Everybody on the V.C. Andrews Facebook groups told me not to. Begged me even. But I did it. I read Whitefern, which is probably one of the most despised books penned under the V.C. Andrews name. It’s the sequel of what was Andrews’ only stand-alone book for many years, My Sweet Audrina. Likely, you’ve read my review of the original, which also happens to be my favourite V.C. Andrews book. My Sweet Audrina was difficult to give the proper “Grown-Ass” treatment to, however, so I was very much excited to mindlessly read the sequel with the usual snark that I give to ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman’s prose.
ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR STORYTELLERS OF ALL TIME, V.C. ANDREWS LAYERS PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE WITH SHEER TERROR IN THIS CONTINUATION OF AUDRINA’S UNTHINKABLE FAMILY SAGA.
Whitefern swallowed Audrina’s childhood—and now the sprawling Victorian mansion threatens her adult life too…
Audrina remembers a better time, when her husband, Arden, was a young man with a heart filled with devotion for her. He didn’t used to be this ambitious, expansive…this cruel. But then, the death of Audrina’s father changed a great many things.
When the reading of her father’s will reveals that Audrina herself will control fifty-one percent of the family brokerage—the halls of Whitefern again don’t feel safe. Arden’s protestations become frantic, nearly violent. And while Audrina didn’t anticipate running the family business, she’s curious to do so. And she can’t help but wonder what had made her father change his will at the last minute? What did he know about Arden that she didn’t?
Trapped in the middle of it all: her fragile, simple sister—the beautiful, trusting Sylvia. Audrina promised her father she’d watch over the young woman. But after years of relative quiet, the dark days of Whitefern may have returned…
The original book (that should have stayed a standalone), My Sweet Audrina, was published in 1982 and written by V.C. Andrews herself. Whitefern was published in 2016 and I’m guessing that Simon & Shuster forced ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman to churn this thing out in order to cash in on the inevitable V.C. Andrews interest that absorbed senior millennials and gen-Xers shortly after Lifetime started making movie renditions of the Dollanganger series.
Lifetime then aired the movie adaptation of My Sweet Audrina in January of 2016. Whitefern was subsequently published in July of 2016, much to the chagrin of many a V.C. Andrews fan. At the time, I decided I’d never read it, but hey, after I started my “Grown-Ass V.C. Andrews” series, I figured that no Neidernman-penned book was worth turning my nose at.
My Copy of Whitefern
I found my copy at Value Village in pretty great shape. My handling of the book could have been better, but I’ve got carpal tunnel and wear wrist braces at night (which work to some degree!) but also kind of mess up the bottom edge of whatever cheap book I’m reading. Modern paperbacks are also made so cheaply these days and it doesn’t take much to rub the finish off the covers. Simon & Shuster at least still splurge on metallic print for V.C. Andrews’ noble name, however, and even that got nicked off a bit during my reading.
Much like with Into the Darkness, this cover suffers hard from “stock photo cover design syndrome”, meaning that it relies heavily on a damn stock photo and a single piece of clip art. In this case, the staircase actually fits the tone of the story, but the girl in the photo looks much too young to be Audrina. One could argue that the girl in the picture is Sylvia, I guess?
I’m just offended because the V.C. Andrews brand just doesn’t suit stock photos. I’m a purist and these covers ruin the original aesthetic of the books. I miss the stepbacks and the original art. And I cannot fucking stand those “chick in modern makeup dressed to look old-fashioned” stock photos.
Whenever I do my moodboards for period-based short stories, I fucking cannot stand being unable to find historically-accurate stock photos. I hate that all I can ever find is chicks in modern curls and makeup wearing an “old-fashioned” dress. It enrages me. This cover enrages me. And sure, Whitefern is a modern story restricted in a world where the attitudes and opulence of the 80s never change, as with all V.C. Andrews books), but this cover has some major 2008 Twilight cover vibes and I hate it.
Just spend the damn money for an artist, Simon & Shuster. I bet you’d find a decent V.C. Andrews purist on Fiverr. Not that I advocate for cheap undervalued labour under capitalism, but like, I just want my old V.C. Andrews covers back. It’s not too much to ask for.
