This book tackles real-life issues like racism so you know it is going to be awful – like “I can’t turn away from this train wreck” awful, and this book does not disappoint! 😛
“Out Of Reach”
Sweet Valley Scale: 4 out of 5 Twins
More than anything else, Jade Wu wants to be as all-American as the other girls in Sweet Valley – just blend in. But her traditional Chinese father refuses to allow his daughter to stray from the old traditions of the country he is from. He won’t let Jade date or do any of the things other teenage girls do. Jade is a talented dancer and when she wins the solo part in a dance show she takes the role despite her father’s objections. Soon she is happier than she dreamed she could be, especially when the show brings her together with handsome David Prentiss. Jade begins to confide everything in David – until it suddenly looks as if he has betrayed her deepest secret about her family. Can Jade really find happiness in her two worlds, or was her father right all along?
Have you ever heard the song “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” from Avenue Q? Because that is kind of this book, everyone just seems to be a little bit racist.
Jade Wu is a sophomore, the most graceful dancer you have ever seen, a shy, nice, and quiet girl… but none of that matters because she’s Chinese. And just in case you forget the writers remind you every other paragraph. So anyway, the school is putting on this dance and music variety show to raise money for a dance program at Sweet Valley High. Everyone is wondering about who is going to audition, and I’m already thinking, “Why?” I mean at my high school, people just auditioned and that was it. It wasn’t exactly gossip of the year.
Right away it is obvious that one of the most racist characters in this book is Jade herself – she has a whole bunch of internalized issues going on because she doesn’t want to be Chinese. (She just wants to blend in.) It’s hard not to get irritated with Jade until you meet her father Mr. Wu, and then you kind of get it. According to him Jade cannot have American friends, hang out at other kids’ houses, participate in any extra-curricular activities, date or be seen in public (okay that was a bit of an exaggeration, she can be seen in public, just not in the company of x or doing a number of things like dancing because it isn’t dignified). With him it has to be all Chinese all the time and everyone else just sucks. I try to be understanding until he talks about how Jade is just supposed to always come right home from school to help her mother cook him food like a “good Chinese girl” and after that my inner feminist just wants to punch him in the face.
So anyway, Jade agonizes about whether she should try out for this variety show and I’m not sure why because we all know she is going to. And the audition is this big thing, but of course she gets the solo part. Amy Sutton wanted the solo, but she is a terrible dancer. But of course she blames Jade for not getting the part, because it’s Jade’s fault Amy can’t dance. Then Amy says she hopes anyone else gets the solo besides Jade because Jade is Chinese and everyone else who auditioned are a bunch of white girls. (You really think you get more than one minority character in a single book – please!) Remember, I warned you, in this book everyone is a little bit racist.
When Jade gets the part she tells her father about it and he freaks out and says a bunch of other things that just make me want to knee him in the (well you know). Jade’s mother promises her daughter she’ll work on her husband, but she also believes the wife is supposed to be subservient to her husband, so we’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, Jade is secretly going to rehearsals and loves being in the show. For the first time she has friends and feels like she is a part of something, and this is also the first time she is dancing in front of other people because that is a cardinal sin as far as her father is concerned.
Jade is also really into this guy named David Prentiss who is doing the sets for the show, and he asks her out. Jade makes up some lame excuse instead of just saying she isn’t allowed to date. And she does the same thing the second and third time he asks her out. So now David is all upset because he thinks she is ashamed to be seen with him because he is poor and his mother is a housekeeper (they use the word “maid” in this book) and I am already looking for something to throw… When David finally confronts Jade about this she still doesn’t come clean and instead she proves that David’s mother being a maid doesn’t matter to her by confessing her greatest and most shameful secret to him: her grandparents own a laundry. Are you fucking kidding me?
