The one where we learn a lesson, or #50, Out of Reach

MEMO

To: ghostwriters
From Francine

Well, despite our best selling storylines that have made me rich by not even picking up a pen, I got some word that we have to add some “diversity” to our books. I am not even sure what that means. Apparently the one about the poor boy who works as a janitor didn’t count. I thought maybe something about Lila’s maid would be fun, maybe a storyline where Lila loses some designer shoes and blames the maid, but that didn’t sit well with my publisher. So I am throwing it out to you all. We should have a dance in there. And maybe a desciption of Lila’s house. Make sure there are no fat people involved. Have it on my desk by Tuesday. If you need me, I’ll be out shopping for taffeta skirts and culottes.

Francine

I was really wanting to hate this one. I mean, it was no literary feat, but it actually had- gasp!- a positive, healthy message. When I read the back cover I was fearing (hoping) that they would use every stereotype under the sun. Well, they did and they didn’t. Jade is Chinese-American and her parents keep her sheltered. Her father is strict and only wants her to interact with other Chinese-Americans. This has made Jade really reserved and shy. Oh, she’s also a good dancer. So, SVH is putting on a dance showcase (uh, why) and Jade auditions and gets the lead, but doesn’t tell her Dad. She also kinda gets cozy with the set director, David Prentiss, who is poor and has a single Mom and has to –GASP!- work a part-time job after school. What a FREAK! Because of the uptight classist wasps at SVH, he keeps it a secret. Jade keeps rejecting his invitations for a date, because her dad doesn’t allow her to date non-Chinese men, but Davey thinks it’s because he’s poor. Star-crossed lovers!

So Jade is all happy that she is involved with the show and it brings her out of her shell and introduces her to a lot of new people. She is rully excited to get to hang out with Liz Wakefield, cuz she’s soooo pretty and popular, Liz is the stage manager, obvs, and acts like typical Liz and a total meddling mother and takes jade under her wing and acts like she’s ten years older. Ugh. Jade doesn’t want people to know about her strict family, especially that her grandparents run a laundry business- because it is so stereotypical, I guess. So, Amy Sutton, mega-sociopath, is toooootally jealous that Jade got the lead over her, finds out about it, and sreads the rumor everywhere. Okay, so they are petty close-minded high school students, but why is this the talk of the school? I know kids can be cruel and incredibly racist, but it disturbs me that SVH would totally alienate someone for this. . But maybe I have too much faith in Chrome Dome’s leadership skills as a principal. You also gotta remember that they gave a crap about Enid and her letters to George and that was the talk of the school.

So, finally Jade’s dad comes around and comes to see her in the show and is really proud. Also, a talent scout for a dance fellowship is in the audience, and offers the opportunity to Jade, but is all, we don’t want someone too…ethnic, you need to change your name. Jade is all, fuck you, take me for who I am or don’t take me at all. That was actually the one moment in SVH where I actually was proud of one of the characters. Jade learns that she should be proud of who she is and her heritage and is all “yea so my grandparents run a laundry business, wanna make something of it?” Like I said, it’s kind of a positive message, I have no criticisms. But wait…I’ll try.

So Jcredibly strict parents do a complete turnaround and let her dance her heart out anywhere and give David their blessings to boink their daughter. That was a little much.

Ick. I can’t stand Elizabeth’s condescending look. Jade is pretty. Nice mock turtleneck, Liz.

Not much Jessica in the book, there’s a stupid side story about how Ned Wakefield has a mid-life crisis over his twentieth high school reunion and tries to act all young. Alice and the twins hatch a plan to help him realize he should be happy about his age. So Jess takes him out with her to the Beach Disco and loud concerts and stuff. So then…oh wait, it’s just so dumb I can’t even get into it.

Other thoughts:

So, David’s set design is a picture of jade dancing, which will go behind Jade when she dances…yea, it’s really stupid.
Fucking Liz. She’s so perfect and give Jade a pep-talk about accepting her identity. Like Liz has ever been oppressed.

They actually give Jade’s Dad a history. He got his doctorate in physics and then worked as a consultant. I’m surprised they didn’t give him a fake university.

On the whole thing about Jade’s dad wanting her to meet more Chinese-Americans- they’re in Southern California for fuck’s sake, not Nebraska. I’m preeeeety sure there may be just a couple Asian-Americans living in the area. Just get her into another school district. Get her out of Sweet Valley while you still can!

