Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

By | 30 March 2009 | 24 Responses

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (Twilight Saga, Book 1)

For some reason, the Twilight craze swept right by me. Despite reading a lot of great reviews, it never struck me as a book that I desperately wanted to read. I was curious, though, and when the film came out, I finally put the book in reserve at the library so I could read it before I see the film.

Twilight has so many obvious flaws, and yet I couldn’t put it down. Here’s a sample of what went through my mind as I read this book:

Half of brain: Why are we still reading this?
Other half of brain: Shut up, I’m reading.
HoB: This is ridiculous
OHoB: OMG, so thrilled!
HoB: Teenage boys would never say that.
OHoB: Aw, so sweet…
HoB: Bella sucks. And why is her default reaction icy?
OHoB: She’s a nerd, but popular … it’s just the way I always though high school should’ve been.
HoB: Edward seems to scowl a lot. And smirk. Smirky teenage boys are beyond annoying.
OHoB: He’s so conflicted. Iloveit!
HoB: OMG, I hope James gets them all.
OHoB: No, Bella, it’s a traaaap!
HoB: Desperate girls are so not attractive.
OHoB: Vampires don’t have wrinkles.
HoB: Is it the end yet?
OHoB: Ooh, what’s this…
HoB: FFS, DON’T READ THE EXCERPT TO THE SEQUEL!
OHoB: Oops.

Twilight is about Isabella Swan, who’s just moved to a new town and a new school. On her first day, Bella meets Edward Cullen, who seems to have taken an instant dislike to her. But she’s intrigued by him, and gradually she gets to know Edward better even though he’s determined to keep his distance and even though he warns her that he’s dangerous. In the meantime, Bella makes new friends, but she’s drawn to Edward and he’s the one she wants to know better. Eventually, she works out his secret: Edward is a vampire. Unlike other vampires, Edward and his family don’t feed from humans, but their natural instinct is still drawn to human blood—which makes any relationship with Bella complicated, not to mention dangerous. When they encounter another vampire whose eating habits aren’t quite so restrictive, Bella begins to understand that their relationship isn’t just putting herself at risk, but also the people she loves most.

One of my main problems with Twilight is that Stephenie Meyer’s writing is often inconsistent, and I actually think the novel would have been stronger had it been written in the third person rather than the first (Bella’s POV). I never truly felt that Bella reached any real sense of self-awareness, and I found her internal monologues fairly boring. There were many times when I pulled back from the story and thought, Teenagers don’t sound like this.

I also don’t think that Meyer is particularly accurate or articulate when she describes the characters’ reactions and emotions. Edward likes to smirk and scowl. Bella has a habit of overreacting to small things, which I found very odd. I couldn’t decide if she was just emotionally immature or utterly devoid of humour.

On the other hand, the way Meyer writes the romance between Bella and Edward—the whispers between Bella and her friend Jessica, Bella and Edward’s confessions of their feelings—is just too thrilling. Those parts of the book kept me reading and reminded me of how much I loved reading Sweet Dreams novels back in high school. When Bella and Edward are teasing and gentle and honest and vulnerable, Meyer’s writing really sparkles shines.

It’s a slippery slope to creepiness and obsession

I honestly can’t tell you what I liked about Bella or Edward. My friend Gutsy gave me her take on Bella: “Bella sort of washes out, allowing the reader to project herself onto the character.” I think this is fairly accurate because, I can tell you, I was projecting all sorts of my own teenage angst onto her … and loving it! Still, the notion of abandoning friends and family to chase after some good looking guy isn’t the message I’d be giving to teenage girls.

The power dynamics between Bella and Edward is quite creepy if I look at it rationally. Edward’s a gazillion years old—and the book doesn’t really try to make him sound any younger—while Bella’s only 16. Her obsession with him and the way he tries to control her behaviour disturbed me. A friend of mine had this to say (the post is titled “guilty!!!”), and I have to agree:

I find it extremely difficult  to suspend my disbelief, even for a moment, that no matter how perfect, and muscular, and [fragrant], and sparkly Edward is, he still falls under the obsessive, stalker, potentially abusive category. I do not find it romantic when he drags Bella to his car by force. I don’t think it’s romantic at all how he stalks her. I would be seriously worried about my teenage daughter if she were that unhealthily obsessed over someone. She speaks more of his physical assets, and the feeling she gets from being with him, than his personality (not that either of them have much personality to speak of).

