Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Now we had both done what we both swore we'd never do."


Simon & Schuster has reissued V. C. Andrews' notorious Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind in an omnibus edition that screams "if you liked Twilight . . ." But oh how it brings me back.

I began my career as a library journalist with Flowers in the Attic. SLJ editor Lillian Gerhardt had asked me in 1983 to become their YA columnist, and the first thing I wrote about was Andrews, in the essay (named by Lillian), "Passion Power." As with Twilight, the Andrews books were all about forbidden and forestalled love. (Although less forestalled than Meyer: Chris and Cathy do the deed on page 337 of this new edition, and I would like to thank Elissa Gershowitz for her help in determining this fact.) Flowers in the Attic, although putatively aimed at the adult market, reached precisely the same demographic as Twilight, females aged 10 and up. Through the time of the series' height, I worked in two very different libraries, a conservative exurb of Chicago and then a poor neighborhood in the inner city, but the craze respected no boundaries--we could not buy enough copies. I wrote then that girls sought these books out because they acknowledged something girls knew--sex was exciting, scary and dark--in a way that the hygienic sex-is-a-wonderful-expression-of-love themes of the the YA problem novels of the day did not. Plus, it's really hard to miss--probably because reading is generally a solitary act--with a book about secrets.

This was of course all pre-Internet. I wonder how the craze would have played out today?

11 comments:

Andrew Karre said...

My friends and I devoured the series in 6th grade (around 1990). It was a unique and eye-opening reading experience. If I recall, there's a ballet storyline in the books. I wonder if that was an important part of their appeal.

Jessica Leader said...

Every time I think about the V.C. Andrews oeuvre (and oh, what a mighty body of work it is), I feel jealous of middle- and high-schoolers today. In the late 1980s, when I delved into FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC et al, I had pretty much exhausted the YA offerings at the neighborhood Doubleday Books, so I headed to the pulpy paperbacks. I knew they weren't well-written, I didn't learn from the characters or have interesting thoughts about the themes, but I couldn't seem to find other books about young people or adult books that felt accessible enough.

Today's young readers have a bevy of options to read about sex, implied or explicit, saved or savored, and can see it through the lens of interesting characters and rich settings. Lucky for them!

Thinking of these books also makes me scoff at those who worry about young people reading sexual content. FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC did nothing to influence my behavior, I assure you!

Christine said...

God, I loved these books. I remember barely any plot points--locked in attic; still locked in attic--but I remember the atmosphere, and it's just what you said--exciting, scary, and dark.

Elaine Marie Alphin said...

I remember reading these - I liked the darkness and the way Andrews wrote about the perfidy of parents, but mostly they were guilty pleasure books, with the pulpy sexual tension curling the page corners... Satisfying without being demanding the way serious literature and elegant prose usually is.

Ah, those were the days.

Elissa said...

It also made you think twice before eating powdered donuts.

Roger Sutton said...

I think Andrew is on to something--Flowers in the Attic is to the dance what Nancy Drives the Bookmobile is to librarianship.

Laura said...

What a coincidence! I read both Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind last month, and read Twilight last week. I wanted to see what the excitement is all about, and instantly noticed similarities between the two. All three are so poorly written, but I do understand the appeal.

Wendie O said...

" I wonder how the craze would have played out today?"

or how it will play out.
-wendieOld, girding herself for a new rush of reserves on these books at her library.

Roger Sutton said...

There is definitely Andrews fandom on the web. I wonder if that would have been published as YA today--are we actually doing kids a disservice by NOT saying some books are adult or off-limits? Adult disapproval can be a strong motivator.

Anonymous said...

Go to the Official V.C. Andrews Face book page to read about the newest novel, The Heavenstone Secrets...it brings you right back to these kind of stories.

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