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Orphans: Butterfly/Crystal/Brooke/Raven

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Butterfly...She was a lonely orphan until a wealthy couple gave her a home—and a chance to be a world-class ballerina. But her newfound happiness was as fragile as a spider's web.

Crystal...Bright and gifted with a flair for science, she found loving new parents, and a boyfriend in her new school. But a shocking tragedy could shatter her perfect world.

Brooke...Whisked away from the orphanage into a glamerous ...

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Overview

Butterfly...She was a lonely orphan until a wealthy couple gave her a home—and a chance to be a world-class ballerina. But her newfound happiness was as fragile as a spider's web.

Crystal...Bright and gifted with a flair for science, she found loving new parents, and a boyfriend in her new school. But a shocking tragedy could shatter her perfect world.

Brooke...Whisked away from the orphanage into a glamerous life, she was surrounded by every privilege a girl could want. But all she really wanted was to be loved—just as she is.

Raven...She put her painful past behind her when she was taken in by her aunt and uncle. But the torment she was about to endure was far worse than anything she had ever experienced before.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743403610
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 8/1/2000
  • Series: Orphans Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Omnibus Edition
  • Pages: 672
  • Product dimensions: 4.19 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

V. C. Andrews

One of the most popular authors of all time, V.C. Andrews has been a bestselling phenomenon since the publication of the spellbinding classic Flowers in the Attic. That blockbuster novel began the renowned Dollanganger family saga, which includes Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows. Since then, readers have been captivated by more than sixty novels in nearly twenty bestselling series. V.C. Andrews’s novels have sold more than 106 million copies and have been translated into twenty-two foreign languages.

Biography

"The face of fear I display in my novels is not the pale specter from the sunken grave, nor is it the thing that goes bump in the night," V. C. Andrews once told Douglas E. Winter. "Mine are the deep-seated fears established when we are children, and they never quite go away: the fear of being helpless, the fear of being trapped, the fear of being out of control."

Andrews's novel Flowers in the Attic launched the popular genre sometimes dubbed "children in jeopardy" -- stories about young people abused, lied to, and preyed upon by their evil guardians. The author's own childhood was not nearly so lurid, though it did have an element of tragedy: As a teenager she had a bad fall, which resulted in the development of bone spurs. A botched surgery, combined with arthritis, forced her to use a wheelchair or crutches for the rest of her life.

Andrews lived with her mother and worked as a commercial artist until the 1970s, when she began to write in earnest. Most of her early stories and novels went unpublished (one exception was "I Slept with My Uncle on My Wedding Night," which appeared in a pulp confession magazine). Finally, in 1979, Flowers in the Attic made it into print. The book soared to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list and was followed by two equally successful sequels, Petals on the Wind and If There Be Thorns. Critics weren't always kind -- a Washington Post reviewer wrote that Flowers in the Attic "may well be the worst book I have ever read" -- but that didn't matter to millions of Andrews's readers, who devoured her gruesome fairy tales as fast as she could pen them.

As E. D. Huntley points out in V. C. Andrews: A Critical Companion, Andrews's novels fit neatly into the "female Gothic" tradition, in which an innocent young woman is trapped in an isolated mansion and persecuted by a villain. Andrews's own contribution was to take some of the themes implicit in early Gothic novels -- incest, sexual jealousy, and obsession -- and make them sensationally explicit in her works.

As most of her fans know by now, V. C. Andrews died in 1986, but new V. C. Andrews books keep popping up on the bestseller lists. That's because the Andrews estate hired a ghost writer, Andrew Neiderman, to continue writing books in the late author's style. Andrews's heirs have been cagey about just how much unfinished work she left behind when she died, but testimony during a 1993 tax case suggested that Andrews had only completed a portion of Garden of Shadows, the eighth book (out of more than 50) published under her name.

Still, even if the vast majority of "V. C. Andrews" books weren't actually written by V. C. Andrews, many of her fans are happy to have her tradition carried on. Neiderman has drawn on Andrews's novels, notebooks, and drawings for inspiration. "Don't make this sound weird," he once said in a Washington Post interview, "but sometimes I do feel possessed." To the original V. C. Andrews, who believed in precognition and reincarnation, it probably wouldn't sound weird at all.

Good To Know

Andrews wrote nine novels before Flowers in the Attic, including a science fantasy titled The Gods of the Green Mountain. Later, when she was a bestselling novelist, she wanted to try her hand at different kinds of fiction, but her publisher discouraged her. "I am supposed to stay in this niche, whatever it is, because there is so much money in it," she told Douglas Winter. "I mean, I have tapped a gold mine and they don't want to let go of it. I don't like that, because I want to branch out."

Though V. C. Andrews went by the name Virginia, her birth name was Cleo Virginia Andrews, not Virginia Cleo Andrews. She had planned to publish her books under the name Virginia Andrews, but her first publisher printed Flowers in the Atticas the work of "V. C. Andrews" in hopes that the gender-neutral name would make the book appealing to male readers.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Cleo Virginia Andrews
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 6, 1923
    2. Place of Birth:
      Portsmouth, Virginia
    1. Date of Death:
      December 19, 1986
    2. Place of Death:
      Virginia Beach, Virginia

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

I was alone in Mrs. McGuire's office, waiting to meet the couple who had asked to see me. Sitting "properly" on the straight-back chair next to Mrs. McGuire's desk was making my back ache but I knew from past experience that I had better be on my best behavior. Mrs. McGuire was the chief administrator of our orphanage and pounced on us if we slouched or did anything else "improper" in front of visitors.

"Posture, posture," she would cry out when she passed us in the cafeteria, and we all would snap to attention. Those who didn't obey her had to walk around with a book on their heads for hours, and if the book fell off, they would have to do it over again the next day.

"You children are orphans," she lectured to us, "looking for some nice people to come snatch you up and make you members of their families. Youmust be better than other children, children with parents and homes. You must be healthier, smarter, more polite, and most certainly more respectful. In short," she said in a voice that often turned shrill during her endless speeches, "you must become desirable. Why," she asked, sweeping her eyes over each and every one of us critically, her thin lips pursed, "would anyone want you to be their daughter or son?"

