Friday, November 11, 2011

Review of “Eclipse”

Meyer, Stephenie. Eclipse. Little Brown, New York, 2007. ISBN: 9780316027656
Edward is now back in Bella’s life, much to her father and Jacob’s dismay.  Now Bella has to deal with a strange intruder in her room and the discord between the werewolves and the vampires.  Edward and Bella get engaged but she realizes that she loves Jacob as well.  What’s a girl to do? 
I’m starting my review of Eclipse before I finish it so I can keep tabs on the reactions I have throughout the book.  First I have a hard time with Bella.  She is in love with Edward but not for his money and beauty, as she claims, but because of him because of how caring he is.  Okay, fine.  So he never lets her out of his sight, never lets her visit Jacob, already made her father hate him for leaving her a mess, but yet she wants to become a vampire, marry him and leave everyone behind?  Rosalie already explained how awful the pain was and how much not having a normal life sucks.  And this girl is our heroine whom we want to see happy in the end?  Is what the heroine wants better than what we as the reader want though? 
Bella tells Jacob that, “I love him [Edward]. Not because he’s beautiful or because he’s rich” (110).  Oh, that’s a good one, Bella.  That’s the only reason you love him.  A couple hundred pages later she says, “I had so many more important things to think about, but his smile still knocked the breath out of me.  He was so beautiful that it made it hard sometimes to think about anything else…I was only human” (314-5).  That’s right, Bella, you’re a stupid human.
She was an emotional wreck when Edward left and Jacob was there to befriend her.  But now that Edward is back and gung-ho on this whole marriage thing, she’s mad at everyone who is standing in her way.  Oh no, my father doesn’t deserve how nice my boyfriend is to him.  Oh no, Jacob doesn’t like him and so I have to fight with him all the time.  And if I want to go see him I can’t anyway because my vampire cult soon-to-be in-laws are keeping me captive. Oh well, I’m only human.
I don’t like Bella.  I guess Meyer wants to write her abhorrence for marriage to be some testament to her problems of being a child of divorce.  But how does that work?  All she does is cook and clean for her father.  He tries to stick up for her but she’s not worried about leaving him forever as a vampire, she’s just worried about Alice being disappointed that she can’t do a wedding for her. Yes, I totally believe that this girl is this beloved that everyone would take the time to go out of their way to force her to be social.  She doesn’t do anything that gives her any personality except get depressed and ride motorcycles (hence why New Moon is the best book so far.)
I don’t like Edward.  He’s a pretty vampire.  Hooray.  He loves Bella and wants to “protect” her so he suffocates her.  She is never out of his sight or ever anywhere without his say-so.  In the real world we call this abuse.
But this is fiction and we understand that love is blind and dumb (very dumb) and things happen because of the intensity of a love relationship.  Honestly though, it didn’t need to go on this long.  Someone had said you can read the first book and the last and get the whole drift of the story.  I believe that.  This book was merely fluff.
I really don’t want to read the last book.  Eclipse was the dullest thing, albeit entertaining in a Snakes on a Plane kind of way, but still nothing happened except for some lovey drama and some dismembering towards the very end.  Wow.  I had to read through three back stories (snore) and then being told over and over that this book was based on Wuthering Heights because Lord knows I or any teenage reader would be too dumb to figure this out.  (And besides, Heathcliff had a deep, long-rooted love for Cathy that went way beyond a year of being stalked by a vampire and…you know what, never mind.)
I’ll go as far as to say that the idea is great, it just could have been done better.  And what was up with the epilogue being written in Jacob’s point of view?  Where the heck did that come from?  You have four books in a series and at the end of the third you decide to throw in a different narrator?  Meyer must have gotten as sick of Bella as we did. 
I was told that Jacob tells half of the story in the last book too.  No, just no.  I don’t want to read anything about how much he loves this little twit and how she is the “stubbornest” person in the world.  I also don’t care if Bella and Edward get married, have a wedding night, have a kid, turn into a vampire or anything.  I read other criticisms;  I know how disappointing it’s going to be even if it had a chance of being interesting. 
But, alas, I’ve made it this far.  I’ll take a hiatus and read Breaking Dawn at some point and put that under my belt of experiences.  I just don’t know when I can stomach it.  I’m afraid my own writing is going to suffer from the saturation of bad writing. (Sorry, Stephenie, I know you tried.) 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review of “New Moon”

