'April Shadows' departure of Virginia Andrews's style

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Well, I have just finished my latest V.C. Andrews book, "April Shadows," and I am left wanting more.

By more, I mean more to the story.

I have been a fan of Andrews's books since I read the Casteel series as a teenager, but have only recently delved back into them again. "April Shadows" is the first book in the Shadows series, which was first published in 2005 and, I must say, is a marked difference from the books I have read before.

I did not totally dislike the book, which is positive, but when a reader has become accustomed to the style of V.C. Andrews -- with the beautiful heroine, dysfunctional family, deep family secrets and a definite villain -- they are going to be sadly disappointed.

The heroine of the story is April Taylor, who is chubby and shy with little or no self-esteem, a distinct difference from her old sister, Brenda, who is extremely athletic and outgoing and seemingly radiates confidence.

Unlike most of Andrews's past heroines, April begins the book in a very loving, strong family with, seemingly, no deep, dark family secret. However, the idyllic lifestyle does not last long into the book as April recounts her father's transformation from a kind, loving, devoted father and husband to one who finds fault with every aspect of his family, and, for the first time, makes it clear that he does not approve of April being overweight.

The father eventually leaves his family during the night, but several weeks later mail arrives that give the family clues to his whereabouts and they finally found out why he turned from nice to cruel and that he left them to protect their feelings. After the family learns the truth, Brenda becomes increasingly angry while their mother seems to diminish, physically and emotionally, before their eyes.

When tragedy strikes again, April moves in with Brenda, and Brenda's lover, Celia, in Memphis as an attempt to start a new life, but we all know that starting over is never easy and a betrayal of trust leads to April fleeing from Memphis to leave with her Uncle Palaver, who is a traveling magician and ventriloquist.

April finally begins to feel like she belongs as she learns to assist her uncle with his act by controlling the movements of his cherished doll, Destiny, who was crafted as an exact likeness to Palaver's love, who seemingly died a tragic death.

Of course, like any of Andrews's main characters, her new life does not last long and she is forced to flee again, this time coming upon an elderly woman's estate, where she is offered room and board. The next, and last, book in the series, "Girl in the Shadows," picks up April's story at her new home and finishes the journey.

All in all, despite mixed reviews, I enjoyed the book, although it was slow at times, and believe that there are many people who would identify with April as they experience drastic changes and low self-esteem throughout their life.

Michelle Barsom is a librarian at Bainbridge College -- Early County in Blakely. She received her master's of library and information studies from the University of Alabama.