I read Dawn by V.C. Andrews, er… V.C. Andrews’ ghostwriter, when I was 13. Unfortunately, when I was 13, I didn’t have high speed internet or a lit blog, so you can say this review is 10 years in the making.
Dawn is the first book in the five-book Cutler family series. For those of you unfamiliar with the V.C. Andrews family sagas, they are wildly erratic melodramas better read when you’re a teen. Imagine all the soap operas you’ve ever seen on television and add incest, psycho grandmothers, and creepy glass-eyed dolls…among other things.
I loved it! Of course, if I were to reread V.C. Andrews now, I don’t think I could stomach the sappy and arbitrary use of metaphors and similes. How many pointless metaphors that have to do with nothing can you cram on a sheet of pulp? Too many…
On to Dawn and down memory lane…
When I was in middle school, I was a big V.C. Andrews fan and like any devoted V.C. Andrews fan, I devoured all the family sagas (The Dollangangers, Culters, Logans, Casteels, Landrys), but Dawn was my favorite book.
I wouldn’t say it was the most cerebral book of the bunch, nor did it have the most original plot, but it certainly had me thinking.
There was a moral question to be considered: a question between two brothers.
Ready for story time?
Fourteen year old Dawn Longchamp came from a poor, but happy family. They were in want of everything, except for love…and good-looks. Her father was beautiful, her mother was beautiful, and even though her older brother Jimmy brooded like he was James Dean, he was beautiful too. But the Longchamps were impoverished sharecroppers who traveled like nomads across Virginia looking for work. This church mouse status could not afford Dawn and Jimmy much in terms of future opportunities…or privacy for that matter since they had to share a bed growing up and long into their teens. An awkward arrangement when hormones come into play…
One day, Dawn’s father is hired as a janitor for an elite private school boasting a roll sheet of students from the finest, most respectable Southern families. Dawn and Jimmy enroll as children of the janitor, which, as you can guess, is not an ingredient for instant popularity.
Jimmy spends his school days picking fights with boys named Maximilian and Percival and his afternoons in detention.
Dawn receives unexpected attention from the popular Cutlers.
Everybody who’s anybody knows about the Cutlers of Cutler Cove, one of the most powerful hotel fortunes in the Old South. Clara Sue Cutler, head of the school’s mean girls, makes Dawns days a living hell. But Philip Cutler, the most popular boy in school, has a crush on her, and asks her, despite the disgust of his snobby friends, to be his girlfriend so he can have exclusive rights to grope her in the backseat of his car. If there’s one thing I remember about Philip Cutler, it’s his busy hands.
Other than dodging Philip’s advances like the plague and dealing with Jimmy’s reckless delinquency in school, Dawn is pretty happy. She’s falling in love with her handsome, rich boyfriend; she’s doing well in school and may even have the opportunity to foster her singing talent.
But as we know in most stories, Fortune is fickle and Dawn’s life takes a devastating turn when she discovers that:
Her parents are not really her biological parents.
Jimmy is not her biological brother.
She was stolen from birth…from the Cutler family, which makes the Cutlers her biological family…
Clara Sue, the head bitch in school, is her sister.
And Philip is her brother…ewww. See, the backseat groping takes on a new perspective doesn’t it?
Her mother, who was not really her mother to begin with, dies. Her father is arrested. Jimmy is placed in a foster home. She is taken into custody to Cutler Cove where she discovers that:
Her real mother is a doll trapped in a gilded cage and drugged up on laudanum.
Her grandmother rules the family with an iron fist and wants to destroy Dawn.
Clare Sue is still a bitch.
And Philip, who turns out to be a pervert, is still obsessed with her. Who cares if she’s his sister? She’s still hot…
You can’t buy melodrama like this!
Soon, Dawn is trapped in Dynasty hell and on top of that, she’s starting to develop feelings for Jimmy (double ewww) while trying to fight off advances from Philip.
Now I ask you, which relationship is sicker? Discovering that your boyfriend is your biological brother or developing feelings for someone who you’ve considered your brother all your life?
Were I Dawn, I would ditch both guys and find a slightly less twisted relationship with someone who is not even a friend of my brother because that’s how far I’d want to remove myself from dating someone in the family.
Dawn takes Philip and Jimmy into consideration. What’s there to consider? There must be some etiquette guide that clearly states: Thou shall not date thy brother!
However, I must admit that I liked the character of Philip and Jimmy. Philip, despite being an incestuous pervert, is fascinating in his obsession for Dawn. There’s something dark and explosive within Philip, a potential for a complex psycho were Dawn written by a more masterful ghostwriter. Jimmy, who bounces from one abusive foster home to the next, also has a more compelling story than Dawn. I wished the ghostwriter could have done something more with Jimmy’s character. There’s so much wasted potential…
In the stepback, Dawn occupies the central chair. Can you guess which boy is Jimmy and which is Philip? Which one resembles Dawn?