Have you ever noticed the obsession with eye color? How many times do we have to hear about their sea-green eyes. Or they are always like “Todd’s brown eyes softened” or “Enid’s green eyes widened.” Amy has grey eyes. To be honest, I am not sure if I have ever met anyone with grey eyes. Then again, I am super-short, so I am usually looking at someone’s chest when I talk to them.

Aaaaaaannnd I am pretty sure jade will never end up in any other books.

My grade: B+

Next time: Bitter Rivals, where Amy moves back to Sweet Valley and we can delve into her complicated psyche.

The one where cheaters always win, or #27 Lovestruck


Ken doesn’t really look that Lovestruck. In fact, he looks annoyed. Maybe it’s his wavy hair. Or hint of some man-teats.

Oh, it’s tough being a popular jock. All the pressure of being the star quarterback. It can really make high school pretty tough. Ken is dating Suzanne Hanlon. Suze is rich of course, and is uber-sophisticated. You know why? She likes “films” not movies. She also goes to art shows and poetry readings. She hangs out with people who wear black berets. Ken lurves her and pretends to like what she likes. Mostly he just hangs out with her with a blank expression on his face. It’s rully entertaining. Suze’s sophisticated friends hate on Ken for being a jock, but deep down that really hurts Ken. Yea, jocks really have it tough, especially during high school. Cry me a river, Mathews.

Ken goes to Suzanne’s house for dinner, and of course it’s a huge deal with maids serving trout and a butler waiting on them hand and foot. It’s very Upstairs, Downstairs. I’ll bet a hundred bucks the maid was wearing one of those white aprons. Suzeanne’s dad talks about how stupid football is of course and inside that makes Ken MAD! He wants to show everyone that playing football is respectable. Excuse me while I don’t give a fuck.

So, also, Ken is in danger of failing English. If he fails, he can’t play in the big game against Palasades High. And everyone is counting on him! It’s so hard being Ken! The only thing that will help him pass if he complete’s Mr. Collins assignment, to write a short story. I’m not one to defend Ken, but having high school juniors write a good short story is pretty tough. Nonetheless, he totally procrastinates and Suzanne keeps asking him to do stuff and he doesn’t want to refuse because he lurves her.

So this is the kicker. Elizabeth hears that Ken is having trouble so she is all “I should call him and offer my help cuz I’m rully good at English.” BUTT OUT! Gawd, she is so condescending. Ken’s all, uh, ok. Which pretty much sums up his personality. She shows him a short story she wrote and shows him how she created an outline and notes for the story. Which, I hate to say, is a pretty smart thing to do. At the last moment, Ken chokes and can’t write his story. So…wait for it…he submits Liz’s story as his own.

So everyone makes a big deal and actually they want to publish the story in the Centenniel Edition of The Oracle (cuz Sweet Valley is celebrating its centenniel. Woo-fucking hoo.) Liz just takes it and doesn’t put up much fuss. Asshole. She shouldn’t have shoved her way into the situation either. She confronts ken and he’s all, uh, okay. At the last minute Ken write a story about how a high school student is having trouble and cheats on an exam. See what he did there? He admitted what he did without actually admitting it. How Ernest Hemingway of him.

Ok, so Chrome Dome and the football coach call him in and are all, you cheated and anyone else who did it would get expelled, but Mr. Collins is all, I’ll give you a C for the course so you’ll still pass and can play in the big game. WTF? Why is he let off so easy? He wins the big game and everyone metaphorically sucks his cock. Suzanne is all, let’s get out of here football’s boring and he’s all, fuck off Suzanne if you hate football I can’t date you. The moral is: be yourself. And if you are popular and good-looking enough, you can get away with anything.

Stupid subplot: Jessica is in charge of planning the Centenniel picnic and drives everyone crazy in the process. She forgets to order the food and makes about five thousand pbj sandwhiches. It’s a total success anyway and she gets tons of praise. So the moral of this story is: if you are beautiful, it doesn’t matter if you fuck up. Great.

Ok, maybe there was a bit of humor in the book. Jessica keeps getting Lila to do tedious tasks for the picnic by telling her she’s the co-chair and giving her other fake titles. Lila totally goes for it. I didn’t say ha ha funny, I meant amusing funny.

Other thoughts:

Holy shit, it was painful to read stuff from Ken’s perspective. He is fucking boring moron. When he talks about Suzanne, he’s all “ooooo, she’s so pretty, I like her soooooo much.” Yes, that is the way that sixteen year old boys talk about girls.

