November 15, 2009

Twilight - Stephenie Meyer

Despite the fact that I normally love reading what is usually classed as "Young Adult Fiction," I had been resisting the whole "Twilight Phenomenon", but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I was dared by my cousin to read Twilight (and there is a $25 dollar bookstore gift card riding on this). And so I broke down and borrowed a copy from the library. At least now I can say that my opinions are founded on an actual reading of the book.

The paperback copy that I borrowed was 498 pages long, and it was an easy read - I polished it off yesterday on a rainy November afternoon. Which in of itself was a nice change from the 200-ish page The Golden Mean which I had to struggle to finish within 2 weeks. But the ease of reading was pretty much the only think that I liked about this book.

Where to begin...?

Let me start with Bella. When a book is told by a first person narrator, it helps if you like and can relate to the narrator. But I couldn't stand Bella. She is annoying, 2-dimensional, and almost a caricature of herself. She couldn't just be clumsy, she had to be braining her fellow students with a badminton racket and tripping over her feet with every step that she takes. She couldn't just be smart at school, but she had to be the smartest kid in the school and spend hours every night working on her homework. Yes, I do remember what it was like to be 17, and I really can't relate to her problems. "Gee, I've got Mike and Erik and Tyler all begging me for a date, but I keep turning them down because Edward is the one that I really want." This was definitely not my experience of 17.

Moving on to the writing. Yes, it was compelling and hard to put down, but not very well written for all that. As I mentioned earlier, Bella as well as all of the other characters come across as very flat and 2-dimensional. Once you read the initial description of the character, there is really nothing else to learn. The one possible exception is Edward, the vampire boyfriend, but I think that the only difference there is that his character was revealed over a longer period of time. These people would be boring to hang out with since once you know them, there is nothing more to learn. And unfortunately, the authors vocabulary seems to be somewhat limited, and the same words and phrases kept getting re-used. If I had to read one more time about an "immeasurable moment" I was going to scream and throw the book across the room!

Then there is the whole vampire thing. I am not fascinated by vampires and the like, so don't particularly enjoy reading about them.

And finally, and what irks me the most, are the messages that I came away from this book with.
1) The whole point of your life is to meet your "soul mate" at the age of 17 in order to eventually live happily ever after. Forget anything about independence and personal growth and self-knowledge.
2) Once you find your "soul mate," you should give up everything that you have in order to be with him/her.
3) It is OK to lie so that your path is made smooth. I couldn't believe that number of times that Bella lied to others, and never with any consequence.
4) A girl, once she has found her Prince Charming, can just sit back, play the damsel in distress, and he will appear to save her.

The Twilight Saga books have won various awards for Children's Books and Young Adult Fiction, but I don't think that I would want children or young adults that I care about read them if these are the messages that they would come away with. I think about all of the role models in the children and YA fiction that would be so much better than Bella: Poly in the Madeline L'Engle books (especially in A House Like a Lotus); the children who end up in Narnia in the books by C.S. Lewis; and even the children in the Harry Potter books who maintain their integrity for the most part (at least up until the last book).

So that's my 2 cents on Twilight. Kim - you owe me $25! And I don't plan on reading the rest of the series. I've been re-reading the Anne of Green Gables series alternating with the new reads that I've been posting about on this site. It is going to take a good dose of Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe to wash the ick of Bella and Edward out of my system.


Anonymous said...

(this is kim) i just bought the emily series for the 7 yr old who does our catsitting - have you got the new Anne book yet? sounds strange eh?
alright... are you coming on Jan 9 for me to give you your "prize"?

Kate said...

I haven't read the new Anne book yet - there is a great review here .

I will be there on Jan 9 - I'm hoping to get my ticket with airmiles. I'll trade you the gift card for the jar of cherry jam I promised you back in August!

Wanda said...

It seems your review has more entertainment value than the book. Kudos to you for actually reading it though, there isn't a positive or negative review around that would have me spending time with it. Bummer to have to put up with such stale vocabulary, especially when the "narrator" is supposedly so smart.

Connie said...

This is one of the greatest and most insightful reviews I've read of Twilight--I give a giant resounding WORD to every single thing you wrote!

And you love Anne, too! I adore finding kindred spirits out there. Yay!

Kate said...

Thanks Connie! I sent the link for your literary death match to my cousin who had originally dared me to read Twilight - I think that she will find it amusing as she is also an Austen fan.

Yes, I am a huge Anne-fan - actually a fan of all of LMM's books. They count amongst the books that I can go back and re-read as often as I want, and I never get tired of them.

And as a follow-up - I used my "prize" gift card to buy Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver; the reading of which was a much better and more enjoyable use of my time than Twilight!