Petals on the Wind (Dollanganger #2), by V.C. Andrews

Eight stars

After a memorable first novel in the series, I found myself wanting to know more about these Dollangangers, particularly after they escaped their prison-like situation in the attic. Fuelled with anger, determination, and hopes of rectifying all the wrongs done to them by a sadistic grandmother and a greedy mother, the children flee for safer environs as they plot their revenge. After escaping from the attic, Chris, Cathy, and Carrie find themselves heading South, in hopes of making it to Florida. However, a medical emergency stops their progress, as Carrie is showing signs of something. Locating Dr. Paul Sheffield, they soon learn the extent to the remaining twin’s illness, which can be directly traced back to their captors. With nowhere to go, the children tell their story to Paul, who takes them in and shares his own truths. He is a widower and lost a son years ago, but would gladly help support and protect these three. As the story progresses, all three have their lives changed with proper education and strive for their dreams. Chris speeds through school and attends college before entering medical school, Cathy is able to study ballet at one of the great schools in the region before moving to New York to pursue her passion full-time, while Carrie stays close to home and develops a strong connection with her new father. However, the problems that wove their way into the children’s lives during their imprisonment cannot be completely forgotten or rectified. Chris and Cathy still have that connection to one another, seeing themselves not only as the two older siblings, but passionately involved as they came to understand love on a deeper level, which led to exploring it with each other. Cathy now finds herself also drawn to Paul, who offers her the world and himself, if only she will submit to his sexual advances. Cathy’s love life is also hampered when her dance partner—Julian, a regular Casanova—explains that they ought to be together to enable the best chemistry possible. In a fit of confusion, Cathy chooses Julian and enters into a dictatorial relationship, all while still trying to be a dancer. Carrie, on the other hand, is trying to fit in, having been incapacitated by a small stature and poor development. She is mocked at school, finding solace only in the loving arms of Paul, who again blurs some of the parent/adult lines. While Carrie is determined that she will love only him forever more, their relationship does not enter the sexual realm. As Chris continues his studies, he is determined that he and his closest sister belong together, particularly when he can protect her from the evils of the world. Even as Cathy admits that she is pregnant, Chris seeks to forget the abusive husband she left in her past and will make the most of ensuring this baby has all it needs to survive. With revenge still on their minds, Chris, Cathy, and Carrie plot to find their beloved mother and grandmother, vowing to bring them what they have coming, no matter what it takes. As V.C. Andrews pushes the envelope even further, it becomes clear that scandal and non-traditional love will be a major theme as the series continues. While I am not sure I can recommend the series to any particular group, those readers with an open mind may find something interesting in the layers of scandal that occur throughout.

While the opening novel in the series, Flowers in the Attic, was one I recently read for a reading challenge (see below), I found myself curious to see how the story would continue. Able to justify my curiosity by also being able to use this book for another topic in the same challenge, I thought I might as well dip my toe into the water just a little more to see what those Dollangangers were doing and how revenge might be accomplished. I will admit that with Cathy in the spot of narrator, she presents as the primary protagonist in this piece. Her character development is ongoing and quite thorough, particularly as the reader receives insights into her thoughts and feelings. I will be the first to admit that even with an open mind, it is hard to sit idly by while reading and learn of her lust for a brother (Chris), a surrogate father (Paul), and a lover/eventual husband (Julian) without cringing. Andrews weaves many of these sexual relationships together and Cathy justifies them all as having been emotionally and physically starved while locked in the attic. What might shock readers most is that there is but minuscule hesitation when entering these sexual encounters, as if life in the attic allows one to ignore the red flags. A deny this, as it has become clear that Cathy uses sex and allure as a weapon, even if she seeks it as a crutch. Chris and Carrie receive decent storylines as well, as they age throughout the book, though they seem more focussed on personal and professional progress throughout (save Chris’ ongoing flirtation and physical encounters with his sister). Andrews will surely have to toss some more controversy around amongst these other children, as well as with the new children who emerge in the latter portion of the story, to ‘spread the soil’, if I may borrow a loose metaphor from the first two books. The plot is surely not stellar, but one cannot expect miracles in something labelled ‘young adult horror’. Still, like a car wreck, it is sometimes hard to turn away as I wonder what the hell V.C. Andrews will do next. I am no Freud, so I choose not to analyse her writing for signs of anything buried in her psyche, but this is surely not a normal series, which has caused a great deal of controversy over the years. Thankfully, the sex is not too gratuitous and the narrative seems to flow well, though I won’t be putting it forward for any literary awards, even all these years later. Books like this show how far authors can go while still garnering the interest of the reader. I will admit to being curious about where things will go, like a bad guilty pleasure. I will be the first to admit that I am not sticking around simply to read about salacious sibling sexual seduction! How’s that for alliteration?

Kudos, Madam Andrews, for an ever-intriguing story that has me scratching my head. I can see where the buzz came from and can only imagine what teenagers would say nowadays if they got their hands on this series.

This book fulfils Topic #4:Made You Blush in the Equinox #6 Reading Challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: