Publisher: Little Brown and Company, 2006
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.