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!