Meyer, Stephenie.  New Moon. Kindle. Hachette, London, 2009. ISBN: 1904233880
On Bella’s sixteenth birthday, the Cullens have thrown her a party.  Once there, she unwraps a present and cuts her finger, leaving Edward’s brother, Jasper, trying to attack her.  The Cullens decide to move and Edward tells Bella that they need to make “a clean break.”  Bella is shocked and hurt and is discovered in the woods by Sam Uley, one of Jacob Black’s friends.  For months Bella is depressed and there is no sign of Edward or his family.  Eventually Bella becomes closer to her friend Jacob Black, a match her father Charlie approves of.  Bella feels happy again with Jacob and starts riding motorcycles with him.  However, the memory of Edward lingers and each time she finds herself in the midst of danger, his voice is in her head.  Jacob suddenly stops calling her and after an incident where she had seen Laurent in the same woods where Edward had left her, she discovers that Jacob and his friends are all a pack of young werewolves.  In order to hear the “delusion” of Edward’s voice again she decides to go cliff jumping alone and nearly drowns until Jacob saves her.  In a vision Alice, Edward’s sister, comes back to see Bella only to find that she is only alive.  Edward, however, believes she is dead and goes to Italy to try and get the Volturi family to kill him.  Bella and Alice have to go and stop him where the Volturi family explain that Bella must become a vampire in order to appease them.
This book is young adult / teen romantic fantasy.  I liked this book immensely better than TwilightWithout the blubbering over Edward, Bella had some kind of real personality.  She was heartbroken, depressed, interested in motorcycles, had new friends…she was a teenaged girl hanging out with a teenaged boy.  I liked the character of Jacob Black a lot and I hope that Meyer gives him more to do in Eclipse as well.  The detail that Bella gives Edward is just about his allure and his “perfect” insert-random-body-part-here.  The relationship with Jacob was much more enduring and much more connective.  I actually felt like Bella was a real human being.
However, it amazed me that while we were all pretty much guessing that Jacob was a werewolf in Twilight, poor Bella couldn’t figure it out even after Jacob’s persistence to remember exactly what he has told her.  (The treaty about the vampires and werewolves in Forks.)  I don’t like being two steps ahead of the narrator.  I also like the Native American legend of the werewolves too.  To me that’s very cool and it makes some kind of sense.  Native American oral legend would have tales of men turning into wolves - a creature they honour.  So Meyer did a good job on that, in my humble opinion.  I’m still not sure why they turn into wolves when they get mad instead of when the moon is full (*cough cough* Title of the novel. *cough cough*) but I can overlook that.  It’s also way more interesting to me, again, that these young wolves are just that – young.  It works well and I enjoyed the story of them.
But of course the vampires showed up again.  Now, the whole Volturi thing bugged me a bit but making them very creepy was a good way to go.  I haven’t even watched the stinking movie and I knew who Dakota Fanning’s character was the minute they described her.  The Volturi reminded me of Interview with the Vampire so it felt a little more like a traditional vampire story.  I still don’t understand how the “delusions” of hearing Edward’s voice was just the truth coming to the surface instead of some cool ability to speak to Bella when they are at such a distance (as opposed to when they’re always together.)  Seems kind of cheap to me.  And what’s with the hyphenating of words, Stephenie Meyer? “Too-big” and “too-warm” are not proper words.  Plus, everyone in this book is either chuckling or hissing.  Can’t they just talk?  Oh yeah, they’re monsters, so no?
Ultimately I do like this in some ways and in some ways I don’t.  I know Meyer said she didn’t like having to have Edward be gone for so long but I love that it gave Bella some depth and Jacob more purpose.  I don’t like that this is going to lead into “see ya, I’m off to be a bloodsucker now.”  I guess Meyer is trying to ease it more with Jacob being so angry (and potentially hurting Bella if this happens.)  But that will be for my review of Eclipse which I fumbled through the first 20% of already before writing this review.
I like that they have discussion questions in the back of the book too.  If books that are this engaging for young readers they need to know how to analyse the material in a way that they can transfer it to other school books.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Review of “Twilight”

