Book Review

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

D+

Title: Twilight
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publication Info: Little, Brown Young Readers 2006
ISBN: 0316015849
Genre: Young Adult

Book CoverTo say I was angsty as a teenager is something of a majestic understatement. I was miserable, for a host of reasons. And I had suitably angsty intense relationships with really awful, unsuitable, self absorbed guys who were interested more in screwing with my already ruffled emotions than they were any genuine efforts at being a couple. One particular guy was an absolute waste, and I am horrified that I spent so much time trying to make this fool happy.

Reading Twilight reminds me heavily of my angsty teen self, and how ridiculous it was that I expected rainbows and happiness when, let’s be honest, teenagerdom is pretty fucking miserable all around. It makes me think of a really old, navel gazing Alanis Morissette song wherein she says, “You were plenty self-destructive for my tastes at the time/ I used to say, the more tragic the better.” Yeah. That about sums up my teen years, and this book.

I’m still reading this thing, persevering to the end, trying to figure out what all the fuss is about, why so many people absolutely adore this book to the point that they set up bulletin boards and fan sites and, for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t search “Bella” or “Twilight” on Etsy or you’ll get so much jewelry with swans and crap you’ll want to set your eyeballs on fire. The Twilight fandom is a serious fandom.

In case, like me, you’ve been under a rock for awhile (how’s your rock? Mine’s awesome!) and haven’t read or heard of this series, here’s the nutshell: klutzy teen Bella Swan moves to exceptionally small gloomy town in the Pacific Northwest to live with her father, who is so absent he might as well not be a parent so much as a chaperone who falls asleep or, in this case, goes fishing a lot. Gloomy, Abercrombie-gorgeous Hottie McVampire Edward is playing at being a high school student with his adopted family, and seems profoundly disturbed by her presence, only to experience equally profound mood swings which allow him to pay extreme attention to her. Commence panting courtship.

I do get the elements that are so sultry and seductive about the plotline: he’s over the moon about her; he can’t stop thinking about her. He’s mysterious, he’s dark and gloomy, he’s like angst and sexy rolled up in a sparkly taco shell. He’s isolated and longing for her, yadda yadda yadda. And I can see why some readers adore the plotline where she reveals him and gains solo entrance into his world, is the only one to make him smile, etc.

But what I don’t get is the degree of isolation that accompanies that entrance. I can’t even explain how uncomfortable their self-imposed alienation makes me feel. The former angsty teenager in my shriveled, echoing heart is all over it, because dude. Hot angst biscuit wants her and only her and after six weeks let’s make declarations of loooooove. He’ll watch over her while she sleeps, he’ll sneak into her home, he’ll insert himself silently into every part of her world. Former Angsty Sarah can see why that’s incredibly seductive, especially when one is feeling lonely and without anyone who truly understands.

Currently Adult Sarah, who is a lot older and one would hope marginally wiser than F.A.S. is majorly squicked out. The imbalance of power between these two characters is significant, and his moodswings don’t help much. He’s annoyed, he’s irritated, he’s blissful! He’s sparkly, he’s angry, he’s irritated again. But what really bothers me is the degree to which Bella subsumes her identity at every turn. She inserts herself into her father’s home by doing the things that will make him happy (cooking, laundry, making herself scarce when he wants to go fishing and is troubled by feelings of potential parental responsibility) with minimal fuss. She inserts herself into Edward’s world by doing the same – the biggest show of spine she has (so far, I’m on page 3,546,775 of 7,532,668) is asking a shit ton of questions, but mostly only with his permission to do so. She’s a mismatched dichotomy of the teen no one notices and the teen everyone notices and it doesn’t fit well on her, nor does it make for an interesting character. Even her name as a reference to her character is klunky: Bella Swan? COME ON NOW AND I MEANT IT.

