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Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (2005)

Book review: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (Atom, 2009 [2005])

twilightAbout three things I was absolutely positive.

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

Isabella Swan expects her new life in Forks to be as dull as the town itself. But her new classmates don’t seem to mind her awkward manner and low expectations. They seem to like her – with the exception, that is, of Edward Cullen. The problem is that Bella finds herself fascinated by him. What she doesn’t realise is that the closer she gets, the more she is at risk. And it might be too late to turn back.

Deeply seductive and irresistibly compelling, Twilight is an extraordinary love story that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page.

Borrowed the book from a friend, because while I want to read it in order to “know thine enemy”, I did not want to contribute to the franchise. Anyway. Twilight is the story of a girl from sunny Arizona who moves to live with her dad in Forks in the rainy state of Washington and falls in love with a guy at school. Only trouble is, the guy happens to be a vampire. Gasp! And yes, that’s it. There is no sub-plot to speak of, it’s very straightforward.

And it’s not half bad, actually. It ain’t half good either, though.

The first thing that annoyed me was that it opens with Bella and her mum at the airport, mum saying stuff like how Bella doesn’t have to “do this” (i.e. move) and so on, and it’s followed by Bella’s soliloquies about how she positively hates Forks and hated going there on her summer holidays and the past couple of years, she’s met her dad elsewhere, like in California. Places that aren’t constantly overcast and rainy. So as a reader, my reaction is “okay, so she doesn’t have to go there, and she hates the place – WHY THE HELL IS SHE MOVING?!” A number of chapters later, we find out that it’s because her stepdad is moving around a lot (professional sportsman) and her mum wants to spend more time with him, and so on. So there is an explanation, but it isn’t introduced when it should be, when the reader is wondering if the girl is stupid or something. If someone told me I could go and live in, oh, Coventry for instance, but didn’t actually force me, I’d just say “okay, I’ll stay here then”.

As a book, it reads fairly quickly, perhaps because there is no real substance to it. It’s a teenager who really puts what little IQ she actually has on hold just because she meets a bloke, and most of the narrative is gushing about how gorgeous and lovely and wonderful and handsome and gorgeous Edward Cullen (henceforth only to be referred to as “Sparkles) is. And the only reason she is in love with him … is that he’s good-looking? And the only reason he’s interested in her is because she … smells good? What sort of a pansy ass reason is that? That’s right, THAT’S NOT A REASON! That’s a “we’re in love because, uh, because we’re the main characters of the book and we’re supposed to be in love so therefore, we are”. Sorry, Meyer, but that’s not good enough.

I’ve read criticism about gender stereotypes in the book, such as because Bella does all the cooking in the house. To begin with, I was okay with it. She volunteers to do the cooking because her dad’s not a very good cook at all. That’s fine in my book, do what you’re best at. It’s later in the book, when he comes home and plops down in the sofa to watch sports and asks her to put the leftover lasagna in the microwave for him that I go “hang on a minute!” However inept you are as a cook, you can bloody well nuke your own pre-cooked lasagna and then go watch telly.

The first introduction to Sparkles is when he and his “siblings” arrive in the school cafeteria and Bella stares at them because they’re all so BOOTIFUW. Then she sits next to Sparkles in biology and he acts about as charming as root canal work, and this doesn’t repell her. He later changes his mind and begins, instead, to act like a downright psychopath. He’s charming – but manipulative and threatening. He might share the first name of Mr. Rochester (which is why I refuse to refer to Cullen by any other first name than “Sparkles”) but he has more in common with Heathcliff. An apt comparison, considering they have a task in school to read Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, which is a book both of them have read before. A lot of people have, including Richard Armitage. But bringing the Brontës into Meyerverse … I shudder at the thought. Not even Charlotte Brontë was into adjectives the way Stephenie Meyer is.

Speaking of which, we get reminded so often of how Sparkles looks, but what do we know about Bella? Hardly anything. See image on the right for an illustration. And that’s just part of the problem. The girl has no personality. Aside from being Sparkles Cullen’s twu wuv, she’s a nobody, and she doesn’t even try to be someone, let alone herself. Her identity is that of “Cullen’s Girlfriend”, not “Bella Swan”. Disappointing and BO-RING.