Whitefern: The Grown-Ass Review
It’s funny because literally everyone on every V.C. Andrews group I’ve seen online hates the absolute shit out of this book and warns everyone against reading it. I was very excited to dive into Whitefern simply because people were so offended by it. So whether you read it and want your feelings validated or are simply trying to save yourself some time from reading it, allow me to indulge you in the true awfulness that is Whitefern.
A Tragic Death
Damien dies, but that was a given, considering his death is mentioned in the synopsis as the plot device that triggers this book’s “plot” into motion. His fatherly passing, which takes place in that annoying back and forth slipping through time narrative that Neiderman uses to churn out pages without establishing a plot, doesn’t really amount to much, other than to Sylvia, who cannot process the death.
In order to make Damien’s death consequential to Audrina, Neiderman then slips some random family quotes into Audrina’s swiss cheese memory. This is frustrating because every time he makes Audrina remember her dead mother or her dead dad or her dead Aunt Ellsbeth (who has a SHIT TON of quotes that didn’t appear in My Sweet Audrina, mind you), his writing of those dead characters doesn’t reign true to who those characters were when they were alive.
He does it simply to make Audrina’s memories more romantic. He’s treating her as a brand new V.C. Andrews character and not as one that, you know, literally has an entire fucking book he could have used to source quotes from.
A Rags to Riches Plot
Anyway, as I mentioned, Damien’s death brings up the issue of the will, in which he gives 51% of the family’s estate to Audrina. This sends a newly cartoon-ified Arden into a fury:
“Why did he do this?” he ranted, marching up and down in front of Sylvia and me and waving his arms as violently as if he wanted to throw off his hands.page 15
Like no joke, people. Arden was a real piece of work in My Sweet Audrina, but Neiderman couldn’t figure out how to characterize him without making him react in absolute theatrics over everything. His quotes were so cliche and he was so blatantly misogynist and hateful towards his own fucking wife that it was really hard to get my online troll senses to stop tingling.
“He just wished he had a song to inherit everything. Every man wants that. I became his son. He said that to me after he married my mother. Or, at least, I thought I had become his son. What father would do this to his own son?” he asked, waving the papers in our faces.page 18
Arden goes on to mock Audrina for not knowing dick about the stock market. She tries to defend herself, but then he refers to her childhood tactic of tying a birthstone to a ring to choose stocks for Damien to buy and claims that all Whitefern women believe in crazy voodoo shit WHEN IT WAS ACTUALLY DAMIEN WHO BELIEVED THAT MAGIC WOULD SOMEHOW TAKE ALL OF AUDRINA’S RAPE TRAUMA AWAY. He goes on to explain just how much the times have changed.
“Well, hear this, Audrina. There’s no magic in our business. It takes knowledge and experience. You dont’ really have either when it comes to the stock market, especially today. It’s too sophisticated. You’d do no better than… than her!” he screamed, pointing at Sylvia.page 18
Sylvia, still upset over the death of her father, starts to cry. Audrina tries to console her and then Arden blames her for having more sympathy for Sylvia (who he refers to as “that”), instead of her own cartoon dumpster fire of a husband.
A Short List of Shitty Things Arden Says and Does in Whitefern
“You could put aside your grief for a moment and compliment me,” he whispered, “especially in front of these people. I am your husband, the head of the household, dedicated to protecting you and Sylvia. I deserve respect, more respect, now.”page 21
“The point is you should think more about being a housewife than a stockbroker. I’m the stockbroker. Get a hobby. Do needlework or join a book club, and have the women over for tea and talk like some of the other broker’ wives I know. I don’t know why your father did this, this vengeful thing!” he said, slapping at his papers.page 63
Medical doctors like Dr. Prescott don’t understand the emotional power a woman can employ without herself even realizing it,” he’d said. “I read up on it. Until you really, really want to enjoy sex with me, you’ll never get pregnant.”page 115
“Women paint their faces. They look in their mirrors and sometimes turn pale, homely mugs into faces a man would at least glance at. If course, when they wash it off, you’d rather not be there.” Then he leaned over to whipser, “That’s why most men like to make love to their wives in the dark.”page 143
…he marched angrily out of the living room, his arms stiffly at his sides, his hands clenched in fists.page 19
Audrina herself doesn’t do a whole lot in this book. Just moves back and forth between being berated by a perpetually *TRIGGERED* Arden, and then going back to taking care of her poor and utterly helpless sister. I only say poor and helpless because that’s how Audrina keeps portraying her…
An Innocent & Pretty, Yet Completely Naive Female Protagonist
Sylvia is now 20, which means that Whitefern picks up 8-10 years after the closing events of My Sweet Audrina. If we’re going by the original publishing date of My Sweet Audrina (1982) as the timestamp of the novel’s events, then Whitefern takes place in 1990-1992ish. Since then, Audrina and Arden have decided to keep Sylvia sheltered at home because they worry about how people will treat her in public. Which is… difficult to handle as a reader.
