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:
- Affectionate Nickname: "Butterfly" for Janet.
- 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.
- 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.
- Social Services Does Not Exist: Played with. Social Services do exist and are a major background force in all the girls' lives, but just as frequently harm as help, occasionally overlapping with Police are Useless. It might be said that Social Service Do Not Exist unless it's convenient to the plot.
- Road Trip Plot: Runaways
- Token Minority: Raven.