[REVIEW] The Unwelcomed Child – V. C. Andrews

V. C. Andrews [also published as Virginia Andrews]
The Unwelcomed Child
Simon & Schuster (US & CA: 21st January 2014; UK: 24th April 2014; AU: 1st May 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

From the cover copy: Elle Edwards grew up believing that because of her mother’s sinful ways she was born without a soul…

Yet in the prologue we are informed that Deborah was raped, resulting in Elle’s conception. Because rape victims are “sinful”? (NOTE: I choose to believe all the shaming in these novels is to show that the characters doing the blaming are awful people. Authors are separate from their characters.)

From page 21: I gathered that my mother was far from the perfect child in their eyes and that the man who had raped her was obviously pure evil, if not the devil himself. But if she were a better person, he wouldn’t have been so drawn to her […] Not only was I fathered by a rapist, but I also had a mother who was more evil than most girls her age.

On the bright side, at least the rapist is blamed somewhat. On the bad side, THIS IS STILL VICTIM-BLAMING.

Look, I don’t know much about the mindset of strict, conservative parents, but… Why would you home-school someone when they’re YOUNGER, instead of when they are most likely to “sin”? Sending someone to school-outside-the-home for the first time when they’re fifteen doesn’t make sense in this context.

From page 238: “There are rapes, and there are rapes.”

AW, HELL NO! There are rapes. Period. Full-stop. Rape is rape, whether it’s by a stranger or someone you know. Whether you’ve flirted with them or not. Whether you’re sober or unconscious. RAPE IS RAPE. The scenarios may differ, but the end result is the same.

From page 250: “…but my parents have always been active professionals, my father the lawyer and my mother with her decorating business.”

Mason and Claudine Spenser are Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield! (I realised this post-midnight, and it was hilarious at the time.)

From page 261: “Men don’t sin so easily with ugly women, and women don’t sin easily with ugly men.”

I take that to mean consensual sex, and not rape. Either way, it’s still pretty-blaming.

SPOILER: Elle meets her father, who claims the sex was consensual. She’s never met him before, but because of Deborah’s reputation, she believes him and not her. And Deborah never admits to lying about the rape. MAYBE SHE REALLY WAS RAPED. Just because she didn’t press charges, that doesn’t mean it was consensual. Just because Elle’s grandparents and her father claim it was consensual, THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT WAS CONSENSUAL.

I spent January catching up on all the VCA books I didn’t read when they were first published (from Celeste onwards). The quality varies from quite good (Secrets in the Attic) to particularly cringe-worthy (Forbidden Sister). So how does The Unwelcomed Child fare, read within a month of its release?

Like most of those books, it’s middling. It stands alone, but the main problem (other than the obvious victim-blaming) is that it has plenty of opportunity for drama and chaos that never eventuates. The grandparents are religious, and since they think Elle has an evil in her… An exorcism would’ve been the logical move.

Elle befriends some older twins, a male and a female. They hang around naked together. They kiss on the lips. The girl acts like a jealous lover. This is a VCA book; I’m surprised they aren’t incestuous.

Elle’s mother comes to visit with her new husband. They don’t stay for long. There’s a big vocal disagreement, but that’s it. Really? This is a VCA book, and no one pushes anyone down the stairs?

The reason we read VCA is because the characters and storylines are so over-the-top – bonkers and entertaining. I kind of hate to say it, but The Unwelcomed Child is…well, a bit boring. Even the big climax was Deus ex machina, rather than Elle gaining agency. And because the villain can’t fight back, life becomes much easier. I mean, really – instead of winning due to your own power, you win because your opponent loses theirs? A little convenient, don’t you reckon?

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