I hate their early stages of flirting, and the whole twenty questions game they play. It is stupid and boring. He’s been alive 104 years. Why doesn’t he have anything more interesting to talk about? I find his mysteriousness and evasiveness annoying, not appealing. I wouldn’t waste my time with a man who wastes mine, who can’t talk to me in a straightforward way.

Look, I don’t think YA novels necessarily have to be about teenage role models. But I do feel that YA stories, and particularly YA romance, must incorporate something empowering, whether it’s about making better choices, or finding your own way, or standing up for what’s right, or recognising that adults can be deeply flawed, whatever. There has to be some kind of self-awareness by the end of the novel, and I don’t think either Bella or Edward (who’s not even a teenager) gave me much satisfaction in that sense.

*** Mild spoiler warning ***

Bella still ends up obsessed—and actually even more so—and Edward can’t manage to do the right thing and leave her. Yes, I know it’s a romance, but isn’t that the point? This is their central conflict, and instead of doing the honourable thing and then finding a way to resolve it, he pretty much decides to hang around and wait for Bella to grow out of it. That’s so not romantic.

*** End spoiler ***

Do vampires work in YA romance?

I really think vampire romances work better in adult romance fiction unless the vampire is newly turned, or there’s something about the non-vampire that’s unusually mature and therefore creates a sense of equality (e.g. Buffy). I don’t feel Bella has that at all, and it doesn’t help that she’s alternatively petulant and “icy”. She doesn’t even come across as emotionally mature, even though I think the scenes where she prepares dinner for her dad and worries for her mum are supposed to indicate that she is.

I’m curious to know what you guys think: Am I the only one who has a problem with a 100-year old vamp ending up with a 16-year old?

Yay or nay?

Despite being a great page-turner, Twilight lacks subtlety, and the writing actually gets in the way of the story. Yet, once in a while, Meyer gets it just right, and when she does, the story captures the uncertainty and exhilaration of young love so well that you can’t help but be swept away by the story. I wasn’t planning to read the sequel at all, but now I’m very sorely tempted. Someone please talk me out of it…

This book is part of the What’s In A Name? Challenge (time of day).

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Kat

Killer of Fairies
Kat Mayo is a freelance writer, Twitter tragic and compulsive reader. She is the editor of Booktopia's Romance Buzz and hosts the Heart to Heart podcast for Destiny Romance. Her articles have been published in Books+Publisher, the AWW Challenge blog, and the ARRA newsletter. Kat firmly believes in happy endings. She kills fairies with glee.

24 comments »

  1. Marg

    Sorry, I can’t talk you out of it! Even though there are definitely issues with the storyline and the writing, she does write a book that is a page turner! I had more issues with Breaking Dawn than the earlier books!

    Loved The Host though.

  2. Tez Miller

    Have yet to read it, though it’s waiting on my shelf. I really did enjoy The Host, but this series has me scared.

    More worrisome than the age difference are Edward’s stalker tendencies. Someone sneaking into your room and watching you sleep…that’s creepy, not romantic. And people who find it romantic…they’re probably the ones who end up in abusive relationships because they don’t understand that controlling behaviour is NOT normal, is NOT hot.

    I fear for today’s tweens and teens…

  3. Keira

    New Moon is frankly the most depressing in the series and if you find yourself rooting for Jacob in any way I may just have to kill you b/c all the “obsessive, stalker, potentially abusive category” fits right snug on Jacob’s young shoulders. Now ignore the rest of my comment or be hugely spoiled.