Meyer’s writing is nothing to hyperventilate over, in my opinion, except for its tendency to hyperventilate in moments of drama. That said, I don’t necessarily see the point in condemning a book and saying no one should read it, it’s awful, omg, alert the vampires that a terrible insult has been laid upon them. Meyer definitely taps into the dark, mysterious tortured hero, one of my personal favorite archetypes, but the degree to which Edward’s intensity is focused on Bella, and the degree to which he shifts in mood and action (he’s here! He’s gone! He’s back! Whee! Do vampires get frequent flyer miles because damn, he gets elite status in, like, a week.) doesn’t seem to level out. And while Edward is a 9.0 on the Richter scale in terms of mood variations, Bella mopes from meh to meh. I’m curious about the movie, simply because the actress playing her is exceptionally talented, and could revive the character to a more vibrant portrayal. The book’s version of Bella and Edward reads to me like pairing lukewarm milk with a Red Savina pepper.

My wishlist for this book is a mile long in terms of things I wished had been a little different, a little better, a little more sparkly, if you’ll pardon the pun, but mostly I wish I could understand what it is about the book that sends so many people over the moon in terms of their adoration and pursuit of more. Either way, if this book makes people sunny and moony at the same time, more happiness to them. Whatever floats your boat. Or sparkles your vampire.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Teddypig says:

    Such a great album to get it all out on the table with…

    Not The Doctor

    I don’t want to be the filler if the void is solely yours
    I don’t want to be your glass of single malt whiskey
    Hidden in the bottom drawer
    I don’t want to be a bandage if the wound is not mine
    Lend me some fresh air
    I don’t want to be adored for what I merely represent to you
    I don’t want to be your babysitter
    You’re a very big boy now
    I don’t want to be your mother
    I didn’t carry you in my womb for nine months
    Show me the back door

  2. 2

    You’ve actually hit on all the problems I have with the entire series within the space of the first book. I’m on the last one at the moment, and have had to stop reading altogether at points to keep from throwing the library’s copy at the wall.

    I think the worst part for me is that I love Gothic novels and the series had so much potential, but Meyer’s style does very little for me. I’m still reading them, mostly out of morbid curiosity at this point and because they’re very quick reads, but Bella bothers me so much. That being said, I’m beginning to wonder if this is one of the few cases where the film will turn out to be better than the novel. As far as I’m aware, Meyer isn’t writing the screenplay, and it does have a very good cast, so it’s possible that all the things that bugged me about the novel won’t be an issue in the film. Although I dread the sparkly vampires.

  3. 3
    Janicu says:

    You know, I read this book a lonnngg time ago (2-3? years? it feels like a while) and remember really liking it, but since then I’ve noticed people either really liked it or they pointed out this problem – Edward is pretty controlling and there is a disparity between him and Bella, and they really disliked it. It’s interesting. If I had this mentioned to me before I read the book maybe I would have paid more attention, but I was more into the action going on (what’s going to happen next here?) that really looking closely at their relationship. When I read it there wasn’t as much of this HUGE crazy fandom going on (that I knew about), so I didn’t have expectations either. Sometimes I think things just get so built up, when you read them just to see what the fuss is about it tends to be a letdown.  The fandom makes a small part of me eye the rest of the series in a more jaded way.. which I shouldn’t do, but still. I haven’t read past Twilight, but I have the rest of the books.

  4. 4
    Hey!T says:

    All I know about Twilight I learned from Fandom_Wank and that’s more than I ever wanted to know! D:

  5. 5
    Victoria Dahl says:

    I haven’t read the book or even picked it up, so I have a general plot question. My understanding is that these vampires in his house all look like teenagers, so in order to blend in, they go to school. But, uhhhh… am I understanding this correctly? This really bothers me. In order to be inconspicuous, they go to SCHOOL? Couldn’t they just jazz up a few birth certificates to show they’re all eighteen and just living in a party house or something? 

    Thanks for the help. This is really stuck under my skull and won’t get out! But I’m too lazy to read the book. Heh.

  6. 6
    Karen says:

    F.A.S., let me introduce you to F.A.K.  Formerly Angst Karen really liked this book.  It really took me back to high school and those years of obsessive puppy love (yes, I’ll admit to them).  FAK was thrilled that this moody, broody, hunk-a-burning goth obsessed about teenaged me, I mean Bella, right back.

    But I’m glad this book was fast reading.  While escapism is fine for a while, FAK is actually long gone and I really couldn’t love this book due to the reasons you’ve pointed out in your review. 