She was right. Who would ever want me? I thought. I was born prematurely. Some of the boys and girls here said I was stunted. Just yesterday, Donald Lawson called me the Dwarf.

"Even when you're in high school, you'll wear little-girl clothes," he taunted.

He strutted away with his head high, and I could tell it made him feel better to make me feel bad. My tears were like trophies for him, and the sight of them didn't make him feel sorry.Instead, they encouraged him.

"Even your tears are tiny," he sang as he walked down the hall. "Maybe we should call you Tiny Tears instead of the Dwarf."

The kids at the orphanage weren't the only ones who thought there was something wrong with me, though. Margaret Lester, who was the tallest girl in the orphanage, fourteen with legs that seemed to reach up to her shoulders, overheard the last couple I'd met talking about me and couldn't wait to tell me all the horrible things they had to say.

"The man said he thought you were adorable, but when they found out how old you were, they wondered why you were so small. She thought you might be sickly and then they decided to look at someone else," Margaret told me with a twisted smirk on her face.

No potential parents ever looked at her, so she was happy when one of us was rejected.

"I'm not sickly," I whispered in my own defense. "I haven't even had a cold all year."

I always spoke in a soft, low voice and then, when I was made to repeat something, I struggled to make my voice louder. Mrs. McGuire said I had to appear more self-assured.

"It's fine to be a little shy, Janet," she told me. "Goodness knows, most children today are too loud and obnoxious, but if you're too modest, people will pass you over. They'll think you're withdrawn, like a turtle more comfortable in his shell. You don't want that, do you?"

I shook my head but she continued her lecture.

"Then stand straight when you speak to people and look at them and not at the floor. And don't twist your fingers around each other like that. Get your shoulders back. You need all the height you can achieve."

When I had come to her office today, she had me sit in this chair and then paced in front of me, her high heels clicking like little hammers on the tile floor as she advised and directed me on how to behave once the Delorices arrived. That was their names, Sanford and Celine Delorice. Of course, I hadn't set eyes on them before. Mrs. McGuire told me, however, that they had seen me a number of times. That came as a surprise. A number of times? I wondered when, and if that was true, why had I never seen them?

"They know a great deal about you, Janet, and still they are interested. This is your best opportunity yet. Do you understand?" she asked, pausing to look at me. "Straighten up," she snapped.

I did so quickly.

"Yes, Mrs. McGuire," I said.

"What?" She put her hand behind her ear and leaned toward me. "Did you say something, Janet?"

"Yes, Mrs. McGuire."

"Yes what?" she demanded, standing back, her hands on her hips.

"Yes, I understand this is my best opportunity, Mrs. McGuire."

"Good, good. Keep your voice strong and clear. Speak only when you're spoken to, and smile as much as you can. Don't spread your legs too far apart. That's it. Let me see your hands," she demanded, reaching out to seize them in her own long, bony fingers.

She turned my hands over so roughly my wrists stung.

"Good," she said. "You do take good care of yourself, Janet. I think that's a big plus for you. Some of our children, as you know, think they are allergic to bathing."

She glanced at the clock.

"They should be arriving soon. I'm going out front to greet them. Wait here and when we come through the door, stand up to greet us. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Mrs. McGuire." Her hand went behind her ear again. I cleared my throat and tried again. "Yes, Mrs. McGuire."

She shook her head and looked very sad, her eyes full of doubt.

"This is your big chance, your best chance, Janet. Maybe, your last chance," she muttered and left the office.

Now I sat gazing at the bookcase, the pictures on her desk, the letters in frames congratulating her on her performance as an administrator in our upstate New York child welfare agency. Bored with the things decorating Mrs. McGuire's office, I turned around in my chair to stare out the windows. It was a sunny spring day. I sighed as I looked out at the trees, their shiny green leaves and budding blossoms calling to me. Everything was growing like weeds because of the heavy spring rain, and I could tell Philip, the groundskeeper, wasn't very happy to be mowing the endless lawns so early in the season. His face was screwed up in a scowl and I could just imagine him grumbling about the grass coming up so fast this year, you could watch it grow. For a moment I drifted away in the monotonous sound of Philip's lawnmower and the dazzling sunlight streaming in through the windows. I forgot I was in Mrs. McGuire's office, forgot I was slouching with my eyes closed.

I tried to remember my real mother, but my earliest memories are of being in an orphanage. I was in one other beside this one, then I got transferred here when I was nearly seven. I'm almost thirteen now, but even I would admit that I look no more than nine, maybe ten. Because I couldn't remember my real mother, Tommy Turner said I was probably one of those babies that doctors make in a laboratory.

"I bet you were born in a test tube and that's why you're so small. Something went wrong with the experiment," he'd said as we left the dining hall last night. The other kids all thought he was very clever and laughed at his joke. Laughed at me.

"Janet's mother and father were test tubes," they taunted.

"No," Tommy said. "Her father was a syringe and her mother was a test tube."

"Who named her Janet then?" Margaret asked doubtfully.

Tommy had to think.

"That was the name of her lab technician, Janet Taylor, so they gave her that name," he answered, and from the look on their faces, I could tell the other kids believed him.

Last night, like every night, I had wished with all my heart that I knew something about my past, some fact, a name, anything that I could say to Tommy and the others to prove that once upon a time I did have a real Mommy and Daddy. I wasn't a dwarf or a test tube baby, I was...well, I was like a butterfly — destined to be beautiful and soar high above the earth, high above troubles and doubts, high above nasty little kids who made fun of other people just because they were smaller and weaker.

It's just that I hadn't burst from my cocoon yet. I was still a shy little girl, curled up in my quiet, cozy world. I knew that someday I would have to break free, to be braver, speak louder, grow taller, but right now that seemed all too scary. The only way I knew how to keep the taunts and teasing of the other kids from bothering me was to stay in my own little cocoon — where it was warm and safe and no one could hurt me. But someday, someday I would soar. Like a beautiful butterfly, I would climb higher and higher, flying high above them all. I'd show them.

Someday.

