Book review: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (Atom, 2009 )
About 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 so 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 EXACTLY?!” 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. So there is an explanation, but it isn’t introduced when it should be, meaning the reader is left wondering if the girl is stupid or something. If someone told me I could go and live in – oh, I don’t know, Coventry or something – but didn’t actually force me, I’d just say “okay, I’ll just stay here then, thanks.” Like a normal person.
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 intelligence 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 stupid 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. At first, 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. You’re a grown man and you’re not infirm.
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 BYOOTIFUW. Then she sits next to Sparkles in Biology and he acts about as charming as having dental surgery, but this doesn’t repel her. He later changes his mind and begins, instead, to act like narcissistic stalker. 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, 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 deep down a lot of us long 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 emanates 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 even the shoddiest 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 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 every single time.
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 will get even creepier by the end of the series. 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 yet. 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 to 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 allegedly 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.
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.
2 out of 5 eyes that aren’t brown.