Okay…the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. You are going to hate me–either for reading the series and not becoming obsessed or for reading the series and not thinking it’s scum. But I am trying to stop caring about what other people think. Having a blog and posting about Twilight helps.
I gave it a chance, and here is what it comes down to for me–Twilight (the series as a whole) is not so horrible. It is not written as badly as I heard, despite its many sentence-to-sentence clichés. It’s a fast read too. Plus, I give props to the artist who created the cover art for the series, because it is simple and pretty.
Anyone who reads it, or opts not to read it, has to remember that Twilight is young adult fantasy fiction. Scout Finch and Ponyboy are not hidden in protagonist Bella Swan’s high school cafeteria, unfortunately. But thematically, I found the series interesting. The trite theme of destiny was there (that Bella and Edward Cullen are destined to be together, that Jacob Black, another love interest, is destined to be in Bella’s life someway somehow, that Bella is destined to become a vampire), as with most romance stories. Yet with that theme of destiny comes an idea of evolution. Meyer’s vampires have developed the ability to feed on animals instead of humans. Her werewolves have evolved to only appear when the scent of vampire is in the air. It’s all about smell and touch, the most basic elements of existence. I liked how Meyer weaved all of that together–evolution of immortals, humans, love, and destiny.
An important dispute critics have with Twilight involves feminism. They argue the series gives girls an unrealistic view of relationships, and that Bella is not a strong female role model. In fact, she tends to be thought of as submissive, man-obsessed, and needy. Bella perpetuates female stereotypes by devoting all of herself to Edward and falling into a deep depression when he leaves her in the second book, New Moon. Maybe I’m digging here, but I really don’t think Edward’s dominance over Bella makes her an advocate for male chauvinism. We have to remember that Edward is not a normal guy–he is a vampire.
If you look at how Bella interacts with the normal, non-supernatural guys, she is extremely independent. She does not care about their attention or affection, and that’s clear long before she meets Edward. Even Jacob, a supernatural werewolf, holds no power over her. It’s only Edward. To go even further, our culture sees vampires as highly sexualized and irresistible. Vampires catch their victims through charm, and Meyer makes sure to reference this. While Bella could go about her relationship with Edward in a healthier way, her feelings for him are supposed to be amped up because he is a vampire. I also believe that strong female heroines of our stories do not need to shun men in order to be feminist. Characters can still be completely enamored by a man and prove their feminism in other ways. Kind of like how women do it real life. So, there are worse books out there for young adults.
Now, my issues with the Twilight series. There are way too many clichés in Meyer’s writing. In each book, I had to wade through cliché sentence, after cliché dialogue, after cliché metaphor, etc. It made me antsy to finish and read a book whose narration does not harp on superficial details and descriptions. Meyer is so mesmerized by her characters’ physical appearances (not just the vampires, but also the minor characters). To me, a story becomes less realistic when the author writes about a character being a “tall greek god, with bright eyes, auburn hair, wearing a black shirt, jeans, and sneakers” (not an actual quote, but pretty close to the way characters are described). It’s somehow too much information.
Meyer just infringed on this “too much information” rule again and again. I did not need to know about Bella brushing her teeth, going to the bathroom, eating a granola bar, picking out her clothes, or taking dinner out of the oven. What actually would have been useful to know was something about Bella’s period. I know it sounds WEIRD and THE definition of “too much information,” but there is not one mention of Bella’s menstrual cycle throughout the entire series until the last book, when she gets pregnant. She figures out she is with child because she is late. It all just seems so random and inconsistent. If Meyer’s going to tell me about when Bella interrupts her conversation with Edward to use the bathroom, she could at least make reference to something as important as her menstrual cycle, which basically is the key to her figuring out she is pregnant in the last book. Even if it was just Bella wondering whether Edward has a harder time resisting her when she has her period…I mean, he’s a vampire. It just all goes together. I’d say menstrual cycles could have played an interesting role in the story, especially because the majority of its fan base is going through puberty and can relate.
Another issue I have, again, involves inconsistency. In Breaking Dawn, there is a long section from Jacob’s point of view. Where was this in the rest of the series? (I admit, the third book, Eclipse, featured an epilogue with Jacob’s point of view, but this was obviously an afterthought). The entire series is from Bella’s point of view. I understand that reading Jacob’s inner thoughts excites readers, who may have tired of just seeing Bella’s point of view all of the time. It excited me, at least. But consistency should be more important. Something like a different point of view needs to be established in the first book. That’s the beauty of a book series–it’s all supposed to fit together.
This is the criticism I would have given Meyer if I was her editor. I do not love Twilight, and I do not hate it. It’s a pretty cool phenomenon to witness and be a part of, now that I have read the books and seen the movies. Though it has faults, I cannot completely write the series off. Meyer has told an attractive story, worshipped like a Greek god and wearing lots of clichés, some inconsistencies, but admittedly, exciting and sexy.