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If There Be Thorns by V.C. Andrews

A seemingly perfect family of four, an extremely well-guarded secret, and a long-lost, and unwanted, relative are only a few of the things that contribute to the overwhelming intensity of V.C. Andrews’ If There Be Thorns. The third saga in a series of four, published by Vanda General Partnership, Andrews continues the dark and forbidden tale of the ‘Dollanganger’ family with incredible detail and imagery. As with the two previous novels, Andrews draws her readers in to a sense of reality with her excellent storytelling and inspiring creative skills. If There Be Thorns was made into an exceptional novel because of Andrews’ intense and twisting plots, her imaginative and exaggerated use of language, and her outstanding sense of realism she brings to all of her works.


In the previous novels in the series, Flowers In The Attic and Petals In The Wind, the four Dollanganger children move from their home in Greenglenna to their estranged grandparent’s mansion, Foxworth Hall, with their newly widowed mother. Once there, the children are confined to the attic because of their mother’s secrecy with her dying father. They are promised that, once the grandfather dies, they will be allowed to come down from the attic and relish in an extravagant Foxworth life full of glory and riches. Andrews shows through her words distinctly how painful and full of suffering their three years of confinement were. After coming to many terrible realizations about their mother and grandparents, and the loss of their younger brother Cory, the children manage to escape the mansion, and the two eldest children, Chris and Catherine, strive to find happiness, while Carrie still suffers the hardships of the attic.


Over the next years, Catherine marries twice, resulting in two children: Jory and Bart (the son of her mother’s husband), and an adopted daughter named Cindy. They all suffer many losses, including that of their sister Carrie, and Catherine’s first and second husbands. In If There Be Thorns, Andrews continues the tale of the two remaining Dollanganger children and the family that they have built with each other. Posing as Jory and Bart’s step-father, Christopher continues to protect Catherine and her children, especially when an old woman, who is very interested in Bart, moves into the mansion next to their home. As time goes on, the children begin to realize that their parents have a secret, and the woman next door slowly begins to reveal her true identity...


Although the basis of this story seems like a highly unlikely (bordering on impossible) story, Andrews creates a very realistic atmosphere in the small town of Fairfax, California. Though the series was first published in the late 70‘s ( this book in particular in 1981), she finds a way to relate the characters to her readers, enables readers from present-day connect, and let them find some common ground with the things and situations that she writes about. Throughout the series, it was easy to imagine the scenarios her characters found themselves in and put yourself in their shoes, such as the way Bart acts towards his adopted sister Cindy, or how scared the family is when they cannot find Catherine . Andrews manages to keep her characters right alongside all the twists and turns her intricate plots take, and use the imagery necessary for her readers to make themselves a part of the world of the Dollanganger family.


Imagery is one of the most important factors V.C. Andrews brings to the Dollanganger series. Andrews shows her creative abilities by taking you into the life and the struggle of the four ‘Dresden Dolls’ from the moment their life becomes something out of the ordinary. She does a wonderful job of depicting the thoughts and feelings of everyone involved in the story, though the stories are only told through one perspective each chapter, she manages to portray the way the minds of the other characters work, and has a way of making the reader feel like he or she is directly involved in the plot. Without her astonishing and intimate detail, the story of the Foxworth and Dollanganger family wouldn’t be the classic that it has become.


If There Be Thorns is a must-read for any young adult looking for an exciting and emotional ride through the life of a family. Although this book may be more enjoyable for the female gender, I sincerely believe that most everyone can find some truth and meaning in the words of V.C. Andrews. The exciting plot, striking vocabulary, and the unlikely connection to everyday life will keep readers interested until the very end. Once they pick up the story of the Dollanganger family, they will want to ‘‘keep reading that book each day’’( Andrews, 52).




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