Here’s how Sylvia reacts to her father’s death:
She looked at me, scowled, and then looked back at him, but she didn’t move, nor did she let go of his hand. The words apparently made no sense to her. I knew what she was thinking: How can he be gone if he is still here in his bed? Sylvia always took everything literally, expecting the truth to be straightforward, the way children did.page 5
It’s frustrating to see Audrina continually portray Sylvia this way, even though Sylvia can speak in full sentences now. She can do intermediate household tasks like cooking and cleaning. She can put on her clothes and do her makeup. BUT THEN AUDRINA KEEPS CALLING HER A CHILD.
I feel like V.C. Andrews portrayed Sylvia’s earlier years in a more realistic light. She had her prisms and used Billie’s cart and had “patterns” of behaviour. I hesitate to really say what is right and wrong in how to correctly portray characters with mental and behavioural issues. Audrina and Arden keep saying she’s invalid or mentally deficient. Sylvia at times displays a complete understanding of situations, and then other times will speak in single words when Neiderman needs to convey her inability to function. Sylvia apparently can’t brush her teeth but can cut vegetables for a salad really well? She can’t understand that her father is dead but can thoughtfully paint human-like shadows into her abstract art?
There’s no fucking consistency!
Honestly, for most of the book, Sylvia felt like a functional adult who just maybe needed a guidance counsellor that wasn’t sheltered and naive AF like Audrina.
The most problematic part of all is that she is continually described like this:
Sylvia’s innocent beauty wasn’t a big secret. I took her shopping with me often, and people saw her at events we brought her to, especially events involving Papa’s business when he was still working hard. She always drew compliments but had no idea how to respond. When she lowered her eyes and smiled, however, she looked like she was flirting or trying to because she was shy. On several occasions, young men had inquired about taking her out.page 45
Audrina claims that she educated Sylvia about sex, using both science AND fantasy, somehow? But then later…
How long could I keep her chaste, I wondered, and should I do so for a long as I could? She had the mind of a child but the desire of a woman now. Was it fair to deny her the pleasure of her sex? Was it possible for someone who would sincerely care for her and love her and satisfy her womanly needs?page 45
She is literally Rita Leeds from Arrested Development:
And to that, I say, just let Syliva have pop pop, Audrina! She’s a fucking woman!
A Beloved Doting Paternal Figure
Perhaps this was why Papa had left me the controlling interest in his business. He knew this might happen to me, and he wanted me to have a path away from it all. He finally wanted me to find a life outside of this house and its dreadful memories. There were many times when he was proud of me, proud of my comments and ideas. Maybe he had come to believe that a girl could carry on her father’s successes as well as a boy could. Arden simply didn’t fit the bill for him.page 32
SO MUCH OF THIS BOOK (like probs 70%, no joke) is just Audrina speculating shit. Like maybe 30% of it is her making up Aunt Ellsbeth quotes and then wondering why Arden is a piece of shit. She was literally about to leave him and the house in My Sweet Audrina but then decided to stay on the last two pages because she was concerned about leaving Sylvia with her dad. Like what the fuck, Audrina? Your dad is dead and he lovingly left you control and you KNOW that Arden sucks ass. You literally figured it all out on page 32. JUST FUCKING LEAVE.