One

"Janet!" I heard Mrs. McGuire hiss, and my eyes snapped open. Her face was filled with fury, her mouth twisted, her gray eyes wide and lit up like firecrackers. "Sit up," she whispered through her clenched teeth, and then she forced a smile and turned to the couple standing behind her. "Right this way, Mr. and Mrs. Delorice," she said in a much nicer tone of voice.

I took a deep breath and held it, my fluttering heart suddenly sounding like a kettle drum in my chest. Mrs. McGuire stepped behind me so that the Delorices could get a good look at me. Mr. Delorice was tall and thin with dark hair and sleepy eyes. Mrs. Delorice sat in a wheelchair and was pretty, with hair the color of a red sunset. She had diminutive facial features like my own, but even more perfectly proportioned. Her hair floated around her shoulders in soft undulating waves. There was nothing sickly or frail looking about her, despite her wheelchair. Her complexion was rich like peaches and cream, her lips the shade of fresh strawberries.

She wore a bright yellow dress, my favorite color, and a string of tiny pearls around her neck. She looked like every other potential mommy I had seen except for the wheelchair and the tiny little shoes she wore. Although I'd never seen ballet shoes before, I thought that was what they were. If she was in a wheelchair, why was she wearing ballet shoes? I wondered.

Mr. Delorice pushed her right up to me. I was too fascinated to move, much less speak. Why would a woman in a wheelchair want to adopt a child my age?

"Mr. and Mrs. Delorice, this is Janet Taylor. Janet, Mr. and Mrs. Delorice."

"Hello," I said, obviously not loud enough to please Mrs. McGuire. She gestured for me to stand and I scrambled out of the chair.

"Please, dear, call us Sanford and Celine," the pretty woman said. She held out her hand and I took it gingerly, surprised at how firmly she held her fingers around mine. For a moment we only looked at each other. Then I glanced up at Sanford Delorice.

He was looking down at me, his eyes opening a bit wider to reveal their mixture of brown and green. He had his hair cut very short, which made his skinny face look even longer and narrower. He was wearing a dark gray sports jacket with no tie and a pair of dark blue slacks. The upper two buttons on his white shirt were open. I thought it was to give his very prominent Adam's apple breathing space.

"She's perfect, Sanford, just perfect, isn't she?" Celine said, gazing at me.

"Yes, she is, dear," Sanford replied. He had his long fingers still wrapped tightly around the handles of the wheelchair as if he was attached or afraid to let go.

"Did she ever have any training in the arts?" Celine asked Mrs. McGuire. She didn't look at Mrs. McGuire when she asked. She didn't look away from me. Her eyes were fixed on my face, and although her staring was beginning to make me feel creepy, I was unable to look away.

"The arts?"

"Singing, dancing...ballet, perhaps?" she asked.

"Oh no, Mrs. Delorice. The children here are not that fortunate," Mrs. McGuire replied.

Celine turned back to me. Her eyes grew smaller, even more intensely fixed on me.

"Well, Janet will be. She'll be that fortunate," she predicted with certainty. She smiled softly. "How would you like to come live with Sanford and myself, Janet? You'll have your own room, and a very large and comfortable one, too. You'll attend a private school. We'll buy you an entirely new wardrobe, including new shoes. You'll have a separate area in your room for your schoolwork and you'll have your own bathroom. I'm sure you'll like our house. We live just outside of Albany with a yard as large, if not larger than you have here."

"That sounds wonderful," Mrs. McGuire said as if she were the one being offered the new home, but Mrs. Delorice didn't seem at all interested in what she said. Instead she stared at me and waited for my response.

"Janet?" Mrs. McGuire questioned when a long moment of silence had passed.

How could I ever refuse this, and yet when I looked up at Sanford and back at Celine, I couldn't help feeling little footsteps of trepidation tiptoeing across my heart. I pushed the shadowy faces out of my mind, glanced at Mrs. McGuire, and then nodded.

"I'd like that," I said, wishing I was as good as Mrs. McGuire at faking a smile.

"Good," Celine declared. She spun her chair around to face Mrs. McGuire. "How soon can she leave?"

"Well, we have some paperwork to do. However, knowing all that we already know about you and your husband, your impressive references, the social worker's report, et cetera, I suppose..."

"Can we take her with us today?" Celine demanded impatiently.

My heart skipped a beat. Today? That fast?

For once Mrs. McGuire was at a loss for words.

"I imagine that could be done," she finally replied.

"Good," she said. "Sanford, why don't you stay with Mrs. McGuire and fill out whatever paperwork has to be filled out. Janet and I can go outside and get more acquainted in the meantime," she said. It was supposed to be a suggestion, I guess, but it sounded like an order to me. I looked at Mr. Delorice and could see the muscles in his jaw were clenched, along with his fingers on the wheelchair handles.

"But there are documents that require both signatures," Mrs. McGuire insisted.

"Sanford has power of attorney when it comes to my signature," Celine countered. "Janet, can you push my chair? I don't weigh all that much," she added smiling.

I looked at Mrs. McGuire. She nodded and Sanford stepped back so that I could take hold of the handles.

"Where shall we go, Janet?" she asked me.

"I guess we can go out to the garden," I said uncertainly. Mrs. McGuire nodded again.

"That sounds wonderful. Don't be any longer than you have to, Sanford," she called back as I started to push her to the door. I went ahead and opened it and then I pushed her through.

I started down the hallway, overwhelmed and amazed with myself and what was happening. Not only was I going to have parents, but I had found a mother who wanted me to take care of her, almost as much as I wanted her to take care of me. What a strange and wonderful new beginning, I thought as I wheeled my new mother toward the sunny day that awaited us.

* * *

"Has it been difficult for you living here, Janet?" Celine asked after I had wheeled her outside. We followed the path to the garden.

"No, ma'am," I said, trying not to be distracted by the kids who were looking our way.

"Oh, don't call me ma'am, Janet. Please," she said, turning to place her hand over mine. It felt so warm. "Why don't you call me Mother. Let's not wait to get to know each other. Just do that immediately," she pleaded.

"Okay," I said. I could tell already that Mrs. Delorice didn't like to be argued with.

