Review: Bittersweet Dreams by V.C. Andrews

One of the most surprising--and successful--literary phenomenons to emerge from the twentieth century is, without a doubt V.C. Andrews. A wheelchair bound and softy spoken artist who lived with her mother, who had a penchant for writing shocking yet sympathetic novels that featured taboo subjects, V.C. Andrews found a second career as a best-selling author during what was to be the final--and perhaps happiest--decade of her life. But what followed her death was equally surprising--her books had become so popular, and so loved by readers--that they continue to be written and released twenty-nine years after her death with the assistance of a ghostwriter. Ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman (a successful author of horror and romantic suspense in his own right,) has written anywhere between 69 and 74 of the novels released following the death of V.C. Andrews (the true author of Garden of Shadows and the final three books in the Casteel series, remains hotly debated by fans.) Many of these ghostwritten novels have gone on to be bestsellers, some have been loved and embraced by fans and others are well ... 

Well, every author has their off days.

Bittersweet Dreams tells the story of Mayfair Cummings, an exceptionally gifted teenager who has an IQ of 180. Mayfair has trouble relating to the people around her, particularly her vile classmates and her stepmother who appears to be as abusive as she is vapid and vain. When Mayfair is taken advantage of by a sleazy teacher, she vows revenge and finds a way to punish everyone who has hurt her.

I found that this novel was big on ideas, but the ideas were not executed as well, as cleverly, or as sympathetically as they could have been. What could have been a literary version of the MTV series Daria was let down by a heroine who lacked empathy for others (and who had an irritating habit of correcting other people's speech, with a complete disregard for the concept of colloquial irregularities,) and a cast of supporting characters who remained as undeveloped as they were completely unlikeable. (Consider that one of the main themes of Daria is of the heroine learning to accept the people around her, and that most of the other characters are basically good people, though somewhat flawed and that only one or two--such as Ms Lee--are genuine and unredeemable arseholes.) 

There are some real gross out moments--such as (spoiler alert) Mayfair getting revenge on her stepmother by telling her psychiatrist that her stepmother bought her a vibrator. 

Mayfair's ultimate--and final--act of revenge involves her taking advantage of her thirteen year old stepsister so that she can humiliate a number of other people who have hurt her overlooks the question of whether the means justifies the ends, rather than addressing it. 

Fans of the Wildflowers series will be amused to know that Dr Marlowe makes a surprise appearance in the novel as a minor, but important, character.

While Bittersweet Dreams may provide readers with a few so-bad-it's-good moments, this novel was not a winner for me.

Recommended only to die-hard fans.


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