But she doesn’t. Because more stuff needs to not happen between Audrina and Arden. Like how Arden wants a kid but how Audrina can’t get pregnant. Or how, in every scene Arden appears in, he harasses her to sign 100% control over the estate to him. Somehow, Audrina manages to dodge her way out of it by claiming that she needs to help Sylvia instead of standing up for herself and saying Fuck No, Asshole.
I hated the idea that I might spend my days reliving all the pain, that his death had opened the floodgates. Again, I told myself that what was important now, now that I was living in Whitefern without Papa, was finding a new sense of myself while still caring for Sylvia. I would have to be reborn yet again and become a third Audrina.page 33
Seriously, her internal monologue goes back and forth. It’s like reading therapy notes of a completely uninvolved therapist, who then just leaves Audrina to float spinelessly through life without any guidance.
Audrina Adare in Whitefern, 2016 (colorized)
Lemme also just clarify that she’s not an ocean jellyfish that strings. She’s one of those jellyfish from Jellyfish Lake in Palau, where all the jellyfish evolved without stingers in the same way that Audrina evolved in Whitefern without a fucking spine or ability to have internal thoughts and like… actually learn shit and utilize those thoughts to adapt to situations IRL.
Some Good Olde School Misogyny
Another thing that Arden spends his time berating Audrina over is her inability (or rather, their, inability) to have children. Arden insists that he’s not the one shooting blanks. But then Sylvia has a dream that Audrina will, in fact, have a baby. Audrina brings this information to Arden,
He turned sharply and threw the covers off us as if they were on fire.
“What are you doing?
“It’s baby time. Sylvia has declared it.”
“I don’t understand, Arden.”
“Nothing to understand,” he said. “Only to do.”
He reached down and pulled my nightgown up and out of his way, practically tearing it off me. I cried out, but before I could say another word, he scooped my legs up and pressed his hardness into me so roughly I lost my breath for a moment. I was shocked at how fast and easily he could be ready. He didn’t bother kissing me or touching me tenderly anywhere. Instead, he hovered above me like a hawk, pouncing.
“Baby, baby, baby, he chanted, as he pushed and prodded, twisting me this way and that so he cuould be more comfortable. His grunts made it sound like he was lifting a heavy weight. I couldn’t stand the sight of him like this and put my hands over my eyes. On he pushed and prodded. I felt like he was tearing me up. The bed sounded like it would crash to the floor. At one point, my head hit the headboard, but he was oblivious to everything but his own animal satisfaction. This wasn’t even sex to me; it was anger and revenge.page 69
I wanna say “Nice.” because this shit happened on page 69, but I can’t because it’s terrible.
Note: Neiderman also has this crutch of using the term “this and that”, or some form of the phrase with every V.C. Andrews character he writes. I get it. I’m a writer and I’ve got my own set of crutch phrases that I use over and over, but like, can somebody tell him about this problem? He needs to know. It’s important that he knows.
A Vivid Gothic Setting
Shortly after Damien’s death, Sylvia starts painting him in pictures in the cupola. She thinks this is a good thing and immediately spends 100 pages of the book trying to persuade Arden to get an art teacher for her. Eventually, he relents and they hire a retired high school art teacher, Arthur Price, to come over and teach Sylvia how to paint in the cupola that Audrina turns into an art studio.
Sylvia then starts to claim that she hears Damien speak to her when she sits in the rocking chair. As the plot “thickens” (and I put that in quotes because it really doesn’t thicken so much as Neiderman throws in a fuck-ton of rehashed memories of Audrina’s that relate to whatever mundane thought she’s having. Most of these memories are Aunt Ellsbeth quotes that didn’t appear in My Sweet Audrina that sound NOTHING like anything that Aunt Ellsbeth would have said.
And for the record, I know I’m making a giant deal out of this but those quotes bothered me more than they should have.
Eventually, a slight bit of intrigue picks up when Arden starts coming to bed at weird hours. I mean, to the reader it’s pretty obvious what’s going on, but then Syliva starts saying that Damien starts saying that there’s a baby coming. Which, I dunno, it’s a promise of something more than Audrina’s mind-numbing train of thought so I did my best to appreciate it.
Now, I loved the cupola setting in My Sweet Audrina. It was magical and thoroughly described. In Whitefern, it just serves as a setting for this to happen:
Quietly and slowly, I opened the door.