    I looked for and found the spoilers for the next 3 books in the series and know I will leave it at Twilight and move on. 

    That being said, I might actually buy Midnight Sun when that comes out, which is Twilight from Edward’s point of view.

  7. 7
    Anya says:

    I keep eyeing this series in the bookstore, thinking I should read it because obviously it’s got some serious mojo since it’s so popular.  But then I look at it again and realize it is the thickness of a city phone book and it is so not going to fit in my purse…and therefore I’ll be 110 before I finish it.

    And now that you tell me the hero is moody, needy and stalkerish and the heroine is channeling her inner kicked puppy.  Blah.  Two of my least favorite character types and sure to make me throw the poor defenseless book…and put a hole through my wall.

  8. 8
    Jessica says:

    I am so glad you have taken the fall for holdouts like me who have been on the fence about this book. I am sorry for your suffering, but you have saved me and probably countless others some dough and untold amounts of icky aftertaste.  Thank you.

  9. 9

    In case, like me, you’ve been under a rock for awhile (how’s your rock? Mine’s awesome!) and haven’t read or heard of this series…

    My rock is WAY COOL, thankyouverymuch!

    whatever you do, don’t search “Bella” or “Twilight” on Etsy or you’ll get so much jewelry with swans and crap you’ll want to set your eyeballs on fire.

    Don’t try to search for “flair buttons” on Facebook, you’ll get 62,233 of them about Twilight or Edward or some other reference to teenaged vampires.

    I hadn’t heard of this series until a few weeks ago and had no clue what all of the fuss is about.  When my pal Lisa pointed me in the direction of a review of the final book (which then pissed me off even more when I read the commenters calling this story a “glorified romance novel” with “no plot” or “intelligent heroine”), I knew this series wasn’t for me.

    And since I’m afraid to even remember the ANGST I suffered as a teenager, I’m happy to leave this book on the shelf and let the rabid fans have it.

  10. 10
    karmelrio says:

    I bailed halfway through the first book.  I found Edward’s behavior to be creepy and stalkeresque, not all swoony and romantic. 

    Being that so many young girls are reading this series, I start to wonder how many of them might be more apt to accept this type of domineering behavior in their first boyfriends.  And I shudder a bit.  YMMV.

  11. 11
    theo says:

    You know, I really love great vampire novels. I heard the hype about this one, knew it’s supposedly geared more to the YA market. But I gotta tell ya, I have an angst filled teenager at home, who has been getting worse over the past three years, the typical “the world revolves around me and my mood swings and you all must bow down” and frankly, I don’t need to read about more, which is why I passed on this series when it came out.

    Now, I’m glad, after reading other reviews such as yours, that I did!

  12. 12
    Randi says:

    Janicu, I read the book when it first came out ,as well, before any of the squeeing or fandom, and I really enjoyed it. I felt it was a lovely coming of age book. I haven’t read the rest of the series, as I started New Moon and just couldn’t get into it. But I never really thought that Bella would stay with Edward. I kind of thought that he was the foil to which Bella would grow. He was safe as a first love because there wasn’t ever going to be a HEA with them. Which was fine with me; I didn’t need them to have an HEA. I also did not catch the power play while reading the book, but I guess because it seemed totally normal for a teenage girl to do those things.

  13. 13

    I kind of love to hate Twilight. On the surface of it, it seems like something my melodramatic inner teen would love, but it misses somehow. And it’s not really the quality of her writing (or lack thereof), or my (pretty much non-existant) aspirations towards being a reader of Literature. Or even – although I’ve claimed this – Edward’s creepiness (intense), or the imbalance of power in their relationship (disturbing), it’s Bella.

    If Bella was a kick-ass heroine and could hold her own against… anyone really, let alone all of the supernatural beings she comes across, Twilight would absolutely be my guilty pleasure.

    I own my shame. I bought the Night World Omnibus just this year and read it in public! Whoelse has been waiting ten years for Strange Fate?

  14. 14

    Check out Liz Hand’s review of the most recent book in the series here—YES THERE ARE SPOILERS if you care.  But she has the Best Line Ever in this review.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/07/AR2008080702528.html

    I didn’t want to read these books before—a friend got an advance copy of the first one, and ranted about it to me at length—and now I really, really don’t need to do so.

