Madeline Brennan

A copy of My Sweet Audrina, one of V.C. Andrews’s many novels. The book is her only standalone work that does not depict incest. “Andrews is one of those rare authors who is exceptional at delivering unhappy endings that are intended to disturb,” Brennan writes.

When I purchased a copy of My Sweet Audrina and Garden of Shadows, both books authored by V.C. Andrews, from a bookstore in late October, I could hardly have known what was in store for me beyond their beautiful covers.


My reason behind buying the novels was simple, and strange: while researching the missing persons case of Tara Calico, I discovered a photo of what could have been Calico in captivity, taken a year after she disappeared. I read further and found out her mother had believed the unidentified woman in the photo to be Calico because her favorite V.C. Andrews book, My Sweet Audrina, was beside her. Therefore, I had to read it. 


The creepy way in which I discovered Andrews and her books are what I now view as a kind of foreshadowing. The photo depicting Calico is disturbing, yet I was so intrigued by this book that seemed to confirm her identity I bought it, only to find the book equally as disturbing as the picture. 


In My Sweet Audrina, the titular character, Audrina Adare, grows up in the shadows of her older, dead sister (commonly referred to as “the Best and Most Perfect Audrina”) who was murdered nine years to the day before Audrina’s birth. 


The essence of this novel, as well as the works of V.C. Andrews, is most accurately surmised by one piece of trivia: it was the only novel Andrews ever wrote that did not include incest. However, it does tackle a vast amount of issues such as PTSD, rape, brittle bone disease, and diabetes. 


My Sweet Audrina is an exhausting novel, beautifully written by Andrews despite her graphic subject matter. The reader often feels frustrated, so much so that when I completed the book I spent fifteen minutes crying, partly from sadness for Audrina and partly from pure frustration at Andrews. 


Andrews is one of those rare authors who is exceptional at delivering unhappy endings that are intended to disturb. 


Her most famous book series, Flowers in the Attic, to which Garden of Shadows is a prequel, depicts four siblings who are locked away in an attic by their religious zealot of a grandmother for years, and whose mother attempts to poison them so that she may secure her father’s fortune. 


The book’s two protagonists, Chris and Cathy, are siblings who develop romantic feelings for one another as a result of living in the attic far into their teenage years. 


The prequel, Garden of Shadows, tells the story of their grandmother, Olivia Foxworth, and her life at Foxworth Hall before the events of the book. The biggest revelation from this novel is the fact that Chris and Cathy’s parents, Corinne and Christopher, were half-siblings. 


Andrews’s work is just as gripping as it is disturbing. Her appeal comes from the idea that the reader will only be more shocked if they turn the page. The reader knows there will be no happy ending, and that the best they can hope for is a mildly bittersweet one, and yet they crave it. 


Andrews is a wonderful author, who can capture the darkest side of the human spirit and frame it in a way no one might have ever viewed it before. 


Andrew Niederman, who has ghost written V.C. Andrews novels since her death in 1986, summed up why the books appeal to me and to so many others. He said that Andrews was “intrigued by why people who are supposed to love each other hurt each other so much.” 


This is a question that readers find themselves asking often while reading Andrews, as she seems to flip every trope that leads to a happy ending on it’s head.


The mutually beneficial arranged marriage never blossoms into love, and the childhood sweetheart one believes will love the main character forever is a manipulative and abusive spouse. 


It becomes clear that Andrews never wrote for happy endings. She wrote to explore the core of the human character and why humans do what they do. And, no matter how frustrated the reader can become the story grips them because they, too, want to explore these questions. 


Why should you read V.C. Andrews? Her books are bottomless pits of trauma and horror, they frustrate you like nothing else and disturb you to your very core. 


Well, the answer is simple: you can’t help yourself.