But then I froze.
Mr. Price was sitting in Sylvia’s chair in front of her easel, and Sylvia was standing in front of him, her beautiful, full breasts uncovered, her hands clasped behind her head. She wore only her skirt, but it was lowered beneath her belly button. Her eys were shifted so that she was looking at the ceiling.
I screamed, a scream so piercing that it knifed through both of them. Mr. Price raised his shoulders as if he’d been slapped on the back o fhis neck, and Sylvia brought her hands down and looked at me in confusion. He rose, turned, and backed away, his hands up and pumping the air as if he though that would keep me away.
“Now… don’t get excited. I can explain—” he said.page 145
Audrina kicks Mr. Price out of the house and commands that Sylvia take a seat on the “settee” which, as we all know right now, must be Andrew Neiderman’s favourite word, because now that I think of it, Whitefern has a major lack of the word “bosom” within its too-many pages.
Audrina calls Arden, who tells her not to inform the police about the matter because, surprise surprise, it would make him look bad at the brokerage. Audrina then interrogates Sylvia, asking where Mr. Price touched her and what they did. Sylvia claims that he just wanted to draw her, but Audrina thoroughly establishes that “bad things happened in the cupola”, but then also wonders if Sylvia has the capacity to understand that she was sexually abused.
She thought for a moment and then looked at me and said, “I liked it, Audrina.”page 154
Audrina goes on to tell Sylvia that she shouldn’t let just anyone touch her, but is certain that Sylvia will never understand why. But bitch, Syliva is 20 and is clearly showing signs of sexuality. She gets it. Now, the abuse of power in this situation is what’s actually gross, because Mr. Price was her art teacher and was obviously manipulating his power to get Sylvia to do things for his satisfaction.
Instead of having a real discussion about her sexuality, Audrina and Arden just pretend like it never happened and shelter poor Sylvia even more.
Fantastic Psychological Horror
Audrina swells with guilt over the situation, which brings up all the trauma from her own childhood experience. Arden takes notice of this and tries to suggest that she get some “mood stabilizers”, but then Audrina refuses, knowing that if she has to talk to a doctor to get a prescription that she’ll have to explain what happened to Sylvia, which is what caused her “depression”. Which isn’t true. She’s got legit unresolved trauma that’s still fucking her up right now. Like the distorted and closeted reality of her situation is so infuriating.
JUST GET SOME THERAPY, AUDRINA.
Unfortunately, Audrina’s got Arden for a husband, and he brings home some random pills that he forces her to take by gaslighting the shit out of her:
“This is not anything terrible. It’s just going to help you manage. It’s time to do something. Sylvia is becoming affected by your dark moods, too, Audrina. She’s even starting to eat poorly, and I fear she’s losing interest in her art. She might be blaming herself or thinking we’re both blaming her now. She’ll get sickly and return to the half vegetable she was. Is that what you want?”page 161
And that’s not even the worst part, because he continues:
“…she may not be slow about many things, but she’s not blind. Anyone, even Sylvia, can see that you’re not looking after yourself as well as you usually do. Sometimes you look like a hag, a bag lady wandering aimlessly.”page 161
Audrina takes the pills, along with some wine that Arden says the doctor said she could take alongside the pills. They all have dinner and then Arden puts on music and they all dance and laugh. Audrina falls asleep on the couch, then wakes later with no idea how much time has passed. She struggled to make her way upstairs, passing out again beside Arden in bed. Later, she wakes from a dream to find Arden missing, and she navigates the house to find him whispering outside of the rocking chair room. She wonders who he’s whispering to, and approaches only to see Sylvia sitting naked in the rocking chair. Then Arden turns, only to have Damien’s face.
She wakes again, back in her bed. Arden is still missing, but she finds Syliva back in the cupola, painting.
She sat back, and I saw the baby she had begun to draw now completed and painted in watercolors. Only she had painted his eyes a flaming red, so bright they looked like a fire was burning behind them. Every little detail of the baby’s face was just as vivid, from the twist in his mouth that gave him a ridiculing smile to the thinness of his slightly pointed nose and the gauntness in his cheeks. She had drawn a baby, but it looked like a man in a baby’s body.page 166
It’s not foreshadowing, but this is straight-up foreshadowing to a very specific man baby being the cause of every single problem in this book.
