We’re getting into the thick of the Shooting Stars mini-series, so if you haven’t checked out the first two books, Cinnamon and Ice, make sure you do! So let’s dive into my review of Rose, which promises a truer return to typical V.C. Andrews form. Here’s a look at the synopsis:
WHEN SHE DANCED, SHE COULD DREAM…
Beautiful and talented, Rose was the apple of her father’s eye. But when he is tragically taken from her, his carefully hidden secrets destroy the only life Rose has ever known–and lead her into a world of luxury unlike any she has imagined. Rose is whisked off to a prestigious private school, while her mother falls into a hateful whirlwind of wealth and greed. But a most unlikely person will show Rose the true meaning of family–and give her the courage to follow her dream…
About the Book
Rose is the third book in the Shooting Stars series. Out of the three protagonists thus far, Rose is the most true to the V.C. Andrews stereotype: white, innocent, and naive. The book takes place in early 00’s Atlanta, Georgia. There are prominent references particularly to the emerging Internet culture at the time. Having spent my teenage years in the early aughts, I can attest that the references come off pretty dated.
Compared to my copy of Cinnamon and Ice, Rose seems to have fared well in the hands of previous readers. It sports the standard spine creases and dog-eared edges. The cover, however, is creased from being opened all the way. I’m also missing the very first page that contains an excerpt and the updated list of all V.C. Andrews’ books.
My 4-year-old daughter also gravitated heavily towards this book. It’s the one she pretends to read more than all my other books. Probably because it’s pink and shiny. It’s amusing so see her to drawn to the covers. There’s really something about them that draws its audience in. Even with the brand update in 1996 with the Logan series, the look really remains true to the aesthetic of “gothic horror”.
Compare the look of these books to today’s modern V.C. Andrews covers that scream 2010’s forgettable teen lit. So forgettable. So cheap. Nothing a stock photo subscription and a few Photoshop presets can’t achieve, hey?
The other two books in the Shooting Stars series were both lackluster renditions of a V.C. Andrews tale. I think Ice did a better job of taking the formula and applying it to a new situation (a black character in an urban setting).
One of my main issues with this series is the plot being crammed into 9 chapters. Each book is around 180 pages, and that just isn’t enough space to shove all the V.C. Andrews into these books. The “talent” aspect of each story, specifically, gets crammed into the tail-end of each plot. The last two chapters always feel hurried and summarized, instead of experienced by the protagonist.
An Innocent & Pretty, Yet Completely Naive Female Protagonist
Rose Wallis is the ideal naive V.C. Andrews protag, but she has one major downfall, and that is that she has even less personality than the standard V.C. Andrew protag. Everyone around her speaks for her. Much of her self-worth comes from her father, and all of her doubts from her mother (who resembles Staples-brand bleached cardstock, but we’ll get to that later.) In the prologue, Rose talks about her fear of the boogeyman as a child. Now grown, she sees the boogeyman as a metaphor of the “evil” of other people.
Rose’s special trait is that she’s good at dancing. She’s never had lessons, yet her new teacher is sO ImpResSeD with her that she trains her every day to become amazing at dance. Even though she’s seventeen. And hasn’t had a single dance lesson in her life.
I’m gonna spoil the ending here guys: Rose is SOLIDLY COMMITTED TO SPARKLE MOTION, and it’s that solid commitment that gets her into the Senetsky School of Performing Arts. Like she doesn’t even have to audition. Madame Senetsky’s son watches her dance and just admits her to the damn school.
A Beloved Doting Paternal Figure
The first chapter is titled “Daddy”. It’s all about Rose’s dad and his influence over her. He even allows his the boss to fawns over her like a fucking pervert and the dad just goes along with it so she can win some cash.
Rose spends much of the first chapter talking about how whimsical and carefree her father’s is. He’s essentially the manic pixie dream girl of dad characters.
A Tragic Death
When Rose’s father doesn’t return from a hunting trip. her mother starts freaking out about not wanting to cook a duck so late at night. She convinces Rose to see a movies with some friends. Rose goes to the movie, yet she can’t help but worry about her father, so this dude Barry takes her home. Then the police arrive, Flowers in the Attic style, to tell them at dear old dad is dead.
Of course, this leaves naive Rose and her “good at being gorgeous” mother penniless. There’s speculation that Rose’s father, Charles, committed suicide, but that question is never answered. Turns out that Charles never payed his life insurance. It’s revealed that Charles was actually a real POS who couldn’t hold a job and moved the family around a lot AND also happened to cheat on his wife and have a secret son. For some reason, though, these revelations never shatter Rose’s opinion of her father. She continues to look fondly on him and blames all the family problems on her mom.