"You speak so softly, darling. I suppose you've felt so insignificant, but you won't feel that way anymore. You're going to be famous, Janet. You're going to be spectacular," she declared with such passion in her voice it made the breath catch in my throat.

"Me?"

"Yes, you, Janet. Come around and sit on this bench," she said when we had reached the first one along the pathway. She folded her hands in her lap and waited until I sat. Then she smiled. "You float, Janet. Do you realize that? You glide almost as if you're walking on a cloud of air. That's instinctive. Grace is something you're either born with or not, Janet. You can't learn it. No one can teach that to you.

"Once," she said as her green eyes darkened, "I had grace. I glided, too. But," she said quickly changing her expression and tone back to a happier, lighter one, "let's talk about you first. I've been watching you."

"When?" I said, recalling what Mrs. McGuire had told me.

"Oh, on and off for a little more than two weeks. Sanford and I came here at different times of the day. Usually we sat in our car and watched you and your unfortunate brothers and sisters at play. I even saw you at your school," she admitted.

My mouth widened with surprise. They had followed me to school? She laughed.

"When I first set eyes on you, I knew I had to have you. I knew you were the one, Janet. You remind me so much of myself when I was your age."

"I do?"

"Yes, and when Sanford and I went home, I would think about you and dream about you, and actually see you gliding down our staircase and through our home. I could even hear the music," she said, with a faraway look in her eyes.

"What music?" I asked, starting to think that Mrs. Delorice might be a little more than just bossy.

"Music you'll dance to, Janet. Oh," she said, leaning forward to reach for my hand, "there is so much to tell you and so much to do. I can't wait to start. That's why I wanted Sanford to cut right through all that silly bureaucratic paperwork and take us both home. Home," she repeated, her smile softening even more. "I suppose that's a foreign word to you, isn't it? You've never had a home. I know all about you," she added.

"What do you know?" I asked. Maybe she knew something about my real mommy and daddy.

"I know you were an orphan shortly after your birth and ever since. I know some very stupid people came to find children to adopt and passed you by. That's their loss and my gain," she followed with a thin, high-pitched laugh.

"What did you mean when you said music I would dance to?" I asked.

She released my hand and sat back. For a moment I didn't think she was going to answer. She stared off toward the woods. A sparrow landed near us and studied us with curiosity.

"After I picked you out, I observed you, auditioning you in my own mind," she explained. "I studied your walk, your gestures, and your posture to see if you were capable of being trained to become the dancer I was to be, the dancer I can no longer even dream to be. Beyond a doubt I am convinced you can. Would you like that? Would you like to be a famous dancer, Janet?"

"A famous dancer? I've never thought about it," I said honestly. "I do like to dance. I like music too," I added.

"Of course you do," she responded. "Someone with your natural grace and rhythm has to love music, and you'll love to dance, too. You'll love the power. You'll feel..." She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened her eyes I saw that they were filled with an eerie light. "You'll feel you can soar like a bird. When you're good, and you will be good, you will lose yourself in the music, Janet. It will carry you off, just as it did for me so many, many times before I became crippled."

"What happened to you?" I dared to ask. It was obvious that talking about dancing made her emotional, but the eerie look in her eyes made me nervous and I wanted her to do something besides stare at me so intently.

Mrs. Delorice lost her soft, dreamy smile and gazed back at the building before turning to me and replying.

"I was in a very bad car accident. Sanford lost control of our vehicle one night when we were returning from a party. He had a little too much to drink, although he'll never ever admit to that. He claimed he was blinded by the lights of a tractor-trailer truck. We went off the road and hit a tree. He was wearing his seat belt but I had forgotten to put mine on. The door opened and I was thrown from the car. My spine was very badly damaged. I almost died."

"I'm sorry," I said quickly.

Her face hardened, the lines deepening as shadows darkened her complexion.

"I'm past being sorry. I was sorry for years, but being sorry for yourself doesn't help one bit, Janet. Never indulge in self-pity. You become incapable of helping yourself. Oh," she said excited again, the light in her eyes returning, "I have so much to tell you, to teach you. It's going to be wonderful for both of us. Are you excited, too?"

"Yes," I said. I was, but everything was moving so fast and I couldn't help feeling nervous and a little bit scared.

She turned toward the building.

"Where is he? I never saw a man waste so much time. Oh, but you'll get to admire him for his compassion and sensitivity," she said. "There isn't anything he wouldn't do for me now, and now," she said with a wider smile, "there isn't anything he won't do for you.

"Think of it, Janet, think of it," she urged, "for the first time in your life, you will have two loving people who will care more about you than they will for themselves. Oh yes, it's true, dear, precious Janet. Look at me. Why should I worry about myself anymore? I'm a prisoner in this damaged body forever, and Sanford, Sanford lives to make me happy. So you see," she said with that tiny, thin laugh again, "if my happiness depends on your happiness, Sanford will cherish you as much as I will.

"You will be happy, Janet," she said with such firmness it frightened me. It was almost as if she was commanding me to be happy. "That," she said, "I promise you."

Sanford stepped out of the building.

"It's about time," she muttered. "Come, Janet, dear. Let us begin your new life. Let's think of this as your true birth. Okay? We'll even use this day as your birthday from now on. Why not? Yes? I like that idea. Don't you?" she declared with another thin laugh. "Today is your birthday!"

"Sanford," she called before I could reply. Actually, I didn't know what to say. My birthday had never been very special to me. He started toward us. "This day is more extraordinary than we imagined. It's Janet's birthday."

"It is?" he asked, looking confused. "But, I thought..."

"It is." She stamped her words in the air between them and he nodded.

She reached her hand out to me.

"Come along now," she said. "We're going home to celebrate."

When I saw the grim look on Sanford's face and remembered the crazy light that had come into Mrs. Delorice's eyes, I wondered just what had I gotten myself into.