Sylvia insists that Damien told her to paint the baby this way. Then, as the days continue and Audrina keeps taking her pills to make man baby Arden happy. AND IT DOES! He gaslights a happy world for her to comply in, but then one day, Audrina takes Sylvia shopping.
I got us matching shoes, too. Despite her poorer eating habits for a while after the incident with Mr. Price, I noticed she had gained weight. She didn’t look too heavy; it wasn’t anything like that. In fact, she looked like she was blossoming, filling out. Even her breasts looked somewhat larger.page 169
And my friend, we all know what this means…
Audrina panics and calls Arden at work again. He gets grumpy but then sources a retired maternity nurse, Helen Matthews, to come and confirm the pregnancy. Arden then suggests that they should just hide Sylvia’s pregnancy and pretend that the baby is Audrina’s after it’s born, and he makes this lie official when the family goes out for dinner and he brags to his coworker about Audrina’s “pregnancy” while Sylvia’s shoving a chocolate souffle in her face.
A Hostile Maternal Figure
Helen Matthews comes over and confirms the pregnancy. She becomes a less-serve version of Emily Booth when she moves into the mansion and insists that Audrina move Sylvia into one of the neglected and unheated bedrooms downstairs because pregnant women shouldn’t be climbing so much or whatever.
In addition to taking care of Sylvia, Mrs. Matthews also rigs up a fake pregnancy belly for Audrina to wear and stuff with wool to make it look as though she’s really pregnant. Over time, Audrina starts having real pregnancy symptoms as well, which arent’ entirely explained. There were moments in the book where I started to wonder if she was actually pregnant or if she was still taking the drugs that made her hallucinate things. Sadly, Neidnerman’s writing never really established proper grounding or even created a proper sense of distortion that made Audrina’s narration seem unreliable.
All we really get is this:
When I reached the mirror in the hallway, the full-length one in the mahogany frame, I glanced at myself and paused. I did look pregnant, but I felt idiotic. I was a walking, talking lie. What would I say when people in the supermarket stopped to ask how I was and if I had any idea if my baby would be a boy or a girl?
“It will be neither,” I whispered. “It will be a hunk of wool.”
I couldn’t help laughing. I was still laughing when I entered the Roman Revival salon and saw Mrs. Matthews sitting with Sylvia nd helping her do her jigsaw puzzle. They both looked up, surprised, which only caused me to laugh harder.page 224
I went to bed early that night. I was as exhausted as a real pregnant woman might be. It was getting very weird, I thought. There were times when I imagined a baby moving inside me, just the way it was moving inside Sylvia, surprising, frightening, and exciting her almost at the same time. As a matter of fact, it felt like it was kicking right now.page 225
Me, to Andrew Neiderman:
Six weeks to Sylvia’s due date, Mrs. Matthews takes Audrina out to do some grocery shopping so everybody in town can see just how “pregnant” Audrina is. It’s at the supermarket that Audrina crashes into a woman who tells her that Mr. Price had a stroke and is now paralyzed on his right side. This sends Audrina into a spiral, which Mrs. Matthew’s capitalizes on. She makes it seem like a “delicate pregnancy” issue and everyone, including Adren, congratulates Audrina on her “performance.”
Audrina then, rightfully so, has a mental breakdown, but this is the fucking vanity-induced breakdown Neiderman lets her have:
“Something’s not right with me, Arden.I know you can’t take me to see Dr. Prescott or have him come here, but I am so unenergetic these days. Half the time I don’t even try to get up out of bed. I don’t care about what I’m wearing. I’ve been in this bathrobe for days, I think. That’s another thing, Arden. I’ve been having trouble remembering things, even things I think I did the day before. I know you haven’t been around that much these past weeks, but surely you see a difference in me. Surely you do!” Now my tears were free to streak down my cheeks. “Look at my hair,” I cried, tugging on the loose, wiry strands. “I can’t recall when I last cared to put on lipstick. I’m turning into some sort of hag, something you accused me of once.”page 254
Arden, however, actually sympathizes with Audrina. Then he admits that he’s been having Mrs. Matthews dose her with tranquillizers to help her deal with her anxiety. Audrina gets angry, but not really. It all amounts to nothing because at this point we’re really all just gearing up for the baby to be born.