Oh yeah, Sparkles can read minds, because he’s an awesome, gorgeous vampire. Except he, for some inexplicable reason, is completely unable to read Bella’s. I know why:

“Why can’t Edward read Bella’s mind?”
“Because she doesn’t have one!”

She’s such a blank canvas that anyone can put themselves in her shoes. Which is probably why these books are so insanely popular – anyone can fantasise over the most gorgeous guy ever fancying them, because all we really want is to be loved, right?

Another problem I have with Bella is that she’s so clumsy I’m wondering if she has some sort of disorder. And it doesn’t add up either: She won’t go to a school dance because her hand-eye co-ordination is sorely lacking. Yet … she used to dance at a studio when she was younger. The dancing didn’t help her with the clumsiness? And they didn’t throw her out for being a danger to others?

I couldn’t help but snicker when her death wish was expressed for the umpteenth time and Sparkles wondered if she was stupid or something. Yes, yes she is. He constantly reminds her of how dangerous he is and how easily he could kill her (creepy!), and her response is to swoon and fawn and show off her jugular, more or less. Bella has no sense of self-preservation at all, because Sparkles is just sooo delicious.

Speaking of delicious, apparently there was a smell on his jacket that was just sooo incredibly nice, and later, she discovers it eminates from his mouth. That just creeps me out. Good thing he doesn’t have halitosis, eh?

From a love story perspective, it’s quite standard, although I get a bigger and better buzz from any Mills & Boon book, to be honest. While I love age-gap romances, the story of a 100+ man spying on a sleeping teenager through her bedroom window for a month is creepy, even by my standards. That’s what a stalker does. Stalkers are creepy. Writing-wise, Meyer uses far too many adjectives and not to mention that it’s very seldom that anyone “says” anything. They “breathe”, “whisper”, “laugh” and “plead” and stuff, which is lazy – we should be able to gather how something is being said simply by what is being said, without having to be told.

I suppose I should mention Jacob as well, really. He’s a sweet kid, and he seems to be a lot nicer than Sparkles, and a lot less stupid than Bella. She’d be better off with him, but of course, that’s not going to happen. It’s going to get even creepier. (Two words: “Imprint” and “Reneesme”. *shudders at the thought*) I still have to read the other three books to get all the horrid details, but yeah, it sounds like it’s going to get worse. And I haven’t even brought up the whole “they’re not real vampires” and “vampires don’t sparkle” debate. If only they hadn’t sparkled, I could’ve lived with all the other non-traditional stuff, because the explanation given in the book (“yeah, well, those are legends and those legends are actually incorrect”) doesn’t feel too implausible. But they bloody sparkle in the sunlight! That’s just wrong.

All in all, I expected I’d hate Twilight, but tried to keep an open mind. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but the book definitely has it’s problems. It’s a creeptastic book about a sparkling psychopath and a masochist with dyspraxia who fall in love with one another for no other reasons than “you smell nice” vs “dang, you’re hawt!” and how one wants to kill the other but can resist it. There’s just enough conflict to go by, but there’s nothing really happening, until the very end, when some Evil vampires are dropped onto the scene and things actually start happening. Before then it’s just a lot of faffing about.

If I had to give it some sort of rating, I’d probably rate it a 2 out of 5. It’s not particularly good, but I got through it fairly quickly and didn’t have to put it aside because I was too bored to continue. So yeah, at least it’s entertaining. Sort of.

Traxy Thornfield

A Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel. Will get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted along the way.

6 thoughts on “Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (2005)

  1. Well said. I more or less felt the same way about the series (and, believe it or not, I think the first book was the best). However, I did like Bella. I thought Meyer did a fairly decent job conveying that Bella never felt comfortable in her own skin, as if she were meant for something otherworldly. Sure, she’s a bit sullen and dry, and not in a particularly witty way, but I had a similar saturnine teenage temperament, so I suppose I can relate. That said, you’re right: she’s stupid. Meyer tried to sell her as a mature caretaker who looks out for her squirrelly mother and phlegmatic father, but I ain’t buyin’, especially when she’s allowing a stalkery 100-plus-year-old vampire to dictate her every move simply because he sparkles. I could go on and on, but you put it better than I ever could. Thanks for sharing the review. At least the books were compelling enough for me to finish the series and fairly entertaining at that. But I think I would have enjoyed them a lot more in my youth than I did when I read them.