David doesn’t get it (and quite frankly neither do I) – what’s the big deal? He tells Jade her grandparents and what they do isn’t a problem, but her attitude about it is (that a boy!) and this just reinforces to Jade that he could never understand. The next day Amy Sutton and her mother are picking up Mr. Sutton’s dry cleaning (again the feminist in me is like “Say what? Let him pick up his own damn laundry.”) and of course they go to the dry cleaning place owned by Jade’s grandparents. Amy sees a poster for the show they’re in and Jade’s grandmother tells Amy and her mother that her granddaughter is in the show – it is obvious she is very proud. Amy can’t wait to tell everyone that Jade’s grandparents run a laundry to knock her down a peg. Mrs. Sutton doesn’t understand why it matters and I’m with her. This book is just one more unnecessary reminder of how much I hate the character of Amy Sutton in these books, and that makes me kind of sad because she was one of my favorites in the Sweet Valley Twins And Friends series.
Soon everyone is talking about how Jade’s grandparents own a laundry place and she is mortified and of course she thinks David must have told. They get into a big fight and David quits the show. Jade feels terrible, but not as bad as she does when she finds out it was Amy who took it upon herself to tell the world the “terrible” truth. She tries to make it right with David, but he won’t talk to her. Jade’s mother asks her daughter what it bothering her and Jade tells her everything. Jade’s mom is rightfully upset about Jade’s attitude, and tells her she should be proud of her grandparents. They love her so much, and they’re the ones who have been bankrolling Jade’s dance lessons (this was a reminder, the ungrateful bitch already knew this) thanks to their laundry business. Jade sees the light and realizes her anti-Chinese attitudes are just as faulty as her father’s only-Chinese attitudes.
Jade’s father finally breaks under the pressure from his wife and agrees to let Jade be in the show the evening before its big opening night. But he isn’t going to be attending, because it is just against his beliefs (I am kind of curious if this is actually a thing, Chinese culture frowning on dancing in public, or if this is a terrible liberty the ghostwriter took).
The night of the performance there is this big deal talent scout hoping to find a dancer for this prestigious internship at some big deal dance company. He seems kind of full of himself. Before the show Jade realizes that David does forgive her (thanks to some good old fashioned Elizabeth Wakefield meddling and the epiphany that Jade’s parents were old school and didn’t let her date) because the beautiful set he created is back (he took his set with him when he quit). But even better, Jade’s father is in the front row to see his daughter dance! (I confess I am the cheesy person who totally loved this moment.) With her father there, Jade is filled with so many wonderful emotions that she dances like she has never danced before.
After the show Jade’s family gather around her and her father is amazed by his daughter’s talent and there are a few more sappy moments and utterings before the talent scout finds her and tells her that she is just the dancer he has been looking for. Jade’s father is very proud and happy for his daughter (he even agrees to let her do it!) until Mr. Full Of Himself tells Jade that the family who is in charge of this scholarship/internship are very “traditional” so she should change her name to Jade Warren on her application. Jade refuses and stands up for her heritage (finally!) and I loved this ending scene! She put that bitch in his place! 🙂
David introduces himself to Jade’s parents who are amazed that he painted and constructed the set all by himself. They find out he has a job to support his family and Mr. Wu says he didn’t realize American boys could be so responsible. Then David asks them if he could take Jade out sometime if she wanted to and Mr. Wu is impressed because he didn’t think American boys were so polite. He agrees and Jade is ecstatic. All is well that ends well! 😛
And you know that every book needs a Wakefield subplot in there, so in this book the twins’ father goes through a mid-life crisis because his 25-year high school reunion is coming up. It’s like he forgot that it has been 25 years for everyone, and not just him. He is determined to recapture his youth and starts wearing hideous and bright ties to work so the twins and their mother decide to try some reverse psychology (natch). Soon he is being forced to run a few miles every day, work out and listen to rock music. The clincher was when Jessica dragged him to the Beach Disco as her date because her boyfriend (redheaded stud A.J. – they’re still a thing, even though he is only mentioned in this book and not actually seen) couldn’t make it. This was all carefully plotted out and between the heavy metal music and watching his daughter bump and grind on the dance floor – he was out of there! Better to be middle aged than to be whatever was going on at that club!
I have to admit the midlife crisis storyline was pretty lame, but it took a seriously creepy turn with the Beach Disco scene. Imagine taking your father as your date to a hot new club where no one is over the age of 25, and then dancing with him like you would your boyfriend. Eeeeewwwww! I shall never be clean again. 😛
Next Up: Sweet Valley High’s third Super Thriller – I can’t wait! 🙂