[openbook booknumber=”0316160172″][rating:2.5/5]

I must be the last young woman in the country to read Twilight. I started hearing hype on it years ago when I was moderating a forum that was frequented by several teenage girls and they were going crazy on the book. It was the next Harry Potter, according to them. I really wasn’t all that big on vampire novels and so I decided to wait until the series finished before I gave them a whirl. I recently got loaned all four books by my sister-in-law so now I am finally giving them a try. It wasn’t worth the wait.

Just about everyone knows the premise of Twilight. A teenage girl named Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington and while there catches the eye of the hottest most mysterious guy in school. He has several secrets and she is determined to find them out and when she does a great love story ensues. She loves him and he loves her back while at the same time wanting to kill her in a horribly bloody way to drink her sweet, sweet blood. It is all very romantic.

Do you truly believe that you care more for me than I do for you?” he murmured, leaning closer to me as he spoke, his dark golden eyes piercing.
       I tried to remember how to exhale. I had to look away before it came back to me.
       “You’re doing it again,” I muttered.
       His eyes opened wide with surprise. “What?”
       “Dazzling me,” I admitted, trying to concentrate as I looked back at him.
       “Oh.” He frowned.
       “It’s not your fault,” I sighed. “You can’t help it.”

Now let me just say this up front. While the sentence structures might be simple and the characterization, dialogue, and diction severely lacking the book is a solid piece of literature. It gets young people reading, and while the messages might not be entirely up to snuff with modern day strides in women’s rights, the book grabs and holds the interest of young people and among a generation that is reading less and less I think this is very important. It may not be great literature, it may not be enlightening or even empowering for the young women that read it; but for what it is, escapist romance, it does its job for its target audience very well.

I have a lot of problems with the book obviously. Nothing that just about everyone else has probably already said better than I can ever say it but here goes. As far as the mechanics of the book goes the characterization of both main characters really just sketch out empty shells for you to fill with whomever you might wish. Bella is defined almost entirely by her relationship with Edward. Edward is left almost completely in the dark and I’m assuming (hoping?) he will be fleshed out more beyond his amazing beauty and perfection in a future book. The dialogue was not very inspired or snappy. I’ve read even duller dialogue, I’ve read better too though. It was nothing to get excited over though. The diction, and by this I mean the vocabulary of the book, seemed very limited. We are told at least twenty or more times (I lost count after that) about Edward’s angelic face. Snappy dialogue and a more varied approach in describing things might have improved the book, but I’m not convinced that working to fill in the characters would have done anything. I think that the series is popular because the characters are so vague. Bella is Every Woman.

Speaking of Bella, and how she is portrayed, now I’m going to get into some of the over arcing themes and my problems with them. I didn’t understand at first why an apple was on the front cover of Twilight. I was told that the book had religious themes and that Bella’s and Edward’s relationship was like the lion laying down with the lamb. Still, why an apple? It turns out that some people, and I think I agree with them, see Bella offering herself to Edward to be turned into a vampire, which she does repeatedly towards the end of the book, was a bit like Eve offering the apple to Adam. It was also an allegory of offering premarital sex. All of it was painted in a negative light portraying Bella and her female sexuality as a sin and painting Edward – a 100-year-old, who is in a romantic relationship with an underage teenage girl whom he often stalked, sneaked into the bedroom of, and spent the night with – as a saint.

Then there is Bella’s… unhealthy world view. Bella is not only defined in the book by her relationship with Edward that is how she defines herself. If you are not Edward or one of his family members she doesn’t care about you. She doesn’t even really care for herself. There were a lot of dangerous suicidal undertones throughout the book. No person, male or female, should define themselves solely on another person and doing so results in a very unhealthy and unstable relationship between Bella and Edward. She wants to throw away her family, her friends, her future, her entire world, just to be with a guy that she had only met a few months ago and barely knew. A guy also that she knows is five times her age and with whom she literally has nothing in common save their sexual attraction to one another. Throughout the book I was hoping for that happy escapist romance feeling to take over me instead I just had a sort of sick uneasy feeling in my stomach. I was constantly frustrated by the main character’s incredibly low self esteem, and felt red flags going up and BS meters going off with almost every conversation the lovers in the book had. If I had read this as a teenager I might have enjoyed the story, as an adult all I wanted to do was whisk that girl away to safety and shake some sense into her. Her life is just beginning and because all she can see is this shallow beauty before her in the form of a sparkling, deadly vampire she is already looking to end it. It just seems so sad.

I ended up giving this book a low 2 1/2 stars. I would have gone lower but I still felt that the book was solid, and not overly filled with errors or anything like that. I really believe that literacy is important and with so few people reading books nowadays we need to take what we can get. So teenage girls are reading, that is something, and as long as they don’t take the messages to heart or define their lives or relationships by what is portrayed in Twilight they should be fine. And, I think they will be, their shallow beauty phase will be over and then maybe they will be ready to look at other guys and other opportunities that don’t necessarily sparkle but have a shine all of their own.

One Response to Twilight

  1. Helen Murdoch
    5:48 am on February 3rd, 2010

    As a high school librarian we see the Twilight books fly off the shelves with waiting lists for each volume. I’ve read all four, with the fourth as my least favorite. I like the books because teens are reading! When they are done with that series they come back for more and that’s so awesome. However, with each girl I argue about how Edward is like an abusive boyfriend, Jake is the better person, Bella needs a backbone, etc. Actually, we have good conversations about it sometimes 🙂

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