Twilight. It was a word that used to bring a sense of atmosphere, a witching hour, full of mystery and husky colors. But now, it has another meaning. A series of books written by the Mormon version of Anne Rice have arrested all use of the word and have somehow made teenage girls even more detestable. However, before I launch into yet another tirade, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. It’s time for me to suppress my gag reflex and read the novels for myself.
That’s right, I’m taking one for the home team.
From here on out, I will be critiquing Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire, disturbingly obsessive, love story (I may have to take a few breaks and read the dictionary to stop the screaming in my head).
Let the games begin.
Wow. Okay. Now, I’ll say this: it’s not as bad as I was anticipating. But I have to qualify that by saying, I was expecting a horrid pile of shit. No, specifically, I was expecting the scribblings of a thirteen year old. What I got was the wet dream of a seventeen year old.
Hang on, I need to pause for pie. PUMPKIN PIE.
So, as I was saying, this is essentially a trashy romance novel for teens (despite the thirty to forty year old women I see walking around wearing Twilight t-shirts. UGH.) The writing isn’t terrifically refined, nor particularly inventive. BUT, as holders of the double-X chromosomes, ROMANCE tends to be a bigger magnet than you would think. Boys, being romantic, as only a woman could think up, hits us right in the ovaries, nearly every time. You really have to do some serious uteran crunches to build up a tolerance/immunity to sappy/predictable romance. I’ll admit that I own both Bridgit Jones’ Diary films, and that I have watched 2 Weeks Notice. Don’t judge me. Cary Grant is our kryptonite and Richard Gere makes us tingle in special places. But I’m off-topic; the fact is, romance outsells most other genres, and when you throw vampires in the mix, sexy, sexy vampires, you’ve got a bestseller.
Vampires are the quintessential bad boys; they’re dangerous and brooding, and they feel every emotion to the furthest degree of feeling. They have their own place with French furniture, fast cars or bikes, rock the metrosexual look, and will occasionally flip out and yell, but then feel really bad about it later. But they can’t allow themselves to LOVE because they’re monsters without souls and they’re going to live forever, blah blah blah, and so they’re miserable, but BY GOD, all the ladies are wetting their pants for a crack at one of those fixer-uppers. Because every chick thinks that she will be the one to show the bad boy how to love and turn his life around and be taken along for the sexy vampire ride.
So it just figures that every ten years a series of vampire novels comes around and chicks flip their shit, but this…this is on the far side of ridiculous.
To be fair, let me say this: the movies are not the books. The movies, and please believe me when I say this, really distort and discolor the characters and the tone of the books. Kristen Stewart needs a slap in the mouth and a steak. Robert Pattinson needs a little less product in his hair and needs to remember that his dog didn't just die.
The characters in the film are pretty much awful in comparison to the ones in the book. Bella actually closes her mouth and doesn’t act like a half-dead fish; bland, frigid, and extremely unlikeable. The Bella in the book has a bit of a sense of humor, and can usually dole out as much as she takes, verbally, when she isn’t distracted by how pretty Edward is. She takes care of her dad and is a little more grounded than most teenage girls, though occasionally just as dumb (we can only ask for so much).
I remember watching the movie and being struck by how selfish and unthinking Bella was; she allows her hormones to supersede anything else, and whatever gets in the way of that causes her to go completely mental. The whole time I was thinking, “God I wish her dad would just ship her ass off to an all-girls Catholic school.” But the other Bella is a bit more sympathetic and puts a lot of effort into taking care of Charlie (the dad); she spends the second half of the book frantic about his and her mother’s safety after Bella is targeted as particularly enticing prey by expert hunter and vampire James. And what I appreciated most was that she was entirely aware of how unreasonable and insane the whole mess is. She knows that falling that hard in love with someone, a vampire, no less, this early in life is completely bonkers (which it is). But when you’ve got the romantic equivalent to heroin, what are you going to do?
Edward also has a pretty sharp sense of humor to match his fangs, and can express caring and sympathy, rather than just look like he ate something unpleasant or got kicked in the junk. And guess what? They both SMILE and LAUGH every once in a while, and most of the dramatic stuff they do isn’t nearly as lame and core shuddering as the movie makes it out to be (though the dazzling sparkle-reveal is still a little bit silly).
Meyer hits on a few real, painfully familiar adolescent traits, which I will begrudgingly give her credit for. Bella’s anger and frustration causing her to cry without being able to stop no matter how much she tries to control her emotions is something that I can identify with (I cry during children’s movies, I just can’t help it). Teenagers being petty and jealous and awkward as fuck is pretty par for any high school, and becoming disillusioned with adults and feeling the need to take care of them is part of growing up. And, God help us, we all remember that guy that made us insane with desire, to the point of performing some desperate stalking. And if you don’t, you’re probably suppressing some serious criminal activity.
She also, somehow, don't ask me how, works in some Adam and Eve symbolism. How did she do that? And not poorly? DAMMIT.
Meyer has the terrible habit of recycling her adjectives, repeating the same descriptions in a girly whisper of awe. If you took all the descriptions of Edward’s ice cold beauty and immaculate perfection and put it in one place, it sounds like the ravings of Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man . This was something that bothered me a good deal; Edward is so PERFECT OH MY GOD IMPOSSIBLY PERFECT, and personally, I think people that look like “models out of a magazine” or “movie stars” are BLAND. They’re boring. There’s nothing interesting about their looks, a symmetrical blank piece of flesh with nothing to look at except the designated topography. Who the hell wants that? Blah.
She has a better grasp of the dialogue, but there are those moments every now and then that you have to pause and go, “Did I really just read that? Did I REALLY just read that?”
Passages that made me go, “WAT?” (Yes, “what” without the “h,” to really emphasize the “AHHHHHH”):
Edward: "...I'm tired of trying to stay away from you, Bella."
My sense of direction was hopeless; I could get lost in much less helpful surroundings...
I think you mean "more helpful," as getting lost in less helpful surroundings is pretty much expected.
...The trail would deeper and deeper into the forest, mostly east as far as I could tell.
...Did-didn't you just say you don't know directions?
Because when I thought of him, of his voice, his hypnotic eyes, the magnetic force of his personality, I wanted nothing more than to be with him right now.
I...uh...isn't this pretty much illustrating you as the easiest prey around?
By dint of much elbow grease…
Though this is grammatically correct, I have NEVER heard anyone use "dint" in this context. I maintain that no one should use it in this context, as it sounds hella weird.
I pulled all my hair over my head, letting it fan out on the quilt above me, and focused again on the heat that touched my eyelids, my cheekbones, my nose, my lips, my forearms, my neck, soaked through my light shirt…
Whoa, Bella, I'm not the one you need to seduce, 'kay?
He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare.
“I’ll leave some things for cold-cut sandwiches in the fridge…”
Bella, maybe this is a regional thing. But 'round here, no one says "Cold-cut sandwiches" unless they're over sixty.
I parked in the last row and hurried to English, arriving breathless, but subdued, before the final bell.
I get it, but it seems unnecessary.
No one with long hair uses rubber bands to tie back their hair unless they’re left with no alternative OR they are weathered old Hells Angels.
The blurb on the back cover misquotes the text.
Bella, no one winks except creepy old men and people with bad tics.
DAZZLE. Use it once, shame on me. Use it four times in a row, shame on you.
And so, one book down, three to go. Onward and upward!