Suzanne gives Ken some classical music to listen to and he pretends to like it in front of her. When she is not there, he thinks it is lame and wants to ROCK OUT so…he puts on the Rolling Stones. Oh, like they are so hip and current? Douchebag.

When Ken goes to Suzanne’s house, he thinks the butler is her father. Oh, stupid proletariat.

Elizabeth’s short story is called “The New Kid” and it about a boy who moves to Sweet Valley who hates it at first but then discovers how wonderful the town is. Can these kids shut up about their town?

My Grade: F

And now another douchey clip from the SVH tv show. Did they do the Liz in a coma plot? This may be part of it. Check out what a tool Todd is.

The one with the socioeconomic issues, or #9 Racing Hearts

When I read these the first time around, Lila Fowler was my favorite. Probably because she was rich, pretty, and popualar (supposedly). Criminy, her house actually had a name- Fowler Crest. I totally got a Sarah Michelle Gellar circa Cruel Intentions as my picture of her. I would say I still do like Lila. She is a total beast. but at least she is honest and not manipulative and borderline like Jessica. Plus, she’s got MAJOR daddy issues, so cut her a break.

Roger Barrett is sooooo poooor. Bruce Patman is soooooooo rich. In case you didnt already know, Francine, has to mention it about a thousand times. And she only thinks in extreme binaries. Roger is totes channeling Edward Norton. And ick! He has to wear a sweatshirt. Cuz he’s so poooor!

Ok, so there is this big annual race happening at SVH. It has never been mentioned before this book, so I am pretty certain it will never be mentioned again. The winner get some cash plus a scholarship to Sweet Valley College. Uh, okay. A track scholarship? They don’t mention it. Also, there is a big dance that follows the race. Because Sweet Valley can’t go five fucking minutes without having a dance. Lila suddenly shows interest in Roger once he becomes a strong contender for the title, because she “wants to be seen at the dance with the winner”. See, she’s a cold-hearted beast, but at least she’s straightfforward. But uh oh! Roger actually can’t make the race because on Saturday afternoons he is at his job as a janitor in an office building. BECAUSE HE’S POOR! God forbid a teenager has an afterschool job in Sweet Valley. And he couldn’t work at the mall?

Oh wait, Jessica decides she is totally mature and wants to go work at her father’s law office. Seemingly because she wants to learn more about it. But she delivers this gem, probably influences tons of preteen girls to apply to law school.:

It was one thing to defend lost causes but quite another to have to defend really grizzly, dangerous criminals. Civil law, something more along with the lines of her father’s practice , was much more better, she concluded. Conferring with other lawyers-including lots of handsome men- certainly had to be exciting , and a lot less dangerous

But about eight books ago, she was okay with giving it up to the town criminal when he picked her up on the walk home from school. Anyhoo, about five minutes into the job, she got annoyed that she actually has to make copies. What is this, Heidi from The Hills? But, she sneaks out and meets another guy working at the law office across the way. Because she is soooooo pretty and soooooooo popular (as we are constantly reminded) he asks her out. Except that he never wants to go out. They meet in the copy room after everyone goes home. Well, what is the purpose of this subplot? Well, I love when Jessica gets embarassed. Turns out the guy doesn’t take Jessica out of the building because he can;t drive because he’s really fifteen. Oh! The horror! Jessica’s a shallow cunt so breaks it off. But during her late night rendezvous, she sees Roger working as a janitor in the building.

Ok, so of course Liz always has to be so condescendingly moral, she asks her father to ask Roger’s boss to give him the time off work so he can run the race. Oh, because his boss is making him work on Saturdays because he’s just a mean bitter guy. Not because he actually needs to get the office clean because the big shot lawyers like Ted Wakefield will complain. No, he’s just mean. I can’t wait til the class riots overtake Sweet Valley and loot the Dairi Burger.

Yes, Roger wins big shock and realized Lila is not the girl he wants, so he gets together with his friend Olivia. You know, the weird girl who eats alfalfa srouts and wears peasant skirts.

Snore.

Oh wait, Lila may be mentally retarded. Check out the poem she wrote for Roger:

Roger Barrett, a boy so fine

His speeding runner is so divine

In school, too, he is very smart.

He’ll walk away with the trophy from the Bart

In everything he operates in the highest stratum.

We at Sweet Valley are so proud we have him.

Wow Lila, great use of active voice.

My grade: D +