In the last four days I have read a thousand pages of teen vampire drama-romance. And I didn’t even call in sick for work. I frankly don’t know how I managed it (a full day of traveling back to Vancouver from Oklahoma yesterday certainly helped).
Annette asked me what I thought of Twilight, and I thought I’d work through my thoughts about it and its sequel, New Moon.
First, the impersonal stuff: Twilight, as I mentioned earlier, is like crack. I haven’t actually ever done crack, but what I mean is that it made me feel good the whole time I read it. Unsurprisingly, I felt like an infatuated teenager. But without the angst, since it was totally vicarious. That’s a nice touch; I wonder what actual teenagers feel when they read the book. The writing isn’t particularly sophisticated, which is what makes it such a fast read. Also, the plot isn’t terribly complex, so I pretty much just devoured it.
New Moon isn’t half as good. Partly it’s because it’s not all about falling in loveâ€”I don’t think I’ve ever read anything as… poignant about teen love as Twilightâ€”and partly because it was even thinner on plot given its length.
I love that the setting of these books is the Olympic Peninsula. I haven’t been there, yet, but I had no trouble picturing the setting in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. It was just like watching a movie or TV show that was filmed around Vancouver.
I’m holding off starting on Eclipse because I need to come up for air. Also, the complaints I developed while reading New Moon have the potential to derail my enjoyment of further stories if I submerge myself in them too soon.
I’ve been thinking a bit about the Harry Potter universe while reading these books. (I was surprised to discover how much young-adult fantasy fiction I’ve read in the last year: Harry Potter 7 last summer, the His Dark Materials trilogy last winter, and now the first two of four in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. His Dark Materials, for some reason, aren’t in the same league, so I only thought about HP.)
The Harry Potter and Meyer books are written in a similar style. They’re easy to digest, yet they aren’t in any way oversimplified. But the HP universe is far richer and better developed, even starting in the first book. Harry had his aunt and uncle’s house on Privet Drive, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, and a full cast of characters to populate each setting. Twilight was great, and it isn’t a sweeping tale of an alternate universeâ€”it’s a tale of just a few people; those people are compelling and their development in the first book was pretty great. But New Moon, the second book in the series, barely expands on either front, the setting or the characters. We only get to know Jacob better, and we learn a bit more about the world of mythical monsters that exists beyond the awareness of most people. But we don’t learn a lot more, and I was disappointed about that.
Also, I’m not sure I actually like the protagonist, Bella Swan. I did at the beginning of Twilight. For sure. She was a bit of an outcast; a kid who knew herself but didn’t fit in. Who loved her family and understood that sometimes you have to endure things you don’t want to for the good of the people you love. But as the stories progressed, I became a little exhausted by her. She’s a shallower character than I thought she’d be, than I want her to be. She’s a little hysterical, and she’s precociously responsible, but somehow the depth that should result from that juxtaposition doesn’t surface to me.
I think this is because of the first-person narrative device Meyer chose. She’s immensely successful developing all of the characters that aren’t Bella, through Bella’s perception of them. The main cast of characters, aside from Bella, seem perfectly well-rounded to me. I get their motivations, their quirks, their values and how their histories influence their present. All things I wish I understood better about Bella. It’s as if her own development has been sacrificed to literary device, and that’s unfortunate.
Ok. The personal part. It’s blissfully carefree to read these books as an adult. I was a true disaster of a teenager, most so when it came to boys. On the one hand, I had no use for them; I was a strong-headed kid with lots of interests and I usually prioritized pursuing those interests over being boy crazy. Also, there was the part about being so painfully awkward it’s not like I had to run my adoring admirers off. Au contraire, as I’m sure you can imagine.
That said, I was the queen of unrequited love. My high school love never reciprocated, and I never actually pursued. My first college love was the perfect storm of best friend coupled with a third and mutual friend who was also in love with me. So the love was quite dramatically (in the beginning, at least) in the setting of rejection, and the drama was, well, late-adolescent. After that relationship ended, I spent several years dating writers and musicians, which was a whirlwind (quite literally) of love and heartache, with the heartache winning by an extremely wide margin.
So I admire Bella Swan’s ability to wear her heart on her sleeve. Even when she’s embarrassed, she’s able to spit out what she feels. I was never able to do that as an adolescent. I was a coward. I got over it as I grew up.
Anyway. As I’m sure everyone who’s enjoyed these books is, I’m totally in love with Edward the vampire. Unlike teenagers, I have the benefit of loves past, and I was surprised by how much these memories inadvertently made their way into this character. Mostly the voice. I could hear Edward’s voice, which is unusual for me; I never hear voices when I read books. But this voice belonged to someone I knew once. It’s a voice I met before I met the person, and I recall the swoon I felt, even so many years later. And oh, man, I’ve known the heartbreak she felt in New Moon. It was nice, in an odd and not entirely pleasant way, to be reminded of it.
There were times when I thought Meyer, somewhat out of the blue and therefore conspicuously, used her metaphor to… preach. In a way. For things I don’t agree with. One theme: I’ll turn you into a vampire, but only after marriage. Really?
Anyway. Over four days, without ditching work or the great family celebrations we had over the weekend, I read a thousand pages of teen vampire romance. And now I’m going to go look at the movie info so I can get my imagined face of Edward, the devastatingly sexy vampire, out of my head and replaced by some actor’s mug so I can move on to my next read: Watchmen.
So what did you think of Twilight? New Moon? (No spoilers for the third and fourth books, please!)
UPDATE (26 August): I am a lying LIAR. Watchmen will wait. Now reading: Eclipse. But I’m pretty sure I’ll end up hating Bella Swan.
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