Now, I know that I published my Dawn review last week. Normally I’d work through an entire series in order but I couldn’t get my hands on a copy of Secrets of the Morning right away. I did, however, find all four first books in the Shooting Stars mini-series. So let’s give the Cutler Series a bit of a break while we blast through Shooting Stars.
CINNAMON LOVES THE SHADOWS, BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE NO ONE CAN FIND HER…
For Cinnamon, dreaming of imaginary worlds and characters is her only escape from her mother’s breakdowns. Her grandmother’s overbearing control. Her family’s turmoil. But Cinnamon is discovering something special about herself, a gift from deep within that sets her apart: a talent for the theater that would finally give her a chance… to truly escape.
About the Book
Cinnamon is the first book in the Shooting Stars miniseries. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the V.C. Andrews miniseries, as I’m sure most fans aren’t. The change from “family sagas” to serial novels happened when the rising prices of books resulted in the fall of paperback sales. Publishers to produce smaller novelettes sold at a lower cost, and thus, the string of V.C. Andrews mini-series collections occurred in the late ’90s to early ’00s. Check out this post, The Case of the Keyhole Covers, for more details on the change in V.C. Andrews’ brand. It’s a really interesting look at the unfortunate changes in the book market over the last couple of decades.
I was a teenager in the 2000’s, which was really when V.C. Andrews sales had already started slipping and the marketers tried to modernize the brand (starting with the Logan series in 1996). By the time I got into the books the “mini series” was an established thing, but I still found myself gravitating to the family sagas. I find it interesting how the V.C. Andrews brand has shifted with the market (“her” latest book is a friggin’ psychological thriller, like come on.)
It’s a bit of a testament to the how the “magic” of something only holds for so long. Like how those bands you loved in your teens meant so much to you the, but you listen to them now and you’re like, “WoW, sO eDgY.”
I was super lucky that I found the entire Shooting Stars series at a local thrift shop. Honestly, I considered not even bothering with any of the miniseries collections but they were only a buck a book and the entire thrift store was 50% off that day, so I figured it was worth the pocket change.
Cinnamon is the most beat-up book in my collection. Creased spine. Creased cover. Wear on the outer edge. The spine binding is also crooked, so whoever owned this book before me was a real one-handed reader. Least there’s no cat piss, though!
I am not at all going into this with high expectations. I remember being very underwhelmed by the first book in the Broken Wings series, so let’s see how this minuscule format of V.C. Andrews literary genius works out.
An Innocent & Pretty, Yet Completely Naive Female Protagonist
Part of me wants to give Andrew Neiderman (Andrews’ ghostwriter) a little credit for trying to write an edgy goth-inspired teen girl character, but I just won’t do it because he did not pull things off well. When we first meet Cinnamon Carlson, she’s slamming the classroom door in a hall monitor’s face. (For one, why on God’s green earth is her name Cinnamon? Second, why does nobody make fun of her for that? Everybody was setting dumpster fires with Dawn’s name. Just because it’s ten years later (2001), we’re suddenly more tolerant of names like CINNAMON?!)
Cinnamon’s voice is a refreshing change from other V.C. Andrews protagonists, but reading her narrative just feels wrong in the V.C. Andrews canon (where nobody actually speaks like a real human being). Not only does she come off as petulant and bratty, but she also rambles to no end. At times she’ll branch off into a three-page flashback right in the middle of dialogue and it’s the most jarring thing to read.
She’s apparently supposed to be a great actress, even though her only acting experience is pretending to be a dead former resident of her old gothic house while she bones her boyfriend the first time.
I like that Cinnamon is the sort of girl who initiates sex, but that also docks points from the “V.C. Andrews protagonist” standard of being a prude and knowing nothing about what “intimate relations” are. This chick is like the Sue Johanson of V.C. Andrews characters.
A Tragic Death
At the beginning of this book, Cinnamon’s mother is taken to the hospital with some sort of psychosis where she believes she’s still pregnant with the infant she recently miscarried. Cinnamon and her grandmother have the mother admitted to the hospital and the mother spends half her time there. I was so waiting for the mother to end up taking her own life or something, but she does end up making a full recovery and returns home.
This book has zero deaths, which is shocking on its own.
A Rags to Riches Plot
There’s nothing of the sort here. Cinnamon’s dad is a stockbroker and makes enough money to not only support a wife and a child but to also own a fancy house that also holds his overbearing mother.
A Vivid Gothic Setting
I quite liked this one, though I hated that we didn’t get to spend much time there. Cinnamon does describe the house quite vividly, a Second Empire with a mansard roof and a pretty killer attic full of stuff dating back to the 1800’s. Cinnamon frequently describes past happens of her and her mother holding seances in the attic to talk to the old family that used to live in the house.
While cool, the house doesn’t really hold that much weight in the story. It’s pretty much just a plot device that allows the overbearing grandmother character to clean.
A Beloved Doting Paternal Figure
Cinnamon’s father is a stockbroker who spends most of his time in New York. She does call him “Daddy” but he’s more of an “always at work” kind of father figure than anything else. Even after Cinnamon’s mom ends up hospitalized, the dad never comes around, so Cinnamon and her boyfriend skip school to drive to New York to spy on him. They end up finding Cinnamon’s dad kissing another woman, and it’s a stupid plot gimmick that drives a wedge between them.
