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Petals on the Wind

Petals on the Wind - V.C. Andrews Holy guacamole.

I gave four stars to Flowers in the Attic, because apparently I'm shallow and weird. So it was kind of a relief to find myself thinking "This is OFFENSIVELY bad" on a regular basis as I read the sequel. (It only earns two stars because of the ending -- see below.)

How offensive?

Let's see. The kids from Flowers have managed to run away from the attic they were trapped in for so many years. They're on a bus (destination: Anywhere But Here) when their little sister Carrie becomes violently ill. Fortunately, the children are noticed by a large, motherly, helpful black woman. (Well, what other kind of black woman is there? These are white kids in need, after all.) She persuades them to let her take them to her "doctor-son, who is very best doctor."

This is written in a note -- the woman can hear, but can't speak. And the doctor in question isn't her son. He's her employer, a white man.


Doctor-Son White Guy is thrilled to see the kids. He once had a wife and son, but he lost them in a tragedy that's only hinted at. (It's spelled out later, and of course it's nothing normal like a car crash or something. This is a V.C. Andrews novel, after all.) He sees these beautiful, mysterious, haunted-looking children as a godsend -- a ready-made family he can love and care for. Plus, he already has the hots for Cathy, the narrator. Which makes sense. She's absolutely beautiful. And 15 years old. And he's in his 40s. It couldn't be perfecter!

I did mention offensive and ew, right?

Really, Cathy's continuing attraction to her brother Chris, and his to her, is the least icky relationship in the whole book.

Cathy has a lot of relationships in this book. We're not talking love triangles. We're talking every guy over the age of 10 falls for her. I'm not trying to sound slut-shamey, because it's not about how many guys she, ahem, engages with in this book. It's that they're all absolutely horrible, and she's fine with that. She forgives sexism, rape, abuse of every kind, and a guy who swears she's the love of his life but cheats on her nonstop. And not just garden-variety cheating. (This is a V.C. Andrews novel.)

I'd never before thrown in his face that I knew about his debaucheries with very young girls. It had hurt at first when I found out, but now I knew he used those girls like he used paper napkins, to casually toss away when soiled, and back he'd come to me, to say he loved me, needed me, and I was the only one.


Later, when he's "apologizing," he says, "Why do you try to bring out the worst in me? I only use those girls to spare you."

Her reply is, of course, to kick in him the junkyard as hard as she can, then call the cops and ask exactly how much evidence she needs to turn in a serial statutory rapist.

Oh, wait. This is a V.C. Andrews novel. Her reply is, "If they don't mind, then I don't mind."

Just...I can't even...

It gets worse. Okay, maybe not worse, but it stays at that level of icky-creep throughout.

For instance: This same guy is physically abusive. But it's okay, because he feels really bad about it afterward. And then she feels bad for provoking him. After he inflicts injuries that are so bad they threaten her future career as a dancer, she takes all the blame:

"He kept begging me to say I loved him, and I never would. I kept a deceptive parasol over my head, to keep dark doubts in my mind, and I refused to see anything that was noble and fine about him but his dancing. I didn't realize that to love me, even when I denied him, was noble and fine in itself."

But...with the...


And it isn't as if this is written in a cautionary-tale, "don't let this happen to YOU" tone. It's more like, "Hey! This is how guys are. What are you going to do? Be nice to your man, ladies. Maybe he'll be nice back. Probably not, but it's your fault if he isn't. Oh, and have a nice day!"

The ending is, I must admit, awesome in a General-Hospital-meets-Rebecca kind of way. But I truly don't believe it was worth plowing my way through 400+ pages of horrifyingly regressive storytelling. Did you know that "people of another race and color" have "the same sensitivities, hopes and fears we all have"? Oh, you didn't? Well, maybe you should read this book after all.

And then you can also learn that "an aggressive, domineering woman is one of God's most fearsome creatures." Cathy is told this after she explains that she wants to learn some skills to see her through life so she'll always be able to take care of her children even if she's left on her own. (Spoiler alert: yeah, THAT works out really well.)

I am not even remotely tempted to read any more Flowers sequels. So that's something, anyway.

And now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and get my brain back.