Ugh, there is basically nothing about this book that WASN’T offensive to me. I hate dumbed-down racism plots more than I hate dumb racists. Because racists are just dumb assholes and you kind of know that going in, but then there’s always the well-meaning racist person (I have been one in my past) who just wants to talk all about how “different” and “exotic” and “fascinating” a POC is, like they’re examining them under a microscope. Oh, and the amount of people in this book who were all, “Jade, you don’t know how lucky you are! I wish I came from a unique, exotic family like yours! Mine’s just all boring and white!” JADE’S FAMILY IS NOT UNIQUE OR EXOTIC TO HER. IT IS JUST HER FAMILY.
But, I’ll leave you with these two direct quotes, just so you can get some general tone:
Amy stuck her lower lip out in a pout. “But she’s Chinese! She doesn’t look right for the part! The soloist for the finale should be blonde, All-American – like me.
Jade wanted to be American in every way. She wanted American clothes, American food, American friends. If she could look American, she’d be overjoyed. But Jade was the epitome of Oriental beauty.
Well, that’s it for this round, you guys!! But don’t despair! We’ll be coming at you with a review of Sweet Valley Confidential in just a few weeks’ time! I AM SO EXCITED!! It’s like the Universe remembered that it’s my birthday in a few weeks and it was like, “We should give Erin a gift!” and then the Gods of Book Publishing were all, “Send her Sweet Valley Confidential!” and the Universe was all “THAT’S AN APPROPRIATE GIFT FOR SOMEONE LIKE HER.” Thanks, Universe!