In the book’s “climax”, Cinnamon’s dad ends up having some kind of bodily attack but it doesn’t end up killing him (he just needs a pacemaker!). He spends the last few pages of the book explaining that he was only kissing the woman in New York because he gambled a widowed client’s investment money on a stock that didn’t turn out and the widow decided to blackmail him into pretending they were in a relationship. In the end, Cinnamon forgives him and yet another rich-ass privileged white guy gets away with being a piece of shit.
A Hostile Maternal Figure (+ Bonus Mean Girl!)
Grandmother Beverly is our hostile Material Figure and boy oh boy is she pointless. All she does is linger around in the house after the mother’s hospitalization, taking down all the cool stuff so she can Baby Boomer it up with beige and bland floral wall art. She does, however, Konmari the kitchen up something FIERCE.
At one point she puts a lock on Cinnamon’s bedroom door to prevent Cinnamon from storming off and hiding out all the time. Cinnamon just ends up in the attic instead, which is where she’s caught having sex with her pointless boyfriend who serves no purpose at all but to feed off Cinnamon’s amazing acting (er, roleplaying) skillz.
Some Good Olde School Misogyny
Oddly enough, there really isn’t any old-school misogyny in this novel. Unlike most V.C. Andrews books, this one is set in a more modern time, so I’m not sure if the lack of importance to beauty standards is intentional or not. There are a few portions where Grandmother Beverly reams Cinnamon out for not realizing what “traditional” marriage looks like, but meh.
None! Just one really lame sex scene before the totally 100% not-blood-related boyfriend is sent off to a juvenile detention place and is never heard from again.
Some Really Bad Writing
Cinnamon has few real gems of bad prose, but I managed to dig up a few cringe-worthy passages for you. Here’s a scene between Cinnamon and her grandmother, where granny’s reaming her out for being unappreciative of her father. It’s the closest we get to a legit V.C. Andrews explosion:
“Mothers and daugthers have to realize that husbands and fathers can’t be at their beck and call every minute. They’re out there in the hard, cold world trying to make a living, trying to earn enough to provide and keep you comfortable. Who do you think pays the mortgage on this ridiculous relic of a house, and who pays for the food you eat and the gas you waste driving around in that car of yours, and who gave you that car and who–“
“And who cares?” I shouted, covering my ears with my hands. “Take it all back, everything!”
I turned and fled from her.
Here’s the (one and only!) scene where Cinnamon puts her acting talents to true test, pitting herself against the mean girl Iris (who only appears a couple of times to create tension) with some hot drama dude, Dell. Andrew Neiderman (V.C. Andrews’ ghostwriter) also gets a chance to once again prove he’s a male writer painfully trying to write a female character by over-emphasizing Cinnamon’s bewbs:
He looked at me and smiled as if my daring to challenge Iris was a childish act of bravado. It stirred heat under my breasts. I straightened my shoulders and closed my eyes for a moment, conjuring up the very scene Miss Hamilton had chosen to be read.
And then I began, reciting, illustrating I had memorized the lines as well. I could hear a very audible gasp of surprise and a stirring in the group. Dell, who I knew had intended just to read his lines without much feeling, suddenly found himself actually acting. Later, Miss Hamilton would tell me when someone is good, very good, it makes everyone else reach for his highest capability.
One plot point in the novel’s lackluster climax is when Iris spreads some rumours around school about Cinnamon and her teacher, Miss Hamilton, kissing (it was for acting!, though I’m sure a modern school district would still take issue with such a thing). It’s supposed to be Gossip Girl levels of shocking, but really just amounts to Cinnamon rambling about the woe of her life:
…girls like Iris Ainsley kept swarming back like angry bees around me. She was so beautiful and intelligent. She had more than most girls dream of having, but her jealously was too strong. It replaced the soft blue in her eyes with a putrid green and those perfect lips into writhing corkscrews, turning and twisting words and thoughts until they spilled out around me in the form of accusations about Miss Hamilton and myself.
The clouds steamed in from the north, cold and dark, eager to close off my sunshine.
It’s so gloriously horrible, yet without any character development, even the melodrama fails to achieve true V.C. Andrews status. Whenever I’d read these sort of passages I’d just wanna scream, “WHATEVER, CINNAMON, STOP COMPLAINING.” At least Dawn had some legit things to cry about in her book.
Fantastic Psychological Horror
This book really lacked in a lot of the elements that I (and many other readers!) find appealing about V.C. Andrews books. I’d honestly fault the “edgy” voice of the protagonist for this, but the plot was also lacking. Nothing of major consequence occurs. Nothing changes. By the end of the book, all is reset save for Cinnamon magically acing her audition to the exclusive Senetsky School of Performing Arts.
Long story short, while the plot with the mother started moving the story along, the interweaving “traumas’ that came Cinnamon’s way proved ineffectual at pivoting any change in her character. Absolutely no horror was to be found in this book, which is kind of funny because Cinnamon’s supposed to be GOTH AF and she’s also convinced that she’s got ghosts up in her house.
My Final Rating
I did not have high hopes for this book (or series). The “mini-series” format started sometime in the late ’90s, which was where a decline in V.C. Andrews sales started to occur. For old-school fans, they just didn’t hold up and I completely see why the fanbase slowly started to drift after the “family saga” series’ faded. That being said, these novels are kind of fun to read for comparison’s sake.