And yes, the baby is born premature, as babies often are born in V.C. Andrews novels. This time, however, when Sylvia goes into labour, nothing really happens. Why? BECAUSE AUDRINA ISN’T GOING INTO CONTRACTIONS AND SYLVIA ONLY DOES WHAT AUDRINA DOES!
“Push!” Mrs. Matthews cried. “Push! I can see the baby’s head.”
Suddenly, seconds felt like minutes. I felt my cheeks and realized I was breaking into a sweat. My heart was pounding. I took deep breaths. Did I feel pain? Maybe I was going mad myself, but I realzied I was actually pushing. All I had read about giving birth ran through my mind. This was how it went; this was what to do. Finally, Sylvia and I let out a last, almost primeval scream, and then Mrs. Matthews lifted the baby, with the umbilical cord still attached, and placed the newborn girl, crying and covered in blood, on my stomach—not Sylvia’s.”page 274
Sylvia names the baby “Adelle”, and Arden comes home and the family immediately plays into the ruse that the baby is Audrina’s. I guess all goes well, considering Sylvia deals with no confusion over the matter, playing helper to Audrina, making the bottles, etc.
Arden builds a nursery out of “The First Audrina’s” room. Audrina, however, worries that Mrs. Matthews might spill the ultimate secret of Adelle’s origin, but Arden finally confesses that Mrs. Matthews’ son, Philip, was one of the original boys who raped Audrina, and that if she says anything bout the baby that he’ll tell the truth about Philip.
Which is…pointless, really. Audrina takes a page to redigest the trauma of her rape yet again, and then they go back to pretending to be a happy couple with a new baby.
Mrs. Matthews finally moves out and life returns to normal. But then one day, Mr. Price’s wife Emmeline stops by to bring news of Arthur’s death. She tries to make him seem all noble and sophisticated before claiming his innocence:
“What I’m trying to say is that Arthur was a lover of beauty anywhere he saw it. He could get inspire d by a unique tree or the way an alderly man sat and stared while he thought about his life. He did a wonderful picture of that man, and a museum in Boston now has it. What I mean to say is that Athur was a real artist, Mrs. Lowe, and not someone just amusing himself.”age 316
“The point is that my husband really appreciated you sister’s beauty, but from an artist’s point of view.”page 317
It’s not over yet:
He meant no harm. He was so upset over the misunderstatanding, she said, dabbing at her eyes. “For day dnday afte ryourh usband came to our home and screamed at him, he sat in the corer of his studio and stared at a blank canvas. He ate very little and was up often at night just walking around the house. I’m sure the stree brought about his stroke.”page 318
Audrina steels herself, but then Sylvia comes into the room with Adelle. Audrina tells Sylvia to go make lunch, and Mrs. Price STILL GOES ON.
“She’s a very beautiful young lady. I can see what drove Arthur to do what he did.”page 318
Finally, we get to the point we all knew was coming. Mrs. Price reveals that Mr. Price had testicular cancer or some shit at one point and couldn’t bear children. Then we all come full circle and Audrina finally, FINALLY get’s a bit of backbone to confront Arden about his most recent aggregious sin:
“I had these dreams—at least, I thought they were dreams—of you standing outside the first Audrina’s room and whispering thorugh the door while Sylvia rocked in the rocking chair. You impersonated my father and told her to do things. You told her she had to keep everything secret. It wasn’t a dream, was it?page 329
He didn’t reply. He stood there looking at me.
“You’re the one who raped my sister, Arden. You’re the one who took advantage of her. Did you do this for your own selfish pleasure?”
Arden insists that the lies he told and the “plan” he established to get them a family borne of Whitefern blood was all well and good. He and Audrina argue a bit, of course before the infamous staircase. And well, then Audrina follows him up, Arden shakes her and affirms that he is now the patriarch in the most ridiculous fashion:
“I’m Papa here! I’m Papa!” he bellowed.page 333
Then Arden falls and dies and then the epilogue happens where Audrina considers selling Whitefern, and then doesn’t actually. The sisters just dance with baby Adelle held between them and that’s the end of this miserable book.