Copyright © 1998 by The Vanda General Partnership

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Table of Contents

Content

Butterfly

Crystal

Brooke

Raven

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Prologue

I was alone in Mrs. McGuire's office, waiting to meet the couple who had asked to see me. Sitting "properly" on the straight-back chair next to Mrs. McGuire's desk was making my back ache but I knew from past experience that I had better be on my best behavior. Mrs. McGuire was the chief administrator of our orphanage and pounced on us if we slouched or did anything else "improper" in front of visitors.

"Posture, posture," she would cry out when she passed us in the cafeteria, and we all would snap to attention. Those who didn't obey her had to walk around with a book on their heads for hours, and if the book fell off, they would have to do it over again the next day.

"You children are orphans," she lectured to us, "looking for some nice people to come snatch you up and make you members of their families. You must be better than other children, children with parents and homes. You must be healthier, smarter, more polite, and most certainly more respectful. In short," she said in a voice that often turned shrill during her endless speeches, "you must become desirable. Why," she asked, sweeping her eyes over each and every one of us critically, her thin lips pursed, "would anyone want you to be their daughter or son?"

She was right. Who would ever want me? I thought. I was born prematurely. Some of the boys and girls here said I was stunted. Just yesterday, Donald Lawson called me the Dwarf.

"Even when you're in high school, you'll wear little-girl clothes," he taunted.

He strutted away with his head high, and I could tell it made him feel better to make me feel bad. My tears were like trophies for him, and the sight of them didn't make him feel sorry. Instead, they encouraged him.

"Even your tears are tiny," he sang as he walked down the hall. "Maybe we should call you Tiny Tears instead of the Dwarf."

The kids at the orphanage weren't the only ones who thought there was something wrong with me, though. Margaret Lester, who was the tallest girl in the orphanage, fourteen with legs that seemed to reach up to her shoulders, overheard the last couple I'd met talking about me and couldn't wait to tell me all the horrible things they had to say.

"The man said he thought you were adorable, but when they found out how old you were, they wondered why you were so small. She thought you might be sickly and then they decided to look at someone else," Margaret told me with a twisted smirk on her face.

No potential parents ever looked at her, so she was happy when one of us was rejected.

"I'm not sickly," I whispered in my own defense. "I haven't even had a cold all year."

I always spoke in a soft, low voice and then, when I was made to repeat something, I struggled to make my voice louder. Mrs. McGuire said I had to appear more self-assured.

"It's fine to be a little shy, Janet," she told me. "Goodness knows, most children today are too loud and obnoxious, but if you're too modest, people will pass you over. They'll think you're withdrawn, like a turtle more comfortable in his shell. You don't want that, do you?"

I shook my head but she continued her lecture.

"Then stand straight when you speak to people and look at them and not at the floor. And don't twist your fingers around each other like that. Get your shoulders back. You need all the height you can achieve."

When I had come to her office today, she had me sit in this chair and then paced in front of me, her high heels clicking like little hammers on the tile floor as she advised and directed me on how to behave once the Delorices arrived. That was their names, Sanford and Celine Delorice. Of course, I hadn't set eyes on them before. Mrs. McGuire told me, however, that they had seen me a number of times. That came as a surprise. A number of times? I wondered when, and if that was true, why had I never seen them?

"They know a great deal about you, Janet, and still they are interested. This is your best opportunity yet. Do you understand?" she asked, pausing to look at me. "Straighten up," she snapped.

I did so quickly.

"Yes, Mrs. McGuire," I said.

"What?" She put her hand behind her ear and leaned toward me. "Did you say something, Janet?"

"Yes, Mrs. McGuire."

"Yes what?" she demanded, standing back, her hands on her hips.

"Yes, I understand this is my best opportunity, Mrs. McGuire."

"Good, good. Keep your voice strong and clear. Speak only when you're spoken to, and smile as much as you can. Don't spread your legs too far apart. That's it. Let me see your hands," she demanded, reaching out to seize them in her own long, bony fingers.

She turned my hands over so roughly my wrists stung.

"Good," she said. "You do take good care of yourself, Janet. I think that's a big plus for you. Some of our children, as you know, think they are allergic to bathing."

She glanced at the clock.

"They should be arriving soon. I'm going out front to greet them. Wait here and when we come through the door, stand up to greet us. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Mrs. McGuire." Her hand went behind her ear again. I cleared my throat and tried again. "Yes, Mrs. McGuire."

She shook her head and looked very sad, her eyes full of doubt.

"This is your big chance, your best chance, Janet. Maybe, your last chance," she muttered and left the office.

Now I sat gazing at the bookcase, the pictures on her desk, the letters in frames congratulating her on her performance as an administrator in our upstate New York child welfare agency. Bored with the things decorating Mrs. McGuire's office, I turned around in my chair to stare out the windows. It was a sunny spring day. I sighed as I looked out at the trees, their shiny green leaves and budding blossoms calling to me. Everything was growing like weeds because of the heavy spring rain, and I could tell Philip, the groundskeeper, wasn't very happy to be mowing the endless lawns so early in the season. His face was screwed up in a scowl and I could just imagine him grumbling about the grass coming up so fast this year, you could watch it grow. For a moment I drifted away in the monotonous sound of Philip's lawnmower and the dazzling sunlight streaming in through the windows. I forgot I was in Mrs. McGuire's office, forgot I was slouching with my eyes closed.

I tried to remember my real mother, but my earliest memories are of being in an orphanage. I was in one other beside this one, then I got transferred here when I was nearly seven. I'm almost thirteen now, but even I would admit that I look no more than nine, maybe ten. Because I couldn't remember my real mother, Tommy Turner said I was probably one of those babies that doctors make in a laboratory.

"I bet you were born in a test tube and that's why you're so small. Something went wrong with the experiment," he'd said as we left the dining hall last night. The other kids all thought he was very clever and laughed at his joke. Laughed at me.

"Janet's mother and father were test tubes," they taunted.

"No," Tommy said. "Her father was a syringe and her mother was a test tube."

"Who named her Janet then?" Margaret asked doubtfully.

Tommy had to think.

"That was the name of her lab technician, Janet Taylor, so they gave her that name," he answered, and from the look on their faces, I could tell the other kids believed him.

