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Book Review: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Cover of Twilight, by Stephenie MeyerSo, yes – I finally read it: Twilight, the immense hit by Stephenie Meyer. I have heard a fair bit of criticism of this book, and a lot of ridicule, yet I also know some people who quite enjoyed it. And of course, there are all those young girls out there who have avidly gobbled up every word in this series and thronged to the movies based on the books.

So I decided I should actually find out what was going on with the book, and read it for myself. Kind of a research project, if you like. I shouldn’t look askance at something I know nothing about.

First of all, I can see exactly why those young girls love this story. I would have loved it precisely the way they do, when I was their age. And I thought the basic plot was fairly good, if a bit predictable, and pretty dramatic by the end.

I did feel, though, that it would have been a better story if it were perhaps half as long. I can understand why some setup was needed, because Bella, the main human character, needed a chance to get to know, discover the truth about, and fall in love with Edward, the vampire. I just felt that it took rather too long. The story could have been a lot tighter and faster moving, which would only have enhanced the plot.

I started to wonder how Meyer’s young readers ever endured the slow pace of all those setup chapters. But then I realized that they’d have been seeing and enjoying something that doesn’t attract me any more: the long, slow, extremely tantalizing mystery of who Edward was, his drawing near and pulling away from Bella, the “will he touch, won’t he touch” game. Before the book ever got to what I would call “the actual story” (which was in the last third, or maybe even the last quarter of the book), those young readers would have lived through countless shivering moments of romantic suspense at the thought of the temptations Edward represents. This doesn’t appeal to me, but would be thrilling to young teen readers.

Some feel that Bella was a strong, independent female character, but although she had moments of pluck, and talked a lot about taking charge, on the whole I just didn’t see it. In her life with her father, yes. But with Edward? No.

If she’d been able to endure Edward’s “dazzling” eyes and gaze, and not get distracted and succumb to it – I could have seen it. If she didn’t constantly need rescuing in some fashion – I could have seen it. That last comment may not be fair, though. After all, any human hanging out with a vampire is the weaker member of the pair, by definition. If someone needs rescuing, it’s pretty much always going to be the human. But dang it – it’s always the girl who is weaker! (Except, you know – Buffy. But the two stories are very different.)

I thought the basic story was fine, though, and both Bella and Edward were interesting characters. I just don’t think Meyer writes all that well, unfortunately. For example, the scene in which Edward has to rescue Bella (sigh) from the van that hurtles toward her is described very slowly. It should have been written in quick, immediate language, but everything is described in laborious detail. There’s nothing sudden about how this sudden event is written.

Again, I could be looking at this as a rather jaded adult, and not taking into account how young teens read. Things like the rather wordy, drawn-out explanation of the van-event may be another instance of the readers enjoying the thrill of stretching out a dramatic moment as long as possible. It could be that Meyer understands how her audience reads far better than I do. Or — which I still think more likely — it could be that Meyer doesn’t write that well, but in this case, by coincidence, she lucked out and it worked.

With that said — I do understand how the girls (primarily) who read this story would love it so much. I’d have loved it madly when I was their age. I still rather regret that it wasn’t written as well as it should have been, and that Bella needed rescuing as often as she did. There are many better-written books out there for girls this age.

But not being the primary audience, it’s very possible that my opinion in this instance doesn’t matter one single bit. 🙂

Buffy vs Edward

I love this so much! It exposes all the sexist crap being foisted on girls by the “Twilight” series. It was posted at blip.tv, by Jonathan McIntosh. To quote McIntosh’s explanation:

In this remixed narrative, Edward Cullen from the Twilight Series meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s an example of transformative storytelling serving as a pro-feminist visual critique of Edward’s character and generally creepy behavior. Seen through Buffy’s eyes, some of the more sexist gender roles and patriarchal Hollywood themes embedded in the Twilight saga are exposed

See a more detailed explanation of McIntosh’s rationale, at Women in Media and News.

It’s about time we stopped people trying to turn our young women back into 1950s helpless little man-dominated wifies. (Yes, I have Opinions about this, hee!) Have a look at how it’s really supposed to go:

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