Welcome to the first installment of Jezebel’s Summer Book Club, led by Jezebel staffers Emily Alford and Megan Reynolds, avid readers with perverted taste and a penchant for homework assignments, introducing you to the shittiest books they’ve ever loved. Join us for a summer of nostalgic trash reads!
Emily: As an excruciatingly socially awkward child who broke a bone every single time I attached my ungainly body to roller skates and also had serious allergies to all flowering plants, grass, most trees, pretty much anything that gives off a pleasant smell, and actual dirt, it probably does not come as I surprise that I usually spent summers catching up on my reading. During this time, I had exactly one friend—a girl with similar allergies and athletic prowess who was also, like me, much more interested in attempting to summon demons in a darkened bathroom than she was in befriending dull eleven-year-olds that generally didn’t even own Ouija boards. Our summers were spent using our small town library’s resources to research Lizzy Borden and the Salem witch trials, which is probably why her father finally decided to take us camping, where we first encountered the V.C. Andrews novels her very cool older sister had packed for the trip.
The warm months will always be V.C. Andrews season to me, by virtue of having spent my eleventh summer ignoring my friend’s father’s pleas for us to swim in a lake or go on a hike, preferring instead to compulsively read Flowers in the Attic and its two sequels, along with My Sweet Audrina, over the course of a week. Reading those novels back-to-back probably shaped the trajectory of my twisted, Gothic-novel-obsessed life. But it was Audrina that left the biggest impression, even though I haven’t read it since that first time, holed up in an RV with my equally creepy best friend back in my mid-’90s childhood.
So what better time than the summer of our discontent to revisit the most unsettling of all beach reads, a book I remember to be full of family secrets hidden deep within a crumbling mansion, closely guarded by a domineering father and evil first cousin. Pretty sure someone also fucks an uncle in there, simply because that’s a standard coupling in the V.C. Andrews-verse. And I’m terribly excited to share this pivotal part of my misspent childhood with the Jezebel family, especially my creepy little workplace Shining twin Megan Reynolds.
Megan: I first read Flowers in the Attic one summer long ago, having discovered the book in the lending library of the retirement community where my grandmother lived and couldn’t help but be absorbed by V.C. Andrews’s perverted mind and penchant for incest! As tweens are wont to do, I sought out more of her work, settling eventually on My Sweet Audrina, probably because I also found it in the same lending library and had tired of the Danielle Steele novels that were my preference.
Summer is hot, it’s sticky, and the nights are full of intrigue, promise, and possibility—much like a V.C. Andrews novel, where everyone is harboring a deep secret and no one is ever who they say they are. My memory of what actually happens in Audrina is very limited—there’s a girl, a mistaken identity, someone fucks a relative—but I’m pretty sure that I’ll be proven wrong upon my revisit! Everything in the world is so truly fucked up that a V.C. Andrews revisit feels just about right to us, and so, instead of keeping our thoughts about the Southern gothic fantasy world that Andrews created to ourselves, we have decided to open the floor to anyone who would like to join.
Both Emily and myself are reading the book alongside all of those who wish to participate, so we won’t be speeding ahead—we want to be able to discuss the book with whoever chooses this journey for themselves, in as close to real-time as possible. Here’s how this book club will work: for the next week, we’ll read the first five chapters, and gather our thoughts in a post on June 15. We’ll continue our reading and discussion every subsequent Monday. Please meet us back here! We’re very excited.