Last night, like every night, I had wished with all my heart that I knew something about my past, some fact, a name, anything that I could say to Tommy and the others to prove that once upon a time I did have a real Mommy and Daddy. I wasn't a dwarf or a test tube baby, I was...well, I was like a butterfly -- destined to be beautiful and soar high above the earth, high above troubles and doubts, high above nasty little kids who made fun of other people just because they were smaller and weaker.

It's just that I hadn't burst from my cocoon yet. I was still a shy little girl, curled up in my quiet, cozy world. I knew that someday I would have to break free, to be braver, speak louder, grow taller, but right now that seemed all too scary. The only way I knew how to keep the taunts and teasing of the other kids from bothering me was to stay in my own little cocoon -- where it was warm and safe and no one could hurt me. But someday, someday I would soar. Like a beautiful butterfly, I would climb higher and higher, flying high above them all. I'd show them.

Someday.

One

"Janet!" I heard Mrs. McGuire hiss, and my eyes snapped open. Her face was filled with fury, her mouth twisted, her gray eyes wide and lit up like firecrackers. "Sit up," she whispered through her clenched teeth, and then she forced a smile and turned to the couple standing behind her. "Right this way, Mr. and Mrs. Delorice," she said in a much nicer tone of voice.

I took a deep breath and held it, my fluttering heart suddenly sounding like a kettle drum in my chest. Mrs. McGuire stepped behind me so that the Delorices could get a good look at me. Mr. Delorice was tall and thin with dark hair and sleepy eyes. Mrs. Delorice sat in a wheelchair and was pretty, with hair the color of a red sunset. She had diminutive facial features like my own, but even more perfectly proportioned. Her hair floated around her shoulders in soft undulating waves. There was nothing sickly or frail looking about her, despite her wheelchair. Her complexion was rich like peaches and cream, her lips the shade of fresh strawberries.

She wore a bright yellow dress, my favorite color, and a string of tiny pearls around her neck. She looked like every other potential mommy I had seen except for the wheelchair and the tiny little shoes she wore. Although I'd never seen ballet shoes before, I thought that was what they were. If she was in a wheelchair, why was she wearing ballet shoes? I wondered.

Mr. Delorice pushed her right up to me. I was too fascinated to move, much less speak. Why would a woman in a wheelchair want to adopt a child my age?

"Mr. and Mrs. Delorice, this is Janet Taylor. Janet, Mr. and Mrs. Delorice."

"Hello," I said, obviously not loud enough to please Mrs. McGuire. She gestured for me to stand and I scrambled out of the chair.

"Please, dear, call us Sanford and Celine," the pretty woman said. She held out her hand and I took it gingerly, surprised at how firmly she held her fingers around mine. For a moment we only looked at each other. Then I glanced up at Sanford Delorice.

He was looking down at me, his eyes opening a bit wider to reveal their mixture of brown and green. He had his hair cut very short, which made his skinny face look even longer and narrower. He was wearing a dark gray sports jacket with no tie and a pair of dark blue slacks. The upper two buttons on his white shirt were open. I thought it was to give his very prominent Adam's apple breathing space.

"She's perfect, Sanford, just perfect, isn't she?" Celine said, gazing at me.

"Yes, she is, dear," Sanford replied. He had his long fingers still wrapped tightly around the handles of the wheelchair as if he was attached or afraid to let go.

"Did she ever have any training in the arts?" Celine asked Mrs. McGuire. She didn't look at Mrs. McGuire when she asked. She didn't look away from me. Her eyes were fixed on my face, and although her staring was beginning to make me feel creepy, I was unable to look away.

"The arts?"

"Singing, dancing...ballet, perhaps?" she asked.

"Oh no, Mrs. Delorice. The children here are not that fortunate," Mrs. McGuire replied.

Celine turned back to me. Her eyes grew smaller, even more intensely fixed on me.

"Well, Janet will be. She'll be that fortunate," she predicted with certainty. She smiled softly. "How would you like to come live with Sanford and myself, Janet? You'll have your own room, and a very large and comfortable one, too. You'll attend a private school. We'll buy you an entirely new wardrobe, including new shoes. You'll have a separate area in your room for your schoolwork and you'll have your own bathroom. I'm sure you'll like our house. We live just outside of Albany with a yard as large, if not larger than you have here."

"That sounds wonderful," Mrs. McGuire said as if she were the one being offered the new home, but Mrs. Delorice didn't seem at all interested in what she said. Instead she stared at me and waited for my response.

"Janet?" Mrs. McGuire questioned when a long moment of silence had passed.

How could I ever refuse this, and yet when I looked up at Sanford and back at Celine, I couldn't help feeling little footsteps of trepidation tiptoeing across my heart. I pushed the shadowy faces out of my mind, glanced at Mrs. McGuire, and then nodded.

"I'd like that," I said, wishing I was as good as Mrs. McGuire at faking a smile.

"Good," Celine declared. She spun her chair around to face Mrs. McGuire. "How soon can she leave?"

"Well, we have some paperwork to do. However, knowing all that we already know about you and your husband, your impressive references, the social worker's report, et cetera, I suppose..."

"Can we take her with us today?" Celine demanded impatiently.

My heart skipped a beat. Today? That fast?

For once Mrs. McGuire was at a loss for words.

"I imagine that could be done," she finally replied.

"Good," she said. "Sanford, why don't you stay with Mrs. McGuire and fill out whatever paperwork has to be filled out. Janet and I can go outside and get more acquainted in the meantime," she said. It was supposed to be a suggestion, I guess, but it sounded like an order to me. I looked at Mr. Delorice and could see the muscles in his jaw were clenched, along with his fingers on the wheelchair handles.

"But there are documents that require both signatures," Mrs. McGuire insisted.

"Sanford has power of attorney when it comes to my signature," Celine countered. "Janet, can you push my chair? I don't weigh all that much," she added smiling.

I looked at Mrs. McGuire. She nodded and Sanford stepped back so that I could take hold of the handles.

"Where shall we go, Janet?" she asked me.

"I guess we can go out to the garden," I said uncertainly. Mrs. McGuire nodded again.

