I’ve always wanted to read a romance, just because I know so little about that particular genre. Most of the time, though, the people around me would talk me out of it (“Romances are so slutty and gross! You don’t want to read one of those!”). However, a lot of people recommended that I read Twilight, so I decided that now would be a good time to pick it up and see what’s going on in this genre that I know so little about…
The basic story of Twilight is very simple. A girl and a guy fall in love with each other, but the problem is that the guy is a vampire and has this horrible addiction to human blood. He’s a good vampire, though–he’s trying to break the habit–but there is a very real danger that something could go wrong and he’d end up killing her.
It’s more complicated than that, though. Bella, the main character, meets Edward (the vampire) when she moves in with her father in Washington state. She struggles to fit in with the different in-crowds at school, gains a whole bunch of male admirers, but ends up falling for this mysterious, pale guy in her biology class. He saves her from a near-fatal car accident and ends up following her around, and little by little they get involved in a relationship.
As this goes along, you find out more and more about Edward and his “family,” the other vampires who are trying to reform themselves–about their histories and motivations for coming clean. It’s really interesting. And then, you start meeting vampires that aren’t so high-minded–and then the action really begins.
Despite the fact that I don’t believe in “falling in love,” and despite a number of other misgivings and issues that I had with the writing, I actually enjoyed this book.
As a guy, it was really fascinating and different to read a story where relationships drive the conflict, rather than plot, straight up character, or concepts. And just in general, it was an interesting, enjoyable story. Some of the characters, especially Edward, had some interesting motivations and character conflicts. The paranormal world of this story was very interesting, as well as the other vampires. There was a lot of making out and body language, but there wasn’t anything pornographic or slutty. I felt that I actually cared whether or not the main characters got hurt.
That said, I did have some issues.
The first thing that bugged me was how Edward was always described as “smiling,” “laughing,” “smirking,” etc. I swear, almost three times per page Stephanie Meyers would describe how Edward was smiling in some way. It jolted me out of the text by giving me the impression that this guy’s smirk was somehow surgically implanted on his face. How is it possible for someone to smile that much? And for the first part of the book, that’s almost the only thing he would ever do. Can’t you find other ways to describe this character? Other expressions he’s going to make, other signs or indications of his mystique?
There were a few other things that made me feel like I was reading a first novel (and it is a first novel–a well done and stupendously successful first novel, I must admit). The first two hundred or so pages seemed to progress really slow. Everything seemed to be hyper-exaggerated, such as Bella’s emotions or her thoughts and reactions to things. A few other little things that escape my mind at the moment.
Not to say that it’s a poorly written first novel. I think that overall it was well done. It’s just that I’m writing my own first novel and I could see her making the same kinds of mistakes that I’m making. So maybe I’m a bit hypersensitive to that part.
The biggest things that got to me had to do with the dynamics of the relationship. Basically, Edward is abusive and Bella is codependent. It’s not all that explicit, but it’s there. Edward won’t let Bella make her own decisions when she’s with him, and when she’s out of his presence all she can do is think about him and feel sad and depressed. Their relationship is based on the physical obsessions that they have for each other. Maybe Meyers was going for an unhealthy relationship, in which case she did well. However, it makes me worry when I see girls go all starry eyed about the books.
Surprisingly, the fact that I don’t believe in this concept of “falling in love,” that part didn’t bother me quite as much. For some reason, I bought the idea instead of saying “yeah, right?” right out. Maybe it was because Meyers did less tell and more show when it came to that. It was still difficult to buy at parts, just because her descriptions of Bella’s emotions were so extreme, but I didn’t really ever say to myself “this could never happen.”
Brandon Sanderson said “Twilight is a novel for 14 year old girls or anyone who has ever been a 14 year old girl.” I can understand why he said that: the love story is based, essentially, on infatuation and obsession. 14 is right around that time when you start experiencing those things.
Despite the fact that I am not nor never have been a 14 year old girl, I did enjoy this story. The conflicts and setting held my interest, the tension was well done, the dialogue was strong, and despite the relatively slow pace of the book, there was usually enough there to keep me reading.
Ultimately, though, it was probably the love story itself that held me. Despite how obsessive and puerile the love was, the fact that these two characters cared about each other really did make the story more powerful. It wasn’t just a “stuff happens, the end” story–it was deeper than that. Despite all the problems I had with the book, it was powerful when they got together, or when forces outside of them conspired to tear them apart. That’s probably the best thing I can take as a writer from my experience reading this book–love is a powerful thing, even when it’s unhealthy, irrational, and slightly insane.