If There Be Thorns by V.C. Andrews

(Dollanganger Series, #3)

Chris and Cathy made such a loving home for fourteen-year-old Jory -- so handsome, so gentle. And for Bart,who had such a dazzling imagination for a nine year old.

Then the lights came on in the house next door. Soon the Old Lady in Black was there, watching them, guarded by her strange old butler. Soon she had Bart over for cookies and ice cream and asked him to call her "Grandmother".

And soon Bart's transformation began...

Fed by the hint of terrible things about his mother and father...leading him into shocking acts of violence.

Now while this little boy trembles on the edge of madness, his anguished parents await the climax to a horror that flowered in an attic long ago, a horror whose thorns are still wet with blood, still tipped with fire.

“If we could survive the worst, doesn’t it stand to reason we should be able to bear the best?”

Of course there's tragedy with this series, but there's also something bizarrely beautiful. It's a mesmerizing series, not perfect but hard to get out of once you dig in. It would be a shame to just read Flowers In The Attic and not continue the series - even if the original was the best, the sequels feed into each other, making the story richer.

I went back and forth between 3 and 4 stars. Sometimes it was as fascinating as the others, impossible to put down, but other times it felt a little repetitive and some magic was lost through the brother's points of views. While the weakest of the original four, it's still worth reading and makes the garden that much more haunting.

Bart goes from adorable when he pretends to be cowboys and animals, funny when he hates everything, pitiful when he feels like the loner and sore thumb of the family, to obnoxious when he keep repeating his bad behavior, until finally downright creepy - especially that last page with the potent final paragraph.

Jory is the good brother but rather boring. It makes sense he'd be drawn to dance, but he doesn't stand out much otherwise.

Since it's not through Cathy's viewpoint, she and Chris seem a little less real and sympathetic. She came across more of a harpy Chris was rooted to half the time, deranged with a vicious mouth, but the attic lure was intriguing in the beginning. Chris just kind of seems there - I always loved him in the other books but he's kind of a shadow on the wall this time. I didn't sense the depth of their affections as deeply.

I'm trying to place the maid Emma. It seems she may have been in Petals or something with how familiar she is with the situation, but I can't place her. The grandmother - dare I say I actually felt bad for the mother in this book. I believe she's finally repentant and realizes how horrible she was. Sometimes the small manipulation comes out, especially talking to Chris, but I felt for her parts of the time. John is sinister, sure, but he's also a cartoon cardboard, bringing to this book more of a cheap feel.

The animal stuff was tragic-sad and the hardest thing about the book to stomach.

The book doesn't have as much melodrama as some of the others, but it is more unconvincing. The parents should have been more curious about the neighbor after Jory's first slip. They did seem rather oblivious and didn't investigate as they should have. Also, Chris didn't follow up with Bart enough after he knew about the neighbor's real identity. He told her to keep him away, he told Bart to stay away, but Bart still kept going over there and Chris basically ignored it.

Even though its length rivals the others, it didn't have a strong enough story to continue this long. Too much repetition with Bart's actions, confusion, and going back and forth to remorseful child and then demented monster-spawn. It grew old after awhile.

The ending was awesome, though. An art of forgiveness and coming clean, the irony of the two trapped together in the end, that act of redemption...and finally to Cathy's viewpoint for the last chapter. The ending was the best part of the book.

Overall, this isn't perfect but it's still enjoyable for a series that can never be rivaled with its pure Gothic tones, tragic family saga storylines, and inventive twists. Definitely one of the most haunting series written.

   Book Quotes:

“You snatch from life what you can while you are young, for if you wait for better times to come tomorrow, you wait in vain.”

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