Meyer, Stephenie. Twilight. Little, Brown Book Group, London, 2005. ISBN: 9781904233657
Isabella “Bella” Swan moves from her mother in Phoenix, AZ to live with her father in Forks, Washington.  At high school she sees the most beautiful creatures whom don’t seem that young to be 17.  Among them is Edward Cullen who doesn’t date despite his good looks and wealth that attracts attention.  Bella is scorned by Edward and is confused why he hates her so much.  When Jacob Black, a family friend tells her of the Indian legend that vampires have lived in that area, Bella begins wondering how much of the legend is true. Finally after almost being attacked by two thugs, Edward saves her and admits to Bella on the (fast) car ride home that he is what she thinks he is.  Edward and Bella get to know one another by him asking her all about her favourite things and sticking by her side day in and day out.  Eventually he shows her his true nature of sparkling in the sun as a vampiric Greek god and admits to her that she is “his type of heroine” so he loves her and wants to kill her all at the same time.  Bella meets the family, a bunch of other vampires who were turned by their father, Carslie who lived in London at the turn of the century.  During a baseball game outside, a vampire from another clan tracks Bella, convinces her to meet him alone in Phoenix in order to save her mother, and ultimately tries to kill her.  After being beaten severely, Edward’s family comes to save her and kill off the tracker vampire.  Bella sustains multiple injuries but is ultimately okay.  She wishes that Edward had turned her into a vampire too but Edward refuses.
Let me start my review by saying that like all readers picking up this book after the fact that the phenomenon that is Twilight is still in full fury, I wanted to have an open mind about this.  I tried to keep the images of the movie out of my head as I read but I did finally understand why they chose the two actors to play Bella and Edward.  Bella is boring and Edward looks bizarre in a frozen corpse kind of way.
While I give Meyer credit for creating an Indian legend that I can only assume she has fleshed out in later books because I’ve seen the Jacob character used in plenty of Twilight movie trailers and paraphernalia.  I also give her credit for creating the stories of the vampires but disregarding the other “myths” of vampires makes it feel like the author just couldn’t be bothered.  What gets me is that Meyer pretty much tells the reader how she created these characters through Bella.  Bella not only looks up vampires on Google but she reads Victorian novels that have the same romantic plots as Twilight.  Actually, with the big SAT words thrown in to show off Meyer’s English degree, it felt more of a fantasy played out on paper than a good story.  Meyer says that she dreamed up the idea of a pretty vampire in love with a mortal girl.  Her ability to run with a good idea for 434 pages is pretty good, so my hat’s off to Mrs. Meyer on that.
However, reading as a writer, the characters had nothing deep to figure out about them.  Meyer spoon feeds us every breathe, chuckle and gaze in so much dialogue that there’s nothing to try and figure out.  There is no ulterior motives, backstory or hints to how the plot will end for each character.  I can see why people like this book because they can feel as if they are Bella.  Bella has no redeeming characteristics at all.  She’s clumsy, trusting and cooks.  She never says anything witty, she doesn’t have a specific look or interests or even gives the reader any indication of why we should care about her. At least with Anne Rice’s novels, you had a story about the vampire characters and why we should care about their situation.
And the whole relationship with Edward is based on “he’s pretty, I love him.”  I’d need way more to convince me to root for a doomed relationship in a novel.  The descriptions of how perfect Edward is gets tiresome.  Is he funny?  Is he interesting?  Does he like The Beatles?  Why would she be in love with him especially when he is a murderer?  He wants to kill her yet she will leave her whole family to be with his serial killer family?  Bella is just dumb if that’s the case.
I read the book easily up until about 5 different stupid parts.  After knowing Edward could read minds, I put it down.  Dumb.  If there were scenes of him seducing people or him being able to read thoughts as a scene was taking place, that would be almost okay.  But when everything is revealed in dialogue?  Blah.  Not interesting at all.  Same goes for the baseball scene (vampires play baseball – everyone knows this), Bella needing to go home to get her things even though a tracking, stalking vampire would be following them and waiting to kill her and her father was like a Nightmare on Elm Street scene.  I’m surprised she didn’t find bodies in the kitchen, then proceed to take a shower because surely Freddy Kruger wouldn’t be still lurking around.
If the book had been written in 3rd person, which I don’t generally prefer, the whole essence of each character would be a little more empathetic.  I’ve read reviews saying that the minor characters were much more interesting than Bella and Edward.  Again, I can only assume Meyer would have delved into the material she had and created a better plot and a better catalyst for the scenes between the werewolves and other vampire clans (yes, I’ve seen the film trailer). 
All in all, this book proves that bestsellers aren’t quality books and it’s given me even more motivation to write.  J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien’s work is well written and they created a whole world of empathic characters that gives them every right to have world-round esteem.  If something like Twilight, however, can be this popular, I think any writer could take a stab at writing a young adult novel.  Heck, because of the Harlequin romance type descriptions (minus the obvious age appropriate details) we even have a “paranormal romance” genre now thanks to this novel!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review of “Crank”

Hopkins, Ellen. Crank. First Simon Pulse, New York, 2004. ISBN: 9781416995135
Kristina Snow has found herself a new personality: Bree.  Bree does all the things Kristina would never do, including drugs.  After going away to visit her loser father, she is introduced to crank by her father’s neighbor.  Soon Kristina’s life back at home with her mother spirals out of control.  Skipping school, running away from home, being raped, getting arrested and being an all-around nightmare is all due to “the monster” of crystal meth.  Once Kristina learns she is pregnant, not by her boyfriend, but by her attacker, she decides to have the baby and clean up.
Unlike other novels in verse such as What My Mother Doesn’t Know, this book really deals with more gritty realistic issues like those of Go Ask Alice.  Like many novels now, the topic is something shocking.  However, knowing that Ellen Hopkins wrote this after dealing with her own daughter’s drug addiction, I felt more interested.  I wondered how Hopkins felt about the mother as she wrote her – does she think/know that her daughter felt the same way towards her during those times?
School Library Journal reviews this by saying, “The poems are masterpieces of word, shape, and pacing, compelling readers on to the next chapter in Kristina's spiraling world. This is a topical page-turner and a stunning portrayal of a teen's loss of direction and realistically uncertain future.”  The power of the poetry and the intense subject matter make this work very well.  What I love about these novels in verse is that you get straight to the heart of the issues and never have to wait for the author to get to the point. 
I now have the second book in the series, Glass.  I’m glad Hopkins is putting out an adult fiction novel too. I’d love to see how this style of writing can work for the genre.