Obsessive Everlasting Love ~ Book Review and Other Observations of ‘Twilight’ by Stephenie Meyer

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on November 17, 2010 0 Comments

I first read Stephenie Meyer’s ‘Twilight’ in 2008 a month or two before the movie debuted when it started to get a ‘Harry Potter’ sort of buzz with adult readers.  I feel I should give some background about my reasons for reading the series originally. I had finished reading all of Charlaine Harris’ ‘Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries’ after becoming addicted to the HBO show ‘True Blood’.  Listen kittens, I was just coming off chemo which for months had given me googly eyes so it was hard for me to read for several months.  Once I started to feel better, I devoured books and because of Stephenie Meyer’s books, as well as J.K. Rowling’s efforts, I fell in love with the young adults genre.  As a librarian friend told me (Dannielle, that would be you!) young adult books are all about story first and character development and eloquent writing are secondary to getting the plot going.


                Because I read these books so fast I decided as a side project this summer and fall to reread some of them, particularly because they are the basis of a popular movie franchise, and to try and understand what about them that made them into such a world-wide phenomenon.  Like Rowling before her, Meyer’s seems surprised by the way her series took off.  ‘Twilight’ was her first book and one that she wrote based on a dream she had.  “I woke up (on that June 2nd) from a very vivid dream.  In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately. For what is essentially a transcript of my dream, please see Chapter 13 (“Confessions”) of the book.”  I think fan and non-fan alike can confess that was one heck of a dream. 


                My recollections of ‘Twilight’ after reading it the first time were that Meyer’s was brilliant with dialogue but wasn’t the greatest when it came to story pacing.  For instance, I thought it was very odd that the villains of the story weren’t introduced until about three fourths into the book (they are first mentioned on page 375 of a 498 page book).  I know I wasn’t the only one who noticed some of the flaws, which probably should have been addressed by the book’s editor before it was published (the movie ‘Twilight’ addressed the issue by showing the bad vampires on a killing spree early in the film).  Probably the hardest criticism Meyer had to endure was when Stephen King said of her in an interview with ‘USA Today’, “[J.K.] Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”  I’m sure we can all repeat the proverbial, ‘Meyer cried herself all the way to the bank’ but I’m also sure that for a writer uncertain about her ability, having the ‘Master of Suspense’ say that about you is fairly crushing.


                I don’t know if it is any consolation prize, but I think Meyer can write and writes in a way that is appealing particularly to young women who may not be the core fan base for King.  I don’t know the particulars surrounding the interview, but I do know that many who liked Meyer’s books were a tad insulted, particularly when he added, “…writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it’s not particularly threatening because they’re not overtly sexual.”  I’ll agree that her young adult books aren’t threatening or overtly sexual, but I don’t think that is a bad thing (not that King thought it was bad either).  Further, the young adult market does have books that fit the needs of teens who want more sexually provocative storylines…and goodness, it isn’t like anyone who goes to a bookstore can’t find sexual explicit material.  What Meyer did was to make a book that was more about romance and taking sexuality slow while not preaching – it’s a fine line and teens in particularly tend to reject hypocrisy.  The undercurrent of the story feels true, probably because Meyer isn’t fibbing about how she started this book as a project of love and not something she wrote to try and sermonize to teen girls that they should remain virgins until after they marry their vampire boyfriends.  Yes, Meyer is a woman of the Mormon faith, which might be one of the reasons why the first books of the series aren’t that sexually explicit.   Even if she wasn’t a Mormon, does it really matter?  I’m not pro or con teen virginity as much as I think that it is nice to have teen characters demonstrate a wide variety of sexual choices and do so without shame.   


                Some of the more shocking revelations I made while reading the book for a second time is that a lot of the narrative is given over to Edward confessing how much he wanted to kill Bella.  He points out that he even listens  to conversations (minds of other students) she had with after the now famous blocked truck rescue because  he wanted to make sure that he wouldn’t have to silence her forever to protect his family.  In fact, before he talked about how he had gotten his family’s blessing to kill her if he thought he could not control his thirst for her.  When I came to the end, I thought it was a shame that Meyer won’t be releasing ‘Midnight Sun’ the book she was working on that would tell the tale from Edward’s point of view.  An early draft, that I thought was actually quite good, was released on the Internet and since then it sounds as if she scrapped the idea.


                During some of the scenes, I thought about a lyric from Lady Gaga’s song ‘Alejandro’, “She’s not broken, she’s just a baby, but her boyfriend is like a dad, just like a dad.”  The movie sort of glosses over Edward watching Bella sleep when she didn’t know he was there, but in the book it does come off as more invasive.  I know this is a tangent, but on ‘True Blood’ this past season Tara was first romanced and then kidnapped by vampire Franklin Mott and I think that the writers are cleverly mocking the relationship between Edward and Bella.  Whereas Tara wants nothing to do with her smitten vampire who desires to make her his vampire bride he demands all of her attention but swears he will protect her from the rest of the blood sucking gang.  I have saw parallels between the characters that have been amusing me.            


                I remembered Bella as being an independent character (as in being able to do things on her own and making a huge decision to move in with her father whom she hadn’t lived with since she was a toddler) but I didn’t recall if she was strong person (someone whom after meeting the person she perceives as the love of her life is able to defy him).  I have to say that it was a mixed bag.  Sometimes Bella seemed not to have any self-confidence at all and was willing to follow Edward to the end of the earth if that was what he commanded. 


                I think what really stuck out about the book was that most of the characters were more of the traits that they display in the movies.  Esme is more motherly, Alice is friendly toward Bella, Rosalie is more…well, you know, and Edward is harder to like.  Further, Jasper has a calming influence and uses it almost like a super power, which isn’t really dealt with in the movies.  I also found Jacob was thrown into the story almost as an afterthought because he seems like such a young puppy when she first meets in on the beach in La Push. 


                Overall, I enjoyed rereading a book that is defining youth culture for the last five years.  Is ‘Twilight’ destined to be taught in writing classes or be considered a modern classic in the same vein as the Harry Potter series?  I doubt it, but it has inspired numerous imitators and will probably be considered fondly by those teens who really got into reading because of it.  Not a bad job for a first time novelist. 


Westerfield © 2010


               Once again, I don’t what is up with the fonts. 


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