    He runs around her house to “protect her” while she is completely unaware… and okay I won’t say more b/c most of my anti-Jacob crap starts at a certain scene in New Moon and really comes to the foreground when it’s Eclipse. Okay I lied I am talking more, hence the spoiler warning earlier… Talk about potentially abusive… “she loves me, she just doesn’t know it” and the boy is completely unable to tell if Bella is kissing him, standing impassively under him, or fighting him off. Literally and I kid you not their first kiss in Eclipse is like this and then at the end of the book he emotionally blackmails her into kissing him again or he’ll make sure he gets killed in the big fight. Ugh- throws a brick at Jacob’s head. At least Edward sparkles and occasionally shuts up and gets it right… like at the end of Eclipse… le sigh.

  4. Allison

    Twilight was, IMHO, the best out of the entire series. If you’re already having issues with the dynamic between Edward and Bella, then all I can say is STOP NOW, because it only gets worse. Do not get sucked in any further than you already have, or you may end up like me, having to read the rest of the series just to find out how it all ends.

    ***POTENTIAL MILD ALMOST-SPOILER***
    In New Moon, Bella discusses Romeo and Juliet, and I think it’s meant to be justification for the extremes the characters go to because it’s still a bit tamer than R&J.

    Bella was accused by the critics of behaving selfishly in Eclipse, especially towards Jacob, but she and Edward had discussed Wuthering Heights and the concept of destructive love is raised throughout the book. I think Meyer does that to say, “Hey, it could be a lot worse. People accept more extreme situations in classic romantic literature than I put in my books.” But my argument would be that modern (or post-modern for the sociologists out there) values have changed since the classics and what was acceptable in that context isn’t necessarily OK for today.
    ***END POTENTIAL MILD ALMOST-SPOILER***

    BTW, I’m not so much as touching The Host. I made it through the Twilight series and now that it’s over, I’m not going back to Meyer for more. Although I will watch New Moon (probably on DVD) because I thought the Twilight movie translated so well that I was compelled to pick up New Moon from my TBR and do virtually nothing for the next couple weeks but read until the series was over.

  5. Kat (author)

    People, I AM TORN!

  6. Allison

    I can’t believe I’m going to tell you this, but there is a happy ending in Breaking Dawn.

    But DON’T READ IT!!!!

    Hehehe.

    Seriously, Edward does make decisions for Bella, in fact, both Edward and Jacob manipulate her and she often lets them. I think my biggest problem with the series comes from the sudden shift in focus in Breaking Dawn, but it was the most epic book in the series. New Moon isn’t the easiest book to read and you’ll probably get the shits with Bella’s behaviour, not to mention Edward.

  7. Erotic Horizon

    Hey kat

    I really love this post … I hold my hand up to not joining the bandwagon either…have not read it, have not watch the movie and for no other reason that – I know I probably read too much negative reviews before I got my hands on the book.

    I know I will eventually read them – but me being objective looks very bleak…

    Great post…

    E.H

  8. Kat (author)

    EH, thanks. :-) I’m glad I read Twilight after the hype subsided (sort of). I didn’t expect too much, having read the good and the bad reviews. If I’d started expecting it to be the best ever, I’d have been sorely disappointed.

  9. Kat (author)

    Can I just say, I read New Moon and … don’t hate me … I liked it better than Twilight. Do I lose all book reviewing cred by admitting that?

  10. Michelle Magill

    I completely understand your conflict with Twilight Kat.  I was and still am confused about it.  I read the whole series and knew that I loved it but couldn’t work out why when there was so much in it that annoyed me!!  Not least of all the typos – worst proofreading ever.  Little Brown books has since assured me they have had it reproofed for this latest print.
    I found myself recommending it with a warning – you’ll find the characters really annoying but you’ll still like it.
    When I wrote my review, I floundered around trying to work out what it was about the book that made me truly emotionally attached to it and I realised that I’d read it at a time that I needed some sweetness in my life and it delivered.  It still doesn’t explain why it’s cast a spell over so many – almost as obsessive as Bella and Edwards relationship.

  11. Kat (author)

    Michelle, I think timing does factor into it. I think I’m done after book 2. Everyone tells me that book 3 is the wallbanger, and I’m going to stop while I’m ahead. :-D

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