Thursday, 21 May 2015

Spring Reads: Secret Brother by V.C. Andrews

Secret Brother
The Dollanganger Family Series
by V.C. Andrews
Publisher: Pocket Books
Pub. Date: May 26th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1476792408
Pages: 384
Buy Link: Amazon


In 1979, the Gothic novel Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews was published, causing a slue of backlash from libraries, schools and parents. Despite the taboo incest theme, the story about a four siblings being locked in a bedroom & attic by their mother and grandmother became a worldwide sensation. Three sequels (Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns & Seeds of Yesterday) were later published. Sadly, V.C. Andrews passed away before she could finished the prequel novel Garden of Shadows, but the publishers and Andrews' family picked Andrew Neiderman to ghostwrite the novel, as well as every V.C. Andrews title since then.

Fans thought the series had ended with Garden of Shadows until the semi-sequel Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth was released last fall and quickly followed by Christopher's Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger, in which a long-distant cousin stumbles upon the diary of Christopher Dollanganger.

Arriving on in bookstores next week is the direct sequel to Flowers in the Attic (or a side-prequel to the Christopher's Diary duo). The novel begins in late October 1960 and centers on sixteen-year-old Clara Sue Sanders, whom, along with her little brother, Willie, has been living with their Grandpa Arnold every since their parents died in a tragic accident. One afternoon, Clara Sue is startled by the commotion outside - a drunk driver had hit her brother and his nanny, Myra. While the paramedics did everything they could, Willie was gone before the ambulance arrived at the hospital.

Grief-stricken, Clara Sue must stay in the waiting room by her grandfather's side while the doctors work on Myra. This is when they learn that young boy had been dropped off at the and left at the hosptial by a stranger. The boy is undernourished and had been poisoned with arsenic. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it?)

Before funeral plans for Willie are even made, Grandpa Arnold is determined to find out whom this little boy is. Due to the arsenic, the boy has neurological damage as well as the loss of motor skills; leaving him unable to communicate and walk. Grandpa Arnold hires a detective to find out who dropped the the boy off, but he finds nothing.

Despite Clara Sue's objections, Grandpa Arnold puts in a wheelchair ramp & a stair-lift, hires a live-in nurse and brings the boy into their home. The boy is to wear Willie's clothes and sleep in his room, which upsets Clara Sue as she believes Grandpa Arnold is trying to replace her brother. After a bit of physical and mental therapy, the boy slowly begins to talk, calling himself William Arnold.

Clara Sue is determined to find out who this little boy really is, which his past involves a twin sister, two older siblings and an attic.

If you've read Christopher's Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger, then you probably know the true identity of the little boy - Cory Dollanganger, whom supposedly died in Flowers in the Attic. Yes, this makes Carrie's death in Petals on the Wind even more tragic. No, Secret Brother isn't exactly Cory's story, but instead it focuses on Clara Sue, a teenager who tries to adapt to the loss of her brother and at the same time enter into adulthood. She doesn't like that this boy has taken her grandfather's name and is replacing her brother.

While Cory (William) doesn't have much to say in Secret Brother, what he does say is sad, for example - Mickey's Sick, Cathy Dances, etc.. I've been somewhat critical of the ghostwriter's (Andrew Neiderman) sloppy writing with the recent V.C. Andrews titles and while Secret Brother still doesn't have that much needed Gothic touch to it, this book is a major improvement. Yesterday, I only attended to read the first chapter, but I ended up reading over half the novel and I finished reading the rest this morning. I guess you can say that I couldn't put the book down; I just kept thinking about poor Cory. Overall, Secret Brother is a surprisingly well-written direct-sequel (or a side-sequel) to the original Flowers in the Attic and it's one of the better V.C. Andrews titles in recent years.

*Disclaimer - I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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