"That sounds wonderful. Don't be any longer than you have to, Sanford," she called back as I started to push her to the door. I went ahead and opened it and then I pushed her through.

I started down the hallway, overwhelmed and amazed with myself and what was happening. Not only was I going to have parents, but I had found a mother who wanted me to take care of her, almost as much as I wanted her to take care of me. What a strange and wonderful new beginning, I thought as I wheeled my new mother toward the sunny day that awaited us.

* * *

"Has it been difficult for you living here, Janet?" Celine asked after I had wheeled her outside. We followed the path to the garden.

"No, ma'am," I said, trying not to be distracted by the kids who were looking our way.

"Oh, don't call me ma'am, Janet. Please," she said, turning to place her hand over mine. It felt so warm. "Why don't you call me Mother. Let's not wait to get to know each other. Just do that immediately," she pleaded.

"Okay," I said. I could tell already that Mrs. Delorice didn't like to be argued with.

"You speak so softly, darling. I suppose you've felt so insignificant, but you won't feel that way anymore. You're going to be famous, Janet. You're going to be spectacular," she declared with such passion in her voice it made the breath catch in my throat.

"Me?"

"Yes, you, Janet. Come around and sit on this bench," she said when we had reached the first one along the pathway. She folded her hands in her lap and waited until I sat. Then she smiled. "You float, Janet. Do you realize that? You glide almost as if you're walking on a cloud of air. That's instinctive. Grace is something you're either born with or not, Janet. You can't learn it. No one can teach that to you.

"Once," she said as her green eyes darkened, "I had grace. I glided, too. But," she said quickly changing her expression and tone back to a happier, lighter one, "let's talk about you first. I've been watching you."

"When?" I said, recalling what Mrs. McGuire had told me.

"Oh, on and off for a little more than two weeks. Sanford and I came here at different times of the day. Usually we sat in our car and watched you and your unfortunate brothers and sisters at play. I even saw you at your school," she admitted.

My mouth widened with surprise. They had followed me to school? She laughed.

"When I first set eyes on you, I knew I had to have you. I knew you were the one, Janet. You remind me so much of myself when I was your age."

"I do?"

"Yes, and when Sanford and I went home, I would think about you and dream about you, and actually see you gliding down our staircase and through our home. I could even hear the music," she said, with a faraway look in her eyes.

"What music?" I asked, starting to think that Mrs. Delorice might be a little more than just bossy.

"Music you'll dance to, Janet. Oh," she said, leaning forward to reach for my hand, "there is so much to tell you and so much to do. I can't wait to start. That's why I wanted Sanford to cut right through all that silly bureaucratic paperwork and take us both home. Home," she repeated, her smile softening even more. "I suppose that's a foreign word to you, isn't it? You've never had a home. I know all about you," she added.

"What do you know?" I asked. Maybe she knew something about my real mommy and daddy.

"I know you were an orphan shortly after your birth and ever since. I know some very stupid people came to find children to adopt and passed you by. That's their loss and my gain," she followed with a thin, high-pitched laugh.

"What did you mean when you said music I would dance to?" I asked.

She released my hand and sat back. For a moment I didn't think she was going to answer. She stared off toward the woods. A sparrow landed near us and studied us with curiosity.

"After I picked you out, I observed you, auditioning you in my own mind," she explained. "I studied your walk, your gestures, and your posture to see if you were capable of being trained to become the dancer I was to be, the dancer I can no longer even dream to be. Beyond a doubt I am convinced you can. Would you like that? Would you like to be a famous dancer, Janet?"

"A famous dancer? I've never thought about it," I said honestly. "I do like to dance. I like music too," I added.

"Of course you do," she responded. "Someone with your natural grace and rhythm has to love music, and you'll love to dance, too. You'll love the power. You'll feel..." She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened her eyes I saw that they were filled with an eerie light. "You'll feel you can soar like a bird. When you're good, and you will be good, you will lose yourself in the music, Janet. It will carry you off, just as it did for me so many, many times before I became crippled."

"What happened to you?" I dared to ask. It was obvious that talking about dancing made her emotional, but the eerie look in her eyes made me nervous and I wanted her to do something besides stare at me so intently.

Mrs. Delorice lost her soft, dreamy smile and gazed back at the building before turning to me and replying.

"I was in a very bad car accident. Sanford lost control of our vehicle one night when we were returning from a party. He had a little too much to drink, although he'll never ever admit to that. He claimed he was blinded by the lights of a tractor-trailer truck. We went off the road and hit a tree. He was wearing his seat belt but I had forgotten to put mine on. The door opened and I was thrown from the car. My spine was very badly damaged. I almost died."

"I'm sorry," I said quickly.

Her face hardened, the lines deepening as shadows darkened her complexion.

"I'm past being sorry. I was sorry for years, but being sorry for yourself doesn't help one bit, Janet. Never indulge in self-pity. You become incapable of helping yourself. Oh," she said excited again, the light in her eyes returning, "I have so much to tell you, to teach you. It's going to be wonderful for both of us. Are you excited, too?"

"Yes," I said. I was, but everything was moving so fast and I couldn't help feeling nervous and a little bit scared.

She turned toward the building.

"Where is he? I never saw a man waste so much time. Oh, but you'll get to admire him for his compassion and sensitivity," she said. "There isn't anything he wouldn't do for me now, and now," she said with a wider smile, "there isn't anything he won't do for you.

"Think of it, Janet, think of it," she urged, "for the first time in your life, you will have two loving people who will care more about you than they will for themselves. Oh yes, it's true, dear, precious Janet. Look at me. Why should I worry about myself anymore? I'm a prisoner in this damaged body forever, and Sanford, Sanford lives to make me happy. So you see," she said with that tiny, thin laugh again, "if my happiness depends on your happiness, Sanford will cherish you as much as I will.

"You will be happy, Janet," she said with such firmness it frightened me. It was almost as if she was commanding me to be happy. "That," she said, "I promise you."

Sanford stepped out of the building.

"It's about time," she muttered. "Come, Janet, dear. Let us begin your new life. Let's think of this as your true birth. Okay? We'll even use this day as your birthday from now on. Why not? Yes? I like that idea. Don't you?" she declared with another thin laugh. "Today is your birthday!"