  15. 15

    It’s funny… the farther away from my initial read of this book I get, the more I want to go in and analytically rip it to shreds.  I completely agree about the complete and utter creepiness that is Bella and Edward’s “relationship,” Edward’s bizarre moodiness, Bella’s complete lack of a spine, a personality, or a brain…  I work with feminist theory, particularly the idea of tough women in popular culture, and my inner feminist critic would have a field day if I let her loose on Meyer’s books.

    I used to think the books were like Pop Rocks.  Most of the time, I want nice, smooth dark chocolate, but every once in a while, I crave some Pop Rocks.  But lately, I’m beginning to think Twilight is less Pop Rocks and more those nasty peanut butter candies that cheapskates hand out at Hallowe’en.  Sure, some people like them, but everyone else wonders ‘Yeeacchh, why, god, why?’

  16. 16
    kalafudra says:

    Okay, I just read all four books in the course of about six weeks, so all of them are pretty fresh in my memory.
    Why I completely see your problems with the book (and I completely agree), I really liked Twilight, it was cute. Unfortunately, the series goes pretty much downhill from there, New Moon and Eclipse being sweet, but sometimes dragging and the Bella-Edward and the Bella-Jacob relationship went a bit on my nerves, Breaking Dawn being disappointing. Disappointing, because instead of resolving a few of the issues I (and apparently you, too) had with the books, Meyer even strengthened everything bad about it…

    Oh well. I guess I should have known better than to read an angsty teenager series, because that’s usually not my thing.

  17. 17
    Dorilys says:

    If you were an immortal vampire why would you choose to spend your immortal “life” IN HIGH SCHOOL?!?! 

    That idea is just something I can’t wrap my mind around.

  18. 18
    LA says:

    I”m a member of the fandom.  I’ve read the series a couple of times and each time the action just grabs me.  Stephenie Meyer isn’t the most spectacular writer, but she is pretty good at sucking people in. 

    As for the relationship between Bella and Edward, I don’t see the problems other people see.  Bella is written to be a semi-adult in a teen’s body.  She’s taken care of her flightly mother most of her life, down to moving to a place she doesn’t want to be to make her mother happy.  She cares more for others than herself and doesn’t see herself as special. 

    The book is completely from her point of view.  The point of view of a girl with slightly below-average self-esteem who can’t believe the hottest guy in school wants her.  I remember being in the grips of love and not ever wanting to leave the guys presence.  Bella just gets a wish fulfilled most girls don’t.

    And yes, the relationship is unbalanced.  When you don’t think you’re good enough for someone, you give them all the power. But how often in real life are relationships truly balanced?  The work it takes to keep a relationship balanced is part of making a relationship work.  Not to mention she’s a weak and fragile human who’s trying to live in a world of strong, nearly indestructible vampires and warewolves.

  19. 19
    closetcrafter says:

    I have been waiting for this thread for a while now….my 14/15 yr old self was ready to pimp myself out to the local high school looking for Vampire McHotties after I read this book.  Now for the funny part……

    My 41 yr old self read the book because my 4th grader came home telling me she NEEDED TO READ this book because her 5th grade friend on the bus read and “highly recommended” it. And wasn’t she SORELY DISAPPOINTED aka had a screaming s*%& fit,  when I said she needed to wait until she was twelve.

    It so hard to be a tween.

    I thought the angstyness was perfection and I had a few innocent stalkeresque male friends in high school, so I wasn’t thrown off by that. But with respect to the parental point of view, I didn’t want my almost 11 yr old to think “Now that is the man for me” and “where so I get me one of those?”

    It’s entertainment baby…..

  20. 20
    MaryKate says:

    Huh. Well. I liked it. Of course, I wasn’t really reading in analytically at all. I was reading it, I guess, mindlessly. I screened it for a young teen niece and she loved it so much. I really enjoyed the book. But, like I said, I wasn’t really reading it as anything but fluff and to make sure it was appropriate for my niece. I’ve read the other two and have the fourth to read, but have been nervous to start because of the backlash against it.

