Before I get to the cover (which is of course a classic), I want to talk about FitA itself a bit. It’s really THE VCA novel, isn’t it? It’s the one everyone’s heard of, if not the only one they’ve read; it’s basically a cultural shorthand for inappropriate sibling relationships/stories about same. People are often surprised to learn that there’s an entire Dollanganger series since FitA is such a thing in and of itself. “Wait, what are the other books about?” people have asked me when I mention there are four other books. “Ummm…more weirdness? And ballet!” I usually say. (People who don’t read at least Petals on the Wind are doing themselves a disservice, I think, it’s more of a conclusion to the initial arc, and all of the rest of that nonsense (Corrine moves in next door! Everyone moves back to the mansion! Bart Jr. and all that jazz!) is more or less tossable. I do like Garden of Shadows though.)
ANYWAY. The Dollanganger series doesn’t really fit into the template of the later series, though it does have a variant on the structure. Have I talked about the template? Am I too lazy to check? Maybe the answer to both questions is ‘yes’ but here’s a thing I came up with whilst curling my hair anyway.
So the formula followed by the Casteel, Cutler, Landry, and Logan series are as follows:
BOOK ONE: Main character (a young girl) is introduced. She will probably have a *fairly* unusual name (Heaven/Dawn/Ruby/Melody) (this may be unusual only for the area/time period). She may or may not have a happy childhood/home life, but at some point in this book she will be made to live with people other than those who raised her. These new caregivers may be relatives or not, but she ain’t staying home. She may or may not have siblings from whom she is separated (Heaven, Dawn) but she will meet new siblings/relatives in her new home as well. There will be at least one female nemesis, possibly of her own age, (usually a sister), ie Dawn/Clara Sue, Ruby/Gisselle, or an adult mother/grandmother figure, ie Heaven/Kitty, Melody/Olivia. Sometimes there’s double trouble, ala Ruby vs Gisselle/Daphne or Dawn vs Clara Sue/Violet. Main character will probably meet a future love interest, whether or not she knows it and whether or not they are currently love interests (Heaven/Logan takes a hiatus at first, Dawn/Jimmy…is not worth getting into yet).
BOOK TWO: Main character goes away from whatever home she was in at the end of Book One, usually to a school of some kind (though I think Melody stays put), where hijinks ensue. New love interests may be introduced, but will usually turn out to be creeps (Dawn/Michael), will die (Heaven/Troy), or will just be complete disasters (Ruby/Louis). Main character leaves school, either through graduation (Heaven, Melody) or kicked out for pregnancy (Ruby, Dawn) and returns to one or more of their homes. There will be some confrontation with the villain and some kind of return to the MC’s past. Usually by the end of this book they have a baby, whether one they had as a teen or they’ve sped up a few years, gotten married, and had one. Melody, again, throws this off.
BOOK THREE: Main Character is an adult, or is 21 and we’re supposed to act like they’re ancient. They’ve usually developed a degree of independence from their villains and are married. Stuff happens, often involving their children. Many supporting characters, good and bad, die, (Clara Sue/Gisselle/Jillian/Belinda). The Main Character will often learn part of some secret from the past of the villain, enough to make them wonder what else could have happened to make them that way. Ends with the MC usually pretty happy.
BOOK FOUR: The daughter of the previous Main Character becomes our narrator, EXCEPT, AGAIN for the Logan series, which makes Melody’s dead cousin Laura the narrator, ostensibly through her diary, EVEN THOUGH IT ENDS WITH HER DEATH. HER DIARY-BASED NARRATION ENDS WITH HER DEATH. They are young and surrounded by the secrets that their mothers tried to hide in the previous three books. There are sometimes siblings running around, but they’re just plot devices really. A tragedy will befall the Main Character, generally death, whether of both her parents (Annie, Christie) or a sibling (Pearl). This tragedy results in the MC having to make some life change (Christie has to move in with her uncle and later runs away, Annie has to go live with her grandfather, Pearl has to run through the SWAMPS, Laura is institutionalized) and usually face some villain from her mother’s past (Tony/Philip/Buster/Olivia). MC will eventually find love and the book ends happily OR WITH THEIR NARRATED DEATH.
BOOK FIVE: The prequel. As I’ve said before, I tend to trust the prequels, if mainly because they’re not presented as, oh the deathbed confessions or something. Meaning, it’s not like Olivia Foxworth writes this to explain her actions in FitA, so I have confidence that what she tells us happened actually happened, she’s not making amends or lying. Does that make sense? Prequels bore me when, like a certain one we just finished, they provide absolutely no new information. I mean, in Garden of Shadows we learn that Corrine and Christopher are actually half-siblings instead of just half niece and uncle, and I don’t think we learned that before. And Alicia was kind of painted as a monster bitch but we learn she was actually sweet and an innocent? In Tarnished Gold we learned…stuff we already knew. So yay.
The Dollanganger series holds to the five book set up, but pretty much does its own thing past that. BOOK ONE is our story, that classic tale of siblings locked in an attic, while BOOK TWO keeps the same narrator and continues her adventures, but then BOOK THREE is a random piece of weirdness about that narrator’s sons, and then BOOK FOUR returns to the narrator’s story and ends with her death. BOOK FIVE is then a prequel, where we learn some interesting secrets but also people’s names are misspelled. So…
I HAVE RAMBLED ENOUGH. Let’s start this fire*.
*Wait that’s BOOK TWO