To 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.