    Anyway, I get why you disliked it, and in fact, really appreciate your analysis. But for me, on a purely mindless bubblegum level, I liked it.

  21. 21

    I thought it was just me.  The books didn’t do anything for me, I was glad I was reading the library editions, and having said all that, I truly enjoyed The Host, the author’s new sf novel aimed at an adult audience.  I had a few problems with the world-building in The Host, but I enjoyed the characters and story much much more than the Twilight series.

  22. 22
    Sasha says:

    I understand your objections to the book, and understand your dislike of them.

    However, and this is a big however, I did love the series because I did think it was a great study of two really disturbed characters who have a horrible relationship (in terms of the health of it) and yet it makes them both happy.  It is their HEA.  It was exciting to read a story where the two “protagonists” were people that I would never want to be, nor probably want to know – who are not healthy or good or deserving.  It’s a story that I don’t think gets told very often, which is the reason I love it like Christmas (or Rpattz, if you are in the know).

    As such, I think the series is brilliant.  Subversive.  Not what it appears on the surface.  I thought the point of the series was that there was no line that these two disturbed characters wouldn’t cross for love.  I do think Stephenie Meyer understood how damaged and wrong her characters were and I think that it was precisely this aspect of them that appealed to her as an author to explore.  I think these points are even clearer within Midnight Sun (Twilight as retold from Edward’s POV which S Meyers has released the first chapter of on her website).  Edward understands he is a big obsessed stalker who shouldn’t be doing any of what he is, and Bella is a sado-masochist who loves everything he does to/for/with her.  They are perfect for one another, *because* of their freaky freakiness. 

    I get why other people don’t like the books, and I wouldn’t try to convince someone who hated it that they should re-explore the book.  However, I do think that many of us who loved the books didn’t love them because we panted over Edward or Bella or their relationship but because it was so subversive and wrong and damaged.  And they both know this, and they both love this.  It might not be the relationship that any of us would want to be a part of, but both of them give informed consent to the crazy that they choose over and over and over again.  Weird, damaged but compelling as all get out to me. 

    If anything – the series on a whole seems to be a re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet meets Wuthering Heights where the ‘protagonists’ get their happy ending against all odds or even reason.  Bella and Edward are overwrought, they do make terrible choices, they aren’t sympathetic at all…but they love one another and they get their own HEA within the messed up world they choose to inhabit.  It was a big wow for me. 

    I think the books were also snarky as all get out, as well as much more knowing that many give Stephenie Meyer credit for.

  23. 23
    danegrrl says:

    I am definitely past my teen angst years, yet I’ve read every book in this series at least twice. Ok, I read Twilight at least three times. I don’t think that Edward is creepy and stalkerish at all. He’s a vampire in love for the first time in his loooooooong vampire life. And I don’t think that Bella is weak, either. I think she’s actually quite strong. She identifies what she wants and she goes after it. Sure, there are situations that she allows him to control, but who among us remains in control of every situation with our partners all the time?

    This is a fantasy, not reality, folks. And some plot devices are necessary in a book. How’s a girl in a secluded town in High School going to meet a young man? You’ve got to get the vampires in her orbit every day somehow.

    I think each one of these books is a beautiful love story with some great action tossed in for fun. Open your mind and try to enjoy it. I think Meyer’s writing is earnest, at times beautiful, at times cheesy. But, most of all, these books have provided me with hours of entertainment. I’ve got a big stack of other reading to get to, but I read the last book in this series twice anyway. :-)

  24. 24

    Everything I know about Twilight and its ilk I learned from Cleolinda. And FW.

    But your review is one more solid brick in the wall of I Don’t Think This Is The Series For Me.

  25. 25
    Jessa Slade says:

    This one’s in my TBR pile mostly for analytical reasons.  I’m always interested when a group of people are moved to rabid fandom behavior (Jacqueline Carey’s tattooed readers, Firefly’s Browncoats, Trekkies) when other people are left utterly cold.  I’m down with all the above examples, so maybe I’m prone to geeky group-think.

