A series of novels published under the name of V. C. Andrews, but written entirely by the ghostwriter who had previously written sequels to several of Andrews's novels.
The plot revolves around four young girls who meet in an Orphanage of Fear. The first four novellas introduce each title character—Butterfly, a wistful would-be ballerina who longs for a loving family; Crystal, a budding, brilliant scientist whose new adoptive mother has a fragile grasp on reality; Brooke, a tomboy smothered by her new family's expectations and torn by the abandonment of her birth mother; and Raven, removed from an abusive and negligent mother only to find herself living with her even more dangerous relatives—and details how her life's tragedies ended with coming to the orphanage, while a final full-length novel, Runaways, recounts the girls' adventures together when they escape the orphanage.
This unusual format of four short novellas culminating in a full-length adventure established a pattern that would endure for two more series (Wildflowers and Shooting Stars) and would mark the transition between the traditional five-novel Andrews sagas and future shorter series.
Novels in the series:
- Butterfly (1998)
- Crystal (1998)
- Brooke (1998)
- Raven (1998)
- Runaways (1998)
This series contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Oh boy. This series has some very horrifying examples.
- Celine, Butterfly's adopted mother, tries to regain her success as a ballerina after an accident paralyzes her by pushing poor Butterfly to her limits (even when the instructor specifically said not to) to the point where she starts to get catatonic spells that linger on even in Runaways.
- Pamela forces Brooke to be a model and tries her damnedest to forbid her from her true passion (baseball).
- Raven gets the worst of it from her uncle who not only abuses her physically and sexually but claims he had to do it because Raven was such a bad seed (blaming her for actions his ill-behaved daughter did because she blamed Raven).
- Don't think that Crystal escapes it simply because her adopted parents were actually really nice people albeit rather quirky. The reason why the girls escape in Runaways is only really kicked off when Gordon Tooey molests Crystal when she's in the bath.
- Adults Are Useless: Sandford, Peter, and Clara try to be welcoming to the girls but are cowed by their more dominant and, in Clara's case, abusive spouse to do what they say.
- Affectionate Nickname: "Butterfly" for Janet.
- Babies Ever After: The couple who adopt Butterfly have a baby boy after Butterfly's presence and positive influence in their lives help them move forward after the death of their own Ill Girl years ago.
- But Not Too Black: Raven is half-black, half-Latina. This is mentioned exactly once, and her race is downplayed for the rest of the series.
- Daddy's Little Villain: Raven's cousin Jennifer who makes life even more of a hell for Raven when she lives with her aunt and uncle.
- Diabolus ex Machina: Crystal's adoptive parents are killed in a car crash and she has to return to an orphanage; she even says that it's too much like one of the soap operas her adoptive mother used to watch to be real.
- Drugs Are Bad: In spite of their environments, all the girls have a unified Drugs Are Bad attitude, which culminates to near Very Special Episode levels in Runaways.
- Four-Girl Ensemble: Butterfly (the naive, sweet one), Brooke (the tomboy), Raven (the sexy one), and Crystal (the Team Mom).
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: Butterfly (phlegmatic), Crystal (melancholic), Brooke (sanguine), and Raven (choleric/melancholic).
- Happily Adopted: Crystal probably would have been reasonably happy with her adoptive family if the Diabolus ex Machina hadn't come crashing down on her, and Butterfly does eventually get adopted by a family who genuinely loves and cherishes her.
- Ill Girl: Butterfly is prone to falling into catatonic stupors and becomes gravely ill when the girls take to the road.
- I'm Going to Disney World!: Both Butterfly and Raven seem to imagine a trip to Disneyland to be the ultimate symbol of having a real family, and Brooke scornfully tells another girl that a trip to Disneyland with a family is like science fiction to her.
- Important Haircut: Brooke cuts her hair when she realizes that she can't live with an adoptive mother who tries to mold her into something she's not (she wants to be an athlete, her mother wants her to be a model).
- Magical Native American: Refreshingly subverted. The girls eventually find their way to a Native American reservation, where they are taken in by a modern Navajo couple. Navajo culture and reservation life is mentioned in passing, but the context is natural and respectful.
- No Guy Wants an Amazon: Brooke is tall, athletic, enjoys physical activity, and cuts her hair short, leading several characters to mock her on the grounds that she's too masculine to ever be attractive. Brooke eventually comes to believe it herself until she meets a boy who finds her attractive because of those characteristics, rather than in spite of them.
- Orphanage of Fear: The foster home where Butterfly, Crystal, Brooke and Raven all meet. It looks like a good place to live, but...
- Orphan's Ordeal: The main plot of the series.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: While none of the girls are raped, Butterfly, Crystal, and Raven are molested at points by men who have power over them in some way and all three of them are rather sadistic and villainous.
- Road Trip Plot: Runaways
- Social Services Does Not Exist: Played with. Social Services does exist and is a major background force in the girls' lives, considering that as orphans, they're all familiar with CPS and foster care. But Social Services just as frequently harms as helps, occasionally overlapping with Police Are Useless. It might be said that Social Services Does Not Exist unless it's convenient to the plot.
- Token Minority: Raven, though to a downplayed extent since her mixed heritage is mentioned very few times.