Whitefern by V.C. Andrews* | Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
As you, no doubt, know by now V.C. Andrews is/was the queen of disturbing young adult sagas that were, more often than not, banned for their explicit and controversial content. Gothic Horror has always been her strongest genre and nearly all of her work defines at least five trigger warnings. Her literature has never been an easy thing to swallow.
Even those who've never picked up a forbidden release from this iconic author, chances are you've heard of her catalogue. From treacherous family drama to taboos. To unbearably dark challenges her characters face. Teenage sexuality and abuse are often her calling card but frankly a lot goes down in her work.
Her most iconic works--and amongst the most twisted--are often topics in popular culture and this has hardly changed in the decades since her novels were first published. Each release has gone through multiple prints and even decades after she has passed--a ghost writer has grossly taken on her legacy and continued to milk her name for all its worth. In and of itself, that's scoff-worthy. Whitefern--the sequel to one of my favourites and most disturbing of V.C. Andrews' vast archive, My Sweet Audrina--is just as bad as one would expect.
If I could give it less than one start, I would. I truly left this novel feeling not only like I've stepped on a nail, I finally found the book to dethrone novels like Fifty Shades of Grey as some of the worst pieces of fiction published in the better part of a decade. The first thing I noticed about Whitefern was its lack of knowledge about the original novel (seriously: did they only read it once?) and the publisher's lack of respect towards V.C. Andrews' legacy as a whole.
There are a few novels written by the false V.C. Andrews that are passable in a guilty-pleasure sort of way but for the most part: we need to stop shitting on this poor woman's characters and name. That being said, I did read the novel in a rather detached state--reminding myself that it wouldn't live up to the original and that I shouldn't judge it based on this alone. But, the thing is, Whitefern is a terrible novel--end note. Nearly nothing of it felt full of that luscious darkness that V.C. Andrews' crafted in My Sweet Audrina. To put it bluntly, it didn't even feel like decent fanfiction. It just didn't work.
Audrina--my poor darling--had such a rubbish childhood that my stomach turns even looking back at her history. She's always deserved so much better than she was given and in Whitefern we see the only half-light she'd had by the end of My Sweet Audrina (which was a different tragic ending) go up in flames. Furthermore, it was like the ghost-writer had no idea what to do with these characters or who they were. It's true that people change drastically through the years--but all that we know about characters like Arden Lowe (who I am wasn't a fan of to begin with but frankly I'm supposed to believe he'd do what?) is pretty much destroyed by the end of Whitefern in a manner that is twisted, sure, but cheap.
V.C. Andrews was campy but never that level of cheap. Not only this but the ghost-writer (though, he isn't an all around terrible writer) just didn't have what it takes to write this story to the best of its ability. One of the things that was always so striking and disturbing about My Sweet Audrina was its dark and almost whimsical prose tangling itself up in the darkness. Whitefern doesn't capture any of that and leaves readers feeling cold in the wrong, underwhelmed sort of way.
That being said--the only lightness in this novel was the relationship between Audrina and Sylvia. A lot of bad things can be said about the novel (and I do mean a lot) but at least they were adapted sort of properly. I say sort of because I don't think it was written as well as it could be but it's the only thing from the original novel that wasn't tossed from the staircase at Whitefern.
I had a lot of problems with the twists that came with this one (seriously, it's not your story to fuck with like you have and make a profit off it?) and the overall damage it does to the original story. A great many times I felt like throwing the book outside because these characters deserved better. I didn't see the point of some plots and the way revelations were revealed--it was predictable and bordered on lifeless and nonsensical.
I hated it.
And am pretending this book was never published.
Incidentally... how did it get published?
If you are a fan of the original: you probably won't like this. I won't say that you'll hate it but I don't think it will be your cup of tea. However, if you are a fan of "V.C. Andrews" and the more recent releases... you'll probably enjoy it?