  26. 26

    Reading this review had me thinking 1) that this relationship is a huge set-up for abuse, and 2) this could also be an interesting example of Total Power Exchange (TPE) that goes on in S&M;Master/slave relationships.

    Since this is a YA book and it does not sound like there is any acknowledgement of the ways in which TPE is made safe for each partner, it seems unlikely that this is even a possibility…and even if it were would probably lead to #1, anyway.

    To all the teenaged girls angsting out there, run run run far away from potential Edwards.  You know those nice guys that you aren’t so interested in…cultivate an interest.  Or better yet, wait for awhile til the interest comes up on it’s own.

  27. 27
    KimberlyD says:

    I picked Twilight up randomly in the bookstore and read it in a few hours. Like you, it appealed to the angsty teen in me. I wouldn’t ever want my own Edward now, but I definitely would’ve then! I then read the next 2 books and thought they were so-so. THEN I found out the huge phenomenon that was the Twilight fandom. The fandom scares me.

    I never picked up on the creepiness of their emotional attachment or Edward’s control over Bella. I’m glad I didn’t, because I really enjoyed Twilight.

    Breaking Dawn sucked ass. Seriously. I want those few hours of my life back. I could’ve lived without knowing the ending, just to have not read it. I love me some Twilight, I hate me some Breaking Dawn.

  28. 28
    amy lane says:

    I thought it was sweet. 
    I thought it was every Harlequin Romance I’d ever read as F.A. Amy Lane, except without the sex.
    I thought if I had to spend eternity as a high school student, I’d be… oh, wait—I’d be a high school TEACHER, and you know, it ain’t half bad, but I’m warped that way. 
    I thought my daughter loved it, and I was glad—no matter how much I tell her she’s my beautiful girl and cater to her every whim, she’s convinced she’ll never be as lovely as Bella Swan, but she still has hope she’ll land an Edward (however fucked up he may be.) 
    I thought that every girl goes through a period in her life when she loves a guy who appears to mug nuns for a living and who justifies this relationship with the phrase, ‘But he’s nice to me!’.  I married this particular crush—he’s an excellent family man who’s nice to us all.
    I thought that if I’d been a thirteen year old, I would have eaten it up with a spoon and chocolate sauce. 

    As a 40 year old, I wish we’d find the next big thing.  Harry Potter mania was SO much more exciting.

  29. 29
    Rosemary says:

    I like Twilight.  I didn’t like Edward because the thought of some random dude watching me sleep freaks me THE FUCK out, but I liked Twilight.  I thought it was an interesting story.  My friends were total fangirls and obsessed with the story to near Harry Potter lengths, so I kept reading the series. 

    I liked New Moon as well, but mainly because I liked Jacob.  Bella was too much of a mopey teenager for me, but I’m all over that werewolf action.

    Eclipse wasn’t great, but I finished it because I had to, and because of the werewolf action.  (Vampires are cold like stone.  Werewolves are huge (well over 6 foot) and burn at about 110 degrees.  Guess which one is more of a fantasy for the spank bank.) 

    Breaking Dawn made me angry to a pretty absurd level.  The lack of consequences for Bella’s decisions in life and the rampant Mary Damn Sue-ness of it all just made my blood boil.
     
    The Host was pretty good.  I did experience some frustration but I could see how characters were developed and behaved in a consistent and understandable manner.  I just didn’t like what they did.

    Stephenie Meyer has definite talent making you feel for her characters.  What I’ve figured out is that she needs to write single books as opposed to series because she sah-HUCKS at writing an epic story arc.  She does write romance, and anyone who tries to deny that is fooling themselves.  I probably won’t read any more of her books for the simple fact that I prefer to have more deep dickin’ in my romance novels, but that’s me and I’m kinda pervy.

  30. 30
    dillene says:

    God, I’m having a nervous breakdown.  If I read about one more angsty, tortured vampire hero with a mysterious past, then I am going to recommend a hearty dose of slap therapy for him in hopes that he comes around.  You are Handsome, Rich, and Immortal- please stop bellyaching. 

    Is there no wry stoicism in Vampire Romancelandia?  Seneca would have made an awesome vampire.  So would Epicurus, for that matter- he would have been the happiest vampire ever.

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