Revisiting My Favorites 2: Flowers in the Attic and Crystal Singer

I had intended to make this an occasional series on the blog. Needless to say, nearly a year has passed since I first commented on what it was like to revisit books and movies that I loved years ago. I blame my second time as a first-year teacher – lesson planning, late nights – all the stuff I love to do but that which takes up so much time! But I’m here again with two recent revisits.

I reread Flowers in the Attic this spring after watching the Lifetime movie. The adaptation was pretty good and followed the book’s plot closely, with the exception of the children’s escape. Wondering how it held up, I reserved a copy of the novel at the library. It is still a popular checkout, as my copy didn’t show up for several weeks. I first read Flowers in seventh grade; I read the entire series several times, in fact. Along with the Clan of the Cave Bear books, this series was the one we passed around at sleepovers and in the school cafeteria. There were “juicy parts,” the torrid, sometimes incestuous, sex scenes. When I started reading it this time around, I wondered how the story would hold up. Were we just reading it for the dirty scenes? Or was there a compelling story somewhere in there?

I was pleasantly surprised by my rereading of Flowers. Yes, parts of the story were overwritten; the dialogue, especially, made me cringe. But there was enough creepiness (evil grandparents, a horrible mother) to keep me turning the pages. Even though I knew how the novel ended (spoiler alert!), my heart still raced when Chris, Cathy, and Carrie finally left captivity and fled Foxworth Manor. This time around, I was more sensitive to the horrors of the child abuse portrayed in the story, and I saw a darkness in Cathy that I had not noticed when reading this book as a young adult. Back then, she was a sympathetic character; now, I saw shadows of her mother, Corrine, in her actions and thoughts. 

I quickly skimmed through a couple of the sequels but didn’t find them as compelling as the original story. In fact, my former favorite of the series, Petals on the Wind, was disappointing. Too much ballet, not enough revenge. And when Cathy finally confronts Corrine, it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I remembered. The scene seemed rushed and melodramatic. So, thumbs-up to Flowers in the Attic, but a big yawn for its sequels.

Anne McCaffrey was another of my favorite authors when I was in junior high and high school. I read all of the Dragon series, Crystal Singer books, and even some of her short fiction. I read her stories and was filled with wonder. They brought me to a magical, sometimes mystical, sometimes holy place, and I never really left. Those books haunted me. In all of them, I always clung to the romantic relationships, many times at the expense of the rest of the story. That’s why it was such a delight to pick up Crystal Singer and realize that it still felt new and fresh to me, that because I had latched on to the romantic parts the first time, I had missed an incredible journey story. This time around, I appreciated the world-building, the sense of discovery, the possibility of crystals being used for interstellar communication. I loved watching Killashandra grow; I wasn’t reading quickly to find her next romantic liaison. The novel satisfied me more as an adult. I am now rereading Killashandra Ree and hope it is just as good as its predecessor. 

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