"Sanford," she called before I could reply. Actually, I didn't know what to say. My birthday had never been very special to me. He started toward us. "This day is more extraordinary than we imagined. It's Janet's birthday."

"It is?" he asked, looking confused. "But, I thought..."

"It is." She stamped her words in the air between them and he nodded.

She reached her hand out to me.

"Come along now," she said. "We're going home to celebrate."

When I saw the grim look on Sanford's face and remembered the crazy light that had come into Mrs. Delorice's eyes, I wondered just what had I gotten myself into.

Copyright © 1998 by The Vanda General Partnership

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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    V.C Andrews truly knows how to captivate her audience in all the

    V.C Andrews truly knows how to captivate her audience in all the novels she writes. In this novel, Orphans, Andrews weaves 4 stories about what love should be, but in fact is not. In each of the four stories within this book, we meet four orphaned girls who only want to find family that will love them for who they are. However, they each find that they are not loved for who they are. Instead, these young girls are being changed into people they are not, and are struggling the grasp the fact that there are "real" families out there. This is an excellent novel. Although it is a bit long, readers will find themselves soaring through the pages and eating up everything that is written. B+

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2007

    NOT WHAT YOU THINK

    I LOVE VC Andrews, LOVE her. HOWEVER, this is NOT her. VC Died in 1986 and none of the books since then have been anywhere near as good as the originals. I keep picking them up, HOPING that it'll get better again... but never. Neiderman has three skeletons and all of the books he ghost writes are one of those three skeletons, which a new girl's name and a new location.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2006

    Avid V.C. Andrews reader

    I really tried to get into this book. I love V.C. Andrews, but this book was a dud. I could hardly wait to finish it because I was so bored. The author attempted to catch the reader's attention, but they fell short. I did not connect with any of the characters which is very unusual for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2005

    orphans

    all these girls are all oviously went threw alot having people who wanted them but i want say anymore about that buttterfly is a small pette girl struggling to be loved by anyone. crystal is a very smart girl who is very thirst for knowliage and want to find someone to a have a family of her own. brooke is an athleete who loves to compete in sports all sports but will her foster mother love her? or try to change her? Ravens mother is a no good drunk who ends up in jail and sends her brother to care for raven but will that last or is there more than meets the eye in this family? you will have to find out a wonderfulbook hard to put down a very good read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2005

    BROOKE

    This was the only book I've managed to read so far, though I found it to be enjoyable reading material. Certainly made me feel lucky that woman wasn't my mother!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2004

    B.O.R.I.N.G

    Don't waste your time reading this series like I did. I have this 'book rule' once I pick it up, I have to get through it. Boy, did this series make it hard! Read V.C. Andrews novels, the old classics. After V.C. Andrews died her books have never been the same.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2004

    COULDNT PUT THEM DOWN

    I COULD NOT STOP READING I WANTED TO SEE WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT TO THESE POOR GIRLS SO YOUNG AND UNWANTED

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2002

    The same old

    I have been reading this book for a few days now and I come to the conclusion that 'Butterfly', ' Christal', 'Brooke' and 'Raven' or lets say 'Orphans' is a story written in the same old way over and over again. Same plot same problems with different names. Not only mothers have problems when they have to addopt a chiled! I reccomend this book to someone who is dying of bordom.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2002

    awesome

    I absolutely LOVE v.c.andrews books!I have read so many,and this was only one of the greatest!I think this was a great book overall!m

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2002

    I've only read Butterfly...

    Butterfly was an outstanding book, only the first out of an emotional four-some. I cried at the end (I'm not one to cry over books), and I was instantly hooked as soon as I read the first paragraph. I recommend this book for women who have not had a deep bond with their parent(s), it makes you realize how lucky you really are. This book is about an orphan girl, who doesn't live up to the expectations of her crippled foster mother. She tries her hardest to exceed her limits in order for her new mother to love her. The foster mother (Celine) is trying to live her dreams through her new foster child, since she herself cannot fulfill her dreams. Janet's (the orphan girl) foster father, Sanford tries to prevent Celine from hurting her. Celine was making Janey do things that were beyond her physical and emotional limits. Finally, Janet's perfect world came crashing down around her. Read this book if you want to find out what happens...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2002

    interesting...

    this was really interesting. so far i've only read butterfly and crystal but i can tell that the others should be as good as these two. a surprising twist in her writing to make this about orphans. i think its a good change.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2002

    A young girl trying to find the family of her dreams and someone to hold her.

    Butterfly: Janet is known as butterfly because of her unusual height for a 13-year-old girl. She meets a couple celine and Sanford and finds out that Celine used to be a graceful ballerina who was in a car accident a couple years back. Sanford of course blames himself because he, afterall, was the driver. Celine adopts Janet for her unusual height because she hopes that Janet would become the ballerina that she herself can no longer be. Janet moves into a house hoping to have someone hold and finally have the loving parents she's always wanted when all she finds to her horror is a controlable mother whom blames sanford for her accident. Janets new found happiness turns into the terror of death. I liked this book because of the descriptive problems she went through.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2001

    A Great Book!

    This book is really good. It makes me thankful I was adopted as a baby by a loving family, especially Raven's story. Crystal had it the easiest. Butterfly's and Brooke's 'mothers' wanted them to be something that they weren't. Everyone should read this series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2001

    Captivating page turner!

    I truely enjoyed reading this book. The author V.C. Andrews has a way of keeping you wanting more with her novels, this book will keep you up all night wanting to read more and more. It only took me 2 nights to read the book that is how great she is at writting her books. Orphans is a combo of 4 books put into one inspiring novel, Crystal, Butterfly, Brooke and Raven are the four main characters in this novel as well as the novel that follows. Trust me you'll definately Love this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2000

    An Outstanding Novewl That Will Leave You Wanting More

    This book is a page turner, allthough long, it is a powerfull captivating novel. It only took me 4 days to read, that is how powerfull the author's words are as you see the story through the characters' eyes, you come to love them, and hope the best for them. This is definately a book that will capture your heart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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