Why do you hate VC Andrews? No really, I never read Flowers in the Attic.
When I was a young pre-teen tweak in the making, I was well read. I was just one of those reader kids, and I was lucky enough to have parents who had good taste, and aunts who thought books were the best presents. I read everything in the house, and then I read it again and again.
I don't know if I got them from the library or friends, or who knows, maybe my parents, but somehow The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High made it into the house. Babysitters Club was mostly harmless. The adventures of high school girl stereotypes as they maintain friendships and make money and have silly boyfriend and kid debacles was not literature, but it was mindless and mostly innocent. Sweet Valley High however was more insipid. The Twins were perfect blonde barbies with perfect boyfriends and cars and beaches, and the books made a point to mention over and over again how perfect their size 6 bodies were. Interesting and depressing side note: the more recent Sweet Valley books make the girls a perfect size 4. Thanks guys.
I was embarrassed to read these books even then, but they were my go-to books when I was home sick or just wanted something quick to read. Cause you could go through any of those books in an hour. It was my pre-teen equivalent of watching One Tree Hill reruns. Mostly I picked them up if I had nothing new to read that was better.
However when the Sweet Valley Twins hooked up with guys, it was kissing and mostly making out in cars. It was not having sex with your brother in an attic because your Super Christ Freak grandmother has you locked in the attic, because she thinks of you as inbred Devil Spawn freaks.
VC Andrews books were basically what the Twilight series is now, bad formulaic writing that makes copious use of the sexualization of young girls. It is pre-teen porn. Everyone good is beautiful and blonde, everyone evil is either ugly, or slutty. There is no subtlety, every moment is overblown and dramatic. The plots exist solely to railroad you through to the end, jumping from sexy scene to violent scene to sexy scene. But all with a veil of Wrongness draping over every Louisiana bayou scene. It is WRONG to do these things, it is WRONG to be sexy, it will lead to you being kidnapped, tortured, or murdered if you are sexy, being a young girl is Wrong and Dangerous.
VC Andrews was herself an anti-social cripple in her young life, just like Stephanie Meyers is a repressed Mormon. What they've both done is figure out a way to produce over and over again a representation of their own fucked up mental states in legalized child porn.
And you know, if adults want to read that stuff, fine. I don't even think there's a problem with smart well read kids reading it every once in a while. Everyone picks up a romance novel or a pulp horror novel sometimes. But when I was young, I was reading one, maybe even two books a day. Most kids don't do that. And when they are only reading a book occasionally, I don't think they should only be reading trash. Because it doesn't encourage them to read good stuff later, it just guarantees they will keep reading trash. Like bad CSI and lawyer novels, or NY Times paperback bestsellers.
And the really bad part about these books is that you don't learn anything from them. You don't learn about sex. You don't learn about people. You learn nothing about the real world, or science, or imagination. In fact, you don't even learn how to properly fantasize about sex or relationships, which is ridiculous, at least if the books did that they would have some defensible purpose. Maybe, MAYBE, you could argue it builds vocabulary. But they use the word bosom in Jane Eyre too.
There's this idea that as long as kids are reading, and it's a young adult novel (which of course is perfectly safe), then it's better than nothing. I hate that idea. What you read as a child impacts your life in such a heavy permanent way. It dictates what part of culture you're going to identify with, what you'll choose to read when you're older, and what kind of interests you develop. It changes how you'll do in high school, what kind of friends you'll make, what kind of conversations you'll have with strangers. It's fucking important.
So that's why I hate VC Andrews, and also why I will be the aunt who buys books. Just watch. You start popping out kids, I am going to sign you up for the Madeleine L'Engle book of the month club.