  2. I actually like the movie series (so far) and since I like the movie, I tried the book and I made it a few chapters before I returned it to my niece. It was too immature for me, but then again it was written for teenagers, so I did not have high expectations.

    I will say this (about the movie since I could not finish the book and can not fairly review it), people may ridicule Twilight but it was written for teenagers and has some positive values that I consider great for young girls, and almost unheard of in this modern day society where young girls idolize Lohan, Spears, and Hilton. There were some negative issues (like wanting to die over a guy and wanting to give up life- college and family- for love) but I did like how the couple respect each one’s family, how Edward doesn’t try to push Bella and truly seems to want what is best for her considering he fears for her soul, how they like art and music instead of MTV, how the teenagers play baseball with their family instead of doing drugs with friends, they are polite and well mannered and actually use intelligent words instead of raping with slang words, and they wait for marriage before having sex (in the eyes of a parent, it doesn’t get any better then this:). )

    Good review as always, looking forward to see what you read or watch next.

  3. My reaction to your review —–> 😀

    and well said.

    Man, if I could write a book like that, which wouldn’t drain me to write, and then sell it and make a fortune! How does someone get that gig? LOL!

  4. Have to admit, the “know thine enemy” part was a lot to do with “if I haven’t actually read it, I can’t criticise it”, because if I slagged it off without having been exposed to it through any other means than online “why Twilight sucks” forum posts, I’d be as much a bigot as all of those who claim Harry Potter is a Satanist but who of course have neeeeever actually read any of it.

    @littlevictories: Thanks. 🙂 I’ve heard from people that they prefer the first one. It’s quite funny, actually, because I know a bunch of t(w)eens who’ve gone potty over Twilight, and their former enthusiasm seems to have faded a bit now. Some people have read their earlier forum posts and come back now saying that actually … perhaps those books weren’t all that great after all. It’s really amusing. That part of the market is huge, but at the same time, they very quickly lose interest too. In a way, I’m looking forward to reading the other three books, even though I know the second is also not about a lot of things (seen the movie). Oh well. The things one does for the sake of reading!

    @Avalon: I absolutely agree with you about some of the values in the book. Modern society may have it’s good sides, but there’s so much crap going on that I’m longing for some good ol’ Victorian principles! From that perspective, I guess I could relate a bit to Bella, just because she’s rather reading Jane Austen than hanging out at the mall or doing drugs. At Bella’s age, I was rather reading Dean R Koontz than Jane Austen, admittedly, but I was the sort of teen that parents didn’t have to worry about that they’d find me drunk in a ditch, because I never went to any parties – I’d rather curl up with a good book in the bathtub or watch The Flying Doctors on TV with my family. Glad you liked the review – next one, I believe, will be a Jane Eyre-inspired novella that, umm, was, umm, “interesting” …

    @RAFrenzy: Cheers me dears! Ya know, I’ve been wondering the same thing! That’d be sweet! I have a book that has no plot already (NaNoWriMo ’07), but I’m afraid it lacks a sparkly psycho to give up everything for. 😉 In fact, when I explained to the hubby exactly what I was reading on the Kindle last night (Reader, I Married Him by Janet Mullany), how long it was (59 pages) and how much I paid for it ($4.99), he said “hey, you should do that too!” Especially since he wasn’t impressed by the bits I read out to him. 😉

  5. I read the first two books, and saw the first movie, out of obligation I feel to keep up a bit with the culture of the generation I’m teaching. I was really disturbed, I have to say, by the way that Bella just seems to hang around wanting to be bitten and die. Like Frenz I wonder how I can write something like this and make a ton of money, BUT I’d never be able to admit to it in public. My classes did get a little bit out of it as we discussed whether vampires can be saved — you have to actually have a soul in order to go to heaven, so it’s complicated. I also found out in the course of this little episode that mermaids do not have souls until they have sexual intercourse. So I did profit somewhat, I guess!

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