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06 June 2008 @ 06:08 pm
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer  
Series: Twilight
Publisher: Little Brown and Company, 2006
Genre: Horror
Sub-genre: YA
Rating: 2 pints of blood

Everyone and their dog has read this book. Everyone and their dog has an opinion about this book, usually something pretty passionate. I've heard the ranting, I've heard the raving, and finally jumped on the bandwagon. Gotta see what all the fuss is about, if for no other reason than finally knowing what we're all talking about now.

The cover confuses me. It's a striking, simple image, really gorgeous, but I can't figure out what the apple has to do with anything in the book. This is a story about teen angst and vampires, and the cover reflects none of that. The offered apple makes me think it's maybe a modern version of Snow White, or a collection of retold fairy tales. If this were the story of a student having an affair with her teacher, the cover would be perfect. But it's not, and it's not. The black, white, and red stand out amongst the general pastel colours of the YA section in the bookstore, but it strikes me as gratuitous, like someone had this pretty picture lying on their desk and slapped it on the next book to get the publishing contract.

Seventeen-year-old Bella moves to the small town of Forks to live with her dad, where nothing is at all like what she's used to. She mopes around feeling sorry for herself until the mysterious and ethereally beautiful Edward Cullen starts paying attention to her. Bella quickly becomes obsessed with him, in spite of his bewildering hot and cold behaviour toward her.

The rest of the town seems wary of Edward's family, because there's something different about them. Feeding her obsession, Bella discovers everything she can about the Cullens, and finally earns enough of Edward's trust to learn his secret: he and his family are vampires, and although they've sworn not to drink human blood, the temptation is always there.

Bella, convinced she's madly in love with Edward, ignores his warnings of the danger she's placing herself in and insists on staying close to him. She comes to meet his family for the first time, and most of them seem accepting of her, in spite of her "human" status. There are other vampires in the area, though, and hanging around the Cullens has brought Bella to the attention of the ones who are willing to drink human blood.

I found myself rolling my eyes at this book every few pages or so. Bella spends a lot of time whining about the move, but it's hard to feel sorry for her when it's a choice she made for herself. As a heroine, she really doesn't do much. She has a tendancy to sit and wait for things to happen to her, and even in the case of her obsession over Edward, she waits for him to come talk to her. I know teens are angsty and obsessive, and I'm usually expecting that when I pick up a YA novel, but Bella grated on my nerves. And this is coming from someone who made it through all 7 Harry Potter novels.

Everyone at school is utterly fascinated by the new girl, especially the male population, which has me shouting at the book. She might be new, but the first day of school is not the first for her alone, and there are 357 other self-absorbed teenagers catching up after a summer vacation. People would not be staring at her and following her around between classes. It's established that Bella is unique, and everyone in the school is drawn to her, but we're never given a reason for that. I don't mind a unique protagonist if we're told what it is that makes them so unique, but Bella has no particular skills or abilities, and there's no reason for everyone in the world to think she's soooo very special.

Edward has no personality. Bella's obsession over him seems to center entirely around his looks, and they really don't have enough in common for me to sympathize with their ignoring the danger in order to stay together. In fact, vampire issues aside, Edward is exactly the type of guy girls should be running away from, not obsessing over. He sneaks into Bella's bedroom to watch her sleep, he shifts from passively happy to furious with no warning, and lest we forget, he's a 100-year-old vampire chasing a girl in high school. I don't think we could crank the creepy factor up much higher.

Oh, and have I mentioned how the vampires sparkle yet? Because that might be the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard. That's right, folks, vampires avoid the sunlight not because it can harm them, but because it's embarrassing. Or maybe it's a safety issue for other people. Their sparkles could blind a driver and cause an accident.

As for the quality of the prose... well, allow me to share the sparkling paragraph with you:

"Edward in the sunlight was shocking. I couldn't get used to it, though I'd been staring at him all afternoon. His skin, white despite the faint flush from yesterday's hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface. He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare. His glistening, pale lavender lips were shut, though of course he didn't sleep. A perfect statue, carved in some unknown stone, smooth like marble, glittering like crystal."

Yes, the whole book is full of writing like this, which sounds like Meyer opened a thesaurus, looked up "sparkle" and used every synonym listed in the book. The prose could have been considerably tightened, and at times I was wondering if the editor even read the book.

I know the age difference is more or less ignored in most vampire love stories, but it really bothers me in this one. I think partially because Bella is jailbait as opposed to an emotionally mature adult, and partially because it's established this is the first time Edward has ever really cared about someone else. The guy is over 100 years old. Don't try to tell me Bella is the only "special" person to have been born in the past century. Also? 100 years ago, 17 was not considered particularly young. Girls got married at that age. Granted, it was less common for men to marry quite that young, but a seventeen-year-old at the turn of the century would have had his eye on someone, or people would have been wondering what was wrong with him.

