When I was young, maybe eleven or around there, I remember seeing a copy of Heart Song at a Costco. The cover was intriguing, probably because it was purple and sparkly. And embossed. My mum just kind of shook her head and said that it was not for me.
Why didn’t I listen?
Obviously I remember that first encounter with VC Andrews, because it’s why I picked this up hundreds of years later. The whole time I read it I was thinking, “I need an adult,” only to metaphorically whimper, because all of the adults in this book’s world are either evil, effectively nonexistent, or dead.
Basically, four children are locked in an attic, continually told that they’ll be let out any day now, really, and a lot of tragedy occurs that is arguably inevitable. The cover kind of pisses me off, though. Classic novel, maybe. But “of forbidden love”? NO. It isn’t. It’s a novel of abuse and how people abused as children view and approach sex.
The language is melodramatic and elegantly nightmarish. It seemed fitting that Gothic/Victorian novels received so much mention, as the book itself seems to be aiming for that kind of inside-twisting depression. So much of what happens just felt like I had contracted a mental disease that had forced me to read the beginning of Jane Eyre for two days.
And that’s really the book’s biggest problem. Forget the controversial topic of incest and religious-excuse abuse, it gets same-y. I started to experience a burst of incredulous boredom when I realised they’d been in the attic for a year. Then two. Then almost three. I know why it is that way, but setting aside the emotional impact, they are in that attic for too dang long! Whenever there was this narrative event promising or talking about hope, I just flipped the page and rolled my eyes, declaring, “It’s either going to end in tears or not work. Or nothing will happen. Wooo.”
All of the names run together like glasses of milk poured into the same bowl. The characters aren’t so much characters as they are roles. The girl telling the story, her brother, the small children to keep them from escaping, the evil adults. The twins are different from each other, but troperiffically so. There’s the quiet, thoughtful twin, and the obnoxious shrieking one. I disliked both of them. Because I just didn’t care about any of them, I had a hard time accepting that the kids who could climb out and get away didn’t just do so. Get out and call the cops. Geez.
I understand why a lot of things I disliked were the way they were, and that a lot of my frustration was because I am weird. I was a paranoid child who planned escapes from different imaginary situations. (I have the best nightmares) And really, I was riveted. The book is a horrible tease, just like the mother. Maybe they’ll get out in this chapter. Or the next one.
It also made me cut my reading short several times to go be a very very good mother to my son. I started to hallucinate that I was a bad parent if I read for five more minutes instead of playing blocks with him. This book does aim for the feels. It just dragged on so long that I gave up worrying about the lost (FORMATIVE!!!) years because if I let myself apply real world consequences not depicted or speculated upon in the book, I would have had a breakdown.
When they finally get out of there, not only the escape but the ending of the book was overdue. It’s rather funny that one of the characters actually said that they had waited too long to escape. They don’t escape because they’re clever, and they don’t even seem to endure because they’re brave. Screw the blurb on the second book. It feels very much like a whim of the author thing. They don’t leave until almost the worst possible time.
It’s a pretty powerful ending, though. I actually had to read the reveal twice. I made the mistake of eating lunch while reading it, and well… I’ve had books that made me cry, but this is the only one that I think actually made me want to puke.