Here’s Rose’s thoughts on them not being able to pay for Charles’ funeral.
Why hadn’t she insisted on facing realities? Why hadn’t she seen to it these things were addressed? Why did she bury her head in the sand Daddy poured around us? I wanted to scream at her, demanding to know why she had put up with all of this irresponsibility.
Uh, maybe because your dad was a gas-lighting sociopath, Rose. Your situation isn’t gonna improve by harnessing blame on your poor bEaUTifUl mom.
A Rags to Riches Plot
OF COURSE, shortly after the death, a stranger comes knocking and it’s this woman named Charlotte Alden Curtis, the sort of rich woman who constantly hammers you in the face with her richness. She’s the sister of Angelica Curtis, the babe who Rose’s dad decided to have a nice tasty side treat with, right up until he got her pregnant.
See, Rose’s dad has an illegitimate son who also has a spinal abnormality and he’s confined to a wheelchair (ugh, we really gotta go down this path, because just you wait).
Charlotte, still young and rich (because marrying wealthy old dudes pays off, baby!), wants to have a social life but doesn’t want to spend her time taking care Evan, so she barges into Rose and her mother’s life so she can take advantage of their destitute state. She wants them to take care of Evan so she can go and cougar it up around Atlanta’s night scene.
A Vivid Gothic Setting
It doesn’t take much convincing to get Rose and her mother to head down to the Curtis Estate, a standard Southern mansion with Doric columns and such. Of note is a line where Rose focuses on some marble tables with “expensive-looking figurines” on them. Come on, Andrew Neiderman. You can describe architecture and oil paintings and “settees” (Neiderman’s third-favourite word after “breasts” and “bosom”) so well but you can’t do a simple Google search on some expensive figurines?
Just pick a Lldaro and describe it. It could even be a metaphor, FFS.
A Hostile Maternal Figure (+ Bonus Mean Girl!)
Clearly, Charlotte is supposed to be the mean maternal figure, but she doesn’t exactly function that way. What she ultimately does is steal Rose’s mother (who she insists Rose refer to as Monica so she doesn’t sound old). Charlotte’s pretty much a petty middle-aged woman with no friends who just wants a friend, so she just buys Rose’s mother, sorry, MONICA, a new trendy wardrobe and takes her about town to bang older rich dudes.
Charlotte gets all excited about Rose’s worry over mother’s behaviour. Monica, however, LOVES her new life and her hot clothes, and she forgets to pay attention to Rose’s dance recital and eventually runs away with some dude named Grover. Charlotte really wasn’t out to get a friend, but to play with Rose’s emotions by hitching up Monica with another man. It’s so very high school of her. She’s two characters in one, but her presence in the novel is pretty lackluster.
Here’s a scene where Rose confronts Charlotte about her mother not being in her room in the morning:
“Are you saying my mother spent the night with a man she has just met?”
“Your mother is a grown woman, Rose. Don’t you think you’re being a bit overly dramatic about this? She’s still a young woman. Let her enjoy what’s left of her youth and beauty. What she or any woman in her state doesn’t need is an anchor tied to her legs in the form of a neurotic daughter.”
“I’m not a neurotic daughter!”
So yeah, that’s the gist of it. Of course, Charlotte pissed me off but she didn’t have the same presence as Grandmother Cutler, for instance.
Once again, there is no incest. Rose and Barry have a pretty strong relationship that doesn’t sway during the course of the novel, which is a surprise, even after Rose introduces Barry to her half-brother, Evan.
Evan is essentially your stereotypical “person in a wheelchair” character. He’s lonely and angry and refuses to speak to others. He spends all his time on the computer. Rose is forced to get to know him. She does a decent job getting him out of his shell, yet, character-wise, Evan remains nothing more than a cutout derived for sympathy. His disability is a plot device (a standard V.C. Andrews tactic, yes, but I’m an adult here and I’m trying to address the problematic aspects of his “character quirk”).
Here’s the thing. Evan’s a lonely teenage boy with an emerging sexuality. He spends pretty much all of his time on the computer. He’s on chat rooms. He manipulates photos of his aunt and puts them on naked women’s bodies, to Rose’s shock. He’s an angry “cripple” (he calls himself that) with spite for the world. I think we all know exactly what forums Evan would be spending time at in 2019.
In the book’s penultimate sex scene, Rose and Barry get it on in the living room. Then Rose hears a sound in the kitchen. She leaves to check on Evan and finds his bedroom door ajar. She peeks in and finds him sitting completely naked in front of the computer.