Also? Why are the vampires in high school? They mention moving into a new area is easier and they can stay longer if they claim to be younger upon first arrival, but there isn't much difference between 17 and 18, except that an 18-year-old wouldn't have to go to high school and forge transfer papers. I don't care what age I look like, I wouldn't want to go back and do high school over again, and I find it hard to believe this group of vampires does it voluntarily every so often.

I wound up buying my own copy of Twilight because the waiting list for the dozen copies at the public library was freakishly long. Needless to say, this book is not going on my shelf. I don't want to chance letting it infect my other books with its many, many flaws. And if I ever feel the need to revisit the story for whatever masochistic reason, I could always just read this comic, which sums the whole thing up perfectly.
Tehani: forest fairyeditormum on June 7th, 2008 12:40 am (UTC)
I read New Moon first - it's better :) Regarding the cover, I think the applie is the temptation motif - just my impression. Definitely stands out though!
Anna_ocelott_ on June 7th, 2008 04:13 am (UTC)
The Biblical interpretation of the cover seems like a pretty big stretch to me, considering this is the story of a sparkly vampire and his jailbait Mary Sue girlfriend. You're probably right, it's likely what they're going for, it just strikes me as a bit pretentious given the content of the actual novel.
mecoopermecooper on June 7th, 2008 02:32 am (UTC)
Damn you for cross posting! Now I have to cross post my comment.

Hmm, the first thing to pop into my mind when i see a cover with hands offering a shiny red apple is the Apple and the Garden of Eden, where the apple is knowledge - the knowledge of good and evil and of choice. The apple has all kinds of associations red (blood) or golden (greed), round (fertility) and sweet-tasting (desire) that could be themes in the book. Based on your description of the story - I think any of those interpretations may be giving a bit more credit to the publisher or cover artist. I think they just liked the shiny red apple against the black backdrop. :)

BTW ... that comic was was perfect!
Anna_ocelott_ on June 7th, 2008 04:13 am (UTC)
Oooh, making me reply twice! Sneaky. Glad you enjoyed the comic. The third panel just about kills me.
darthmommy on June 7th, 2008 08:02 pm (UTC)
I felt pretty similar about the book at first. I can't fault your opinion at all. ;) But I have this thing about character development and I really really wanted Bella to grow and change so I read the second book. And liked it a LOT more. Because there's another character that gets more attention and it helps the story a lot. I personally felt that despite the obvious first-time-author's flaws, the story and characters have merit and I want to hear the rest of the story.

A couple of things that bothered you I didn't have a problem with, and I'll tell you why.

A) The story is from Bella's point of view. I don't know how you were as a teenager, but I didn't think there was anything special about me, and even the girls that I thought were gorgeous and brilliant and talented didn't think they themselves were. I felt like the author was telling us in her not-so-subtle way that Bella really was beautiful, even though she didn't think so, by having every male eye on her from the get-go. (And by naming her Beautiful, but we've already established that she's not long on subtlety. ;) ) So I think rather than there wasn't any reason Bella was special, that maybe she was and just didn't know it. Since we only really know what Bella knows, well, there you have it.

B) Again, I'm dipping into my own teenagerhood here, but yeah. Zero personality is not a deterrent if the object of your obsession is gorgeous. Hate to sound like a shallow teenager, but it was a decade after my first boyfriend that I realized that brains and mutual interests were more important than chiseled features and kissing skills. And first love is extremely powerful, beyond reason even, so Bella's obsession with the essentially 2D Edward is totally understandable to me. I actually hurt for Bella that she won't mature past Edward because 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th love all teach you extremely important things about relationships and love that she may never learn and benefit from. But I still understand and relate to her. I don't think this is a flaw in Meyer's writing; in fact, I think it points to her understanding teenage love in a very real way.

C) Edward may be 107 years old but he is not 107 years mature. So, yes, I think it's weird that they chose to go to high school again (WHY would anyone do so?!) but I don't think it's creepy that he is in love with Bella.

Anyway, that's my 35 cents on the subject. I hope you weren't so put off that you won't read the rest of the series.


PS as for the art and the sparkles....I too am amused by both to the point of laughing aloud. ;) I don't know why but the sparkles tickled my funny bone rather than making me roll my eyes and I can't wait to see how they pull it off in the movie. I'll be really disappointed if it isn't as funny visually as it is literally.

Anna_ocelott_ on June 8th, 2008 02:43 am (UTC)
Alright, in the spirit of friendly banter:

-I don't have a problem with Bella thinking she's ordinary when in real life she's quite pretty. It's the over-the-top specialness I have issues with. She's the only one whose thoughts Edward can't read. Why? We're never given a reason for this, not even a half-hearted attempt at a theory. Is it a family trait? Is Bella somehow inhuman? Was she brain damaged at some point?

-Related to the above point; the boy thing is a little above and beyond, too. I could go along with a few of the boys being interested in her, but it's written to sound like every single Y chromosome she comes across zeros in on her immediately, despite the fact she does everything in her power to discourage most of them. If, say, it was only Edward, Jacob, and Mike, it would establish her "specialness" without making me want to thwack my head against the nearest wall when Eric and Tyler and whatever other male names consistently try to take on lapdog duty.

