What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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Flowers in the Attic
by V.C. Andrews

Field-Tested by Wendy McClure

in a station wagon

I think I was on a car trip to either Boston or Toronto. Our family vacations tended to be awkward hybrids of urban tourism and trailer camping, so that instead of staying in a hotel, we’d set up our pop-up camper at a ‘family campground’ about an hour from the official destination and drive in for the day. The thrill of big-city glamour that I anticipated every summer was invariably diminished by having to shower in cinderblock stalls full of moths and daddy longlegs. I was 13 on one of these trips; I slouched in the back seat with the smell of rotten-egg well water in my damp hair, wearing mascara I’d applied in the side view mirror of our station wagon. And I passed the time reading from Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews.

I don’t think I can describe Flowers in the Attic in a way that will make it sound like a good book. It’s about a perfect blond girl and her three perfect blond siblings who are imprisoned in the attic of a huge mansion because they are believed, albeit wrongly, to be "devil’s spawn." It was the first in the series of several books about the perfect blond girl and her siblings — I’d actually read the third book first (in which the blond girl is grown up and is still believed to be the devil’s spawn), but it wasn’t until I read Flowers in the Attic that I became hooked on the epic grotesqueness of the books, replete with revenge plots and freakish ballet accidents.

V.C. Andrews probably meant her books to be dark masterpieces of gothic horror, but really she’d written ideal books for 13-year-old girls. That summer I was at an age full of squeamish self-consciousness and shameful secret thoughts, but even I had to admit I had nothing on the blond budding-ballerina protagonist of Flowers in the Attic, who had tar poured on her hair, almost ate a dead mouse for survival, and had dirty thoughts that were way more inappropriate than anything I could ever conjure up about anyone, since they were about, ew, her brother. I found this totally disgusting and a great comfort as well. Reading in the car always made me a little queasy, but I read almost all of Flowers in the Attic that way, much to my sick satisfaction.

Wendy McClure is a columnist at BUST Magazine and the author of the memoir, I’m Not the New Me. You can find her at her website.

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