Some Really Bad Writing
I’m gonna use this section to throw more shade at Audrina for her insanely sexual thoughts about her sister because this book is an overflowing trash can Neiderman just kept stacking more and more garbage on top of instead of tying the bag up and taking out the trash like he should have with this entire fucking book.
In this first excerpt, Audrina takes some time to come Sylvia’s hair before her mirror and shows a whole lot more of his disgusting misogynist sentiment than she probably should:
What a dirty trick nature had played on her, to giver her this much beauty but not enough mentally to have a wonderful life. She could easily attract a handsome, young, wealthy man who would devote himself to her, build her a bigger home than Whitefern and all the jewelry and clothes she could want. Every man like that would turn to look at her now, but a moment later, when he tried to speak with her, he would surely lose his entheusasism quickly and look for a fast exit.page 76
In this passage, Audrina worries yet again about how men might take advantage of Sylvia. Right after it, she mentions how she taught Sylvia to make a fucking grocery list and how important it was to write everything down with correct spelling in proper cursive. And guess what, SYLVIA UNDERSTOOD THE ASSIGNMENT. She even learned how to treat the damn cashiers politely, which is something most grown-ass adults don’t know how to do.
Ever since she was fourteen, when I looked at her and realized she had developed a woman’s figure almost overnight, I knew she would need special care and protection. I realized she had a beautiful face and a shapely young body. It was then that a girl really became vulnerable and needed to know how to protect herself and what to look for in a man’s face that would tell her he was lusting after her only for his own selfish pleasure. It didn’t think it was possible to get her to recognize that. She had a child’s trusting nature. The warning snad alarm bells simply were not hooked up inside her the way they were for most girls and women.page 81
JUST TEACH YOUR SISTER ABOUT SEX, AUDRINA!
Okay, so that brings me to my final thoughts.
Whitefern: My Final Thoughts
As I’ve said before, Whitefern is probably one of the most-hated V.C. Andrews books of all time. V.C. Andrews fans love to hate on Andrew Neiderman every time a new book comes out with her name on it, and I personally don’t think that’s an entirely fair assessment of the situation. Like the dude was literally hired to ghostwrite her books. Simon & Shuster likes to pump out attic sequels and prequels and tie-ins like fucking rabbits, and all the Lifetime movies are the most-watched films that the shitty company has ever released.
Here, in 2022, we’re in peak V.C. Andrews nostalgia mode. Andrew Neiderman is just a writer (like me!) who under contract (unlike me!) has to keep writing. I mean, sure, if Neiderman was burnt out, penning book after book with Andrews’s voice, he’d probably not continue signing the contract whenever it’s up for renewal, but like, I bet the pay is pretty decent. I also bet that the Andrews estate likes the money her books still bring in too.
Like many readers, I am of the opinion that the V.C. Andrews formula is tired and hasn’t exactly stood the test of time. Once we entered the 00s, it seemed that Neiderman had to adapt a bit to maintain the mainstream audiences, but by then, people were moving on to Twilight and other such YA offerings. There’s still a place in my dark heart for the dark and salacious, but it’s clear that Neiderman has less to write about than he previously did, like with the Landry and Cutler series’.
In Whitefern, he struggles to capture the original voice of Audrina. He also had so few characters to really work with, maintaining the original setting and the isolation of the house itself. Maybe if it has been a novella or a novelette, he could have worked up something good, but it’s clear that he had a word count he needed to hit and little plot to fill it with. Hence the myriad of “flashbacks”. Hence the repetitiveness.
In the end, My Sweet Audrina clearly did not need a sequel and this book was clearly just a cash cow to what is now Simon & Shuster’s obvious long-reaching rake into the pool of V.C. Andrews nostalgia.
WHITEFERN (Audrina #2)
- It takes place in an old V.C. Andrews setting, so at least I had the memory of it to go off of.
- Arden finally dies, so there's that?
- All the original characters read so inconsistent from their former selves.
- 10% plot / 90% filler
- Why in the fuck do they keep babying Sylia when she can clearly mostly live as a functional adult?