-Being into a boy because he's pretty is fairly standard adolescent fare, but most of the time the reader isn't really supposed to root for the boy who has nothing beyond a pretty face to win. So much of the book centres around Bella and Edward, and it becomes tedious when neither of them has a strong personality. Also, pretty works better in a visual medium, like movies or tv, when the smile can affect the audience as well as the protagonist. It may just be me, but the way the story and the writing went, I felt like I was supposed to be rooting for Edward and Bella to work things through, like theirs is being held up as some sort of True Eternal Love, which... yeah, again, doesn't work when they're nothing but pretty.

-I'll grant that Edward does nothing to indicate he's gained any extra maturity over his time as a vampire, but that makes me even more convinced there's something wrong with him... that much time and life experience should have gained him wisdom and emotional maturity, and if he hasn't, it's probably safe to say this is not a good candidate for a long-term boyfriend.

-If someone paid me to read the others, I probably would, but currently I don't have any plans to do so. Actually, a friend of mine offered to send her reviewer's copy of Eclipse and I wasn't interested enough to justify the postage it would cost her. The books aren't horrible, but there are so many good books out there I could be reading instead, it doesn't seem worth my time to try liking this series.
Katastrophic Kat: Goonies!kat_nic on June 7th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
Ah, I was wondering if how you stood on this series. I can't believe I left out the fact that the vampires sparkle when I reviewed it a few months ago. That just seemed utterly absurd. And because Bella is just sixteen I was totally unable to really believe she was in love. And the constant whining on Edward's part about how terrible and dangerous he was got on my nerves. You'd think after a hundred years to get used to it he would be slightly less whiny than the average teenager.
Anna_ocelott_ on June 8th, 2008 02:22 am (UTC)
I can't understand why he's still in teenage mode after a hundred years...
Katastrophic Kat: Animorphs Androids Onlinekat_nic on June 8th, 2008 02:49 am (UTC)
Hah! I see I am not the only one who spends Saturday nights at home! And yes, Edward needed to grow up, dammit. But I guess being hot was good enough that Meyer didn't think she needed to give him, you know, a personality.
Anna_ocelott_ on June 8th, 2008 02:54 am (UTC)
XD Guilty as charged! Who needs to go out when there are so many lovely books I could be reading?

I'm amazed at the huge allowances people are willing to give Edward because he's pretty. He's a character in a book! You can't even see him!
Katastrophic Kat: Animorphskat_nic on June 8th, 2008 03:11 am (UTC)
Okay, I admit, I mostly don't go out Saturday nights and Friday nights because I actually work Saturday and Sunday and have two weekdays off. But I did that even before I got my current job. I'd rather go out during the day, and anyway, work is about as much social interaction as I need. I can go out with my friends on our lunchbreaks and that's plenty for me.
talyssa on July 14th, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC)
uh, no it wasn't.
Just so you know, the second book was NOT better. I read it because ... a) I get bored at work and b) I had hopes that there would be some kind of plot exposition or character growth. For example "gasp, bella, did you know your mother is actually a super magic fairy princess and that's where your strange allure and immunity to mind reading come from?"

It never happened. I have no idea why people are telling you it was better.

Also while the sparkling was silly, the writing that REALLY bothered me was ... I don't know how to describe it. Its where characters are constantly 'tripping' (used to suggest light graceful movement) across the cafeteria to sit with bella at lunch, or where everyone was sighing, nodding, GIGGLING etc in order to move dialog along. I loathe giggling - And use of the word tripping outside of drugs, falling down, and 'the light fantastic' -- all these uses are fine, but otherwise, the character probably just walked, seriously. Giggling is one of the most overused words EVER for female characters. I may giggle on OCCASION like when I am being very silly, but if someone is giggling constantly I suspect that they are very silly INSIDE THEIR BRAINS.

Anyway. I really really.... these books make me actually ANGRY, because I feel like its a sign of the ...dumbing down of our youth. Or something. I must stop and run away now or I will give myself a hernia.

Also it is very common for me to read a whole series, even when I think its bad, so yes I read the first 3. I don't want to talk about it.
Anna_ocelott_ on July 14th, 2008 07:34 pm (UTC)
Re: uh, no it wasn't.
I don't really have any interest in picking up the rest of the series, I have to say. There are just too many books out there for me to spend my time trying to like a series when the first book annoyed me so much, I got it out of my house as quickly as possible.

I mostly included the sparkling paragraph because it's a good example of everything that's wrong with the book. It's poorly written, the same point is made over and over, and the content is so over-the-top as to be laughable (that is, were it not so very painful). This book FAILS on pretty much every level.
(Anonymous) on July 9th, 2009 11:26 pm (UTC)
just making sure every one making all these comments on how bad the book was, does know that you find this book in the teen reading section. It was not printed for adults it was made to draw the attention of teenages, therefore in the book the vampires still act like teenagers and yeah at 16, 17, and 18 being hot is plenty enough reason to have people want you. We are teenagers who cares about personality that much, we want to be young and beautiful.