Numerous times in the book, Evan reminds Rose just how beautiful she is. It seems the only reason he enjoys spending time with her is because she’s “beautiful”. At one point, while he’s showing her how to use the Internet, Evan eavesdrops on his ex-online-girlfriend’s cyber-sex session with another individual, proving that Rose didn’t own a copy of *NSYNC’s hit album, No Strings Attached.
Some Good Olde School Misogyny
Rose really doesn’t have many qualities in this book other than her beauty. Her dancing only becomes significant in the long summarizing last chapter. Rose’s dad loves Rose for her beauty. Evan hangs out with Rose for her beauty. Rose says that when she was 11, her male teachers would flirt with her.
Rose’s mother enters her teenage daughter into a beauty contest run by her dad’s boss. Rose’s dad takes her, and doesn’t even flinch when his boss (who runs a car dealership) refers to her like this:
“She has the chassis. That’s for sure, Charles,” he said, drinking me in from head to foot, pausing over my breasts and my waist as if he was measuring me for a dress. “Nice bumpers and great chrome,” he added and quickly laughed. “You’re a beautiful girl, Rose. No wonder your father’s proud of you.”
Rose doesn’t win the beauty contest, but she’s so damn beautiful that people refer to her as the winner anyway. It’s a disgusting passage meant to read that way, but it does frustrate me how blatant the sexual harassment is in V.C. Andrews books. The men never get reprimanded for for their behavior, ESPECIALLY by all the weak-ass mom characters.
Some Really Bad Writing
My favourite thing about this book is the really dated references to technology. This book was published in 2001, right when the culture was changing, so I can assume that Neiderman is really writing from experience when he penned this rant from Charlotte about Evan’s obsession with his computer:
“The only thing that gets him excited is shopping at one of those electronics stores, and he doesn’t to that very much anymore either, because he’s able to do it all over the computer. Sometimes, I think he is turning into a computer.”
Evan’s disability is obviously utilized for pity-points. His self-deprecation doesn’t read authentic in that he’s always referring to himself as a “cripple” and or a “tragic accident”. He even runs a chatroom called “Invalids Anonymous”. I’m pretty sure that “invalid” was a dated term in 2001. I think “handicapped” was the term used then, so great job at showing your age, Neiderman.
Anyway, here’s Rose trying her best to “help” Evan with some condescending sap that pretty much invalidates his struggle as a person with a disability.
“I don’t think of you as a tragic accident, Evan. Look, I expect I’ll get to know you better, and maybe I won’t like you. Maybe you’re too bitter, so bitter that I won’t be able to help,” I said. “But from what I can see and what I’ve heard so far, you seem to be very intelligent. When I said I wasn’t sure I could help you as your tutor, I was thinking to myself that you’ve already taught yourself so much, you probably know more than I do even though I’m two years older than you.”
The whole “disabled character as a pity magnet” plot is pretty standard in fiction. And I know I’m ranting about a stupid retro V.C. Andrews book, but hey, part of the reason I’m doing these reviews is to address some of the problematic aspects that have bled through literature over the decades.
We need more representation of people with abilities in fiction. Luckily, we live in a wonderful day and age where people share a lot of their daily lives on YouTube, and I want to urge my fellow writers to utilize that shared experience when doing research and writing a character with a disability. One of my favourite YouTube vloggers is Anya Darlow, a UK woman who shares every aspect of her life as a T-12 complete paraplegic. Her content is so fun and eye-opening. It’s crazy all the stuff you don’t think about as an able-bodies person. Anya’s got a great sense of humour and a great sense of style too!
Fantastic Psychological Horror
There’s next to no conflict in this book. Even the sexual stuff with Evan gets pushed aside. At the end, it’s Evan and Barry who show up at Rose’s dance recital. Her mother disappears with a simple letter, but then it turns out that Grover abandoned Monica, leaving her to feel like the foolish idiot she is.
But hey, at least her character arc came full-circle, right?
My Final Rating
This feels like the worst book in the Shooting Stars series of the three I’ve read, though it’s the V.C. Andrews vibes that save it from being vaguely worse than Cinnamon. While it sticks to the V.C. Andrews formula, it’s limited length still suffocates the plot.
ROSE (Shooting Stars #3)
- Retains classic V.C. Andrews tropes.
- Early 00's Internet culture flashback!
- Uses a person with a disability as a pity prop.
- Rose's "talent" is barely a highlight for a character in a series called "Shooting Stars".
- Nobody hates the dad for being a POS.