A short book review of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.
|By now, you’ve probably heard of the Twilight series. It could have been from seeing them in bookshops, the many adverts for the Twilight movie (starring Harry Potter’s Robert Pattinson), the merchandise bearing the likeness of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart or even the internet. It has become somewhat of ‘a Harry Potter for teenage girls’. The Twilight ‘saga’, by Stephenie Meyer, has been heralded as a masterpiece. It isn’t.
I first picked up Twilight after hearing about it from the internet and websites, where many people were singing the series’ praises. From this, I gathered the basic plot; Isabella Swan, commonly called Bella, moves to the rainy town of Forks where she finds the mysterious Edward Cullen, who is a vampire. Then, during a vampiric baseball game, another group of vampires come across the Cullen family.
As a person who generally loves vampire stories, even trashy vampire romance (which is what Twilight sounded like to me), I picked it up next time I was at a bookstore. I later wished I hadn’t.
The first major flaw lies in the plot, which is thin on the ground as it is. The book starts with Renee, Isabella’s mother, dropping her off at the airport. Isabella is, in her own words, ‘exiling herself to Forks’. This is, as far as I can see, for no discernible reason. She apparently despises Forks, and is letting her mother go to Florida with her boyfriend Phil. This could serve as a reason, but Renee continually asks if Bella will rethink her decision. From what I can gather, Renee and Phil are perfectly nice people from whom there is no reason to run. Bella’s exiling herself to Forks serves as nothing but an overblown plot device.
The second flaw lies in Miss Swan herself. Bella narrates the entire story, which is usually a good way for you to get into a character’s head. Unfortunately, Bella is one of the flattest most Mary-Sue characters I have ever had the misfortune to come across. A Mary-Sue is a character whom has no personality flaws, finds many people in love with her and is altogether an extremely unpleasant character. Bella is given the flaw of clumsiness – which, as we all know, is not a real flaw. It does not in any way hinder her personality and seems to be endearing to the male population of Forks. She also seems to be a complete self-insert of the author herself. Bella is a whiny brat who is beloved by everyone, and is given shallow traits to make her appeal to a teenage audience whilst also given traits that would generally be applied to a ‘nerd’ to make her seem a good role-model for young girls. I wish I could say that her being a whiny brat was a flaw given by the author, but alas, it is not. Bella was made to be perfect and simply comes off as whiny to the readers.
In fact, all of the characters seem to be flawed and terrible role models. Edward Cullen is a cardboard cutout of a character dipped in body glitter. He has, as far as I can work out, no real personality and is just there to provide eye candy. Bella spends the majority of the book describing his bronze hair, topaz eyes and tasty-smelling breath. This is bad writing, but not unique in the genre of vampire romance. What disturbs me most about Edward Cullen is the fact he seems to be abusive and a stalker. It is revealed, in the book, that Edward has been watching Bella sleep without her knowledge or consent. This is not romantic. This is stalking. It also reveals a complete lack of logic on the part of Stephenie Meyer. Charlie, Bella’s father, is a police chief. Yet, if Edward’s reappearance in Bella’s room every night is any indication, he has no burglar alarms fitted in the house. Edward Cullen also seems remarkably overprotective to the point of an abusive relationship. The first seeds are sown in Twilight, but the full extent of their relationship cannot be explored in this book review. Suffice to say that in Twilight he just seems obsessive.
Another problem is the complete lack of realism in Bella and Edward’s relationship. There is no common ground for the two. There is no possible reason for their unrequited love. The only thing Bella seems to reflect on concerning Edward is his angelic beauty and marble skin. Meanwhile, Edward finds Bella’s smell good. That is the basis of the relationship. This is what Stephenie Meyer is toting to impressionable teenage girls and pre-teen girls as a perfect example of soul mates.
One of the even more disturbing themes running throughout Twilight is the anti-feminism. None of the female characters are independent or strong. They all seem to rely on their male counterparts. Those who do not have a male counterpart are conveyed as unpleasant people, i.e. Jessica. This is also true to anybody who dislikes Bella. At one point, Bella is kidnapped by the tracker vampire James who wishes to kill her. Instead of fighting for her life, she simply sits back and waits for Edward to rescue her. Is this the message we want conveyed to the next generation as an exemplary relationship? The woman must be completely dependent on the man? I took this question to Twilight fans and was hit back with two examples of whom the fans seem to think are powerful women in the series.
The first was Alice Cullen. Alice Cullen is a member of the Cullen family, and is a vampire. She has the gift of premonitions, which unlike Edward’s gift of mind reading is unstable. This could be indicative of anti-feminism, but perhaps the factor tying her to the dependent women of Twilight is her soul mate, Jasper. The same is for Victoria with her soul mate James, who was the other example.
Of course, there is also a problem with the writing style. Stephenie Meyer seems to have a love affair with the thesaurus. Where a perfectly good word would suffice, she seems to have rifled through a thesaurus and chose one of the synonyms that doesn’t quite apply in that situation. Permeable and scintillating are two of the better examples from Twilight. In addition, the purple prose concerning Edward fills a good three hundred of the pages. Eight times is he described as marble, twice is he described as a god, and I believe there are at least one hundred and eight references to his name. Considering the size of the font of each page, I would say that his name and the relative musings on his beauty fill up at least half of the page. This is also not a rare occurrence. Anne Rice fills her books with long-winded sentences and confusing words. However, in the case of Anne Rice, this is all perfectly justified with the fact the narrator is usually a vampire of over a hundred years old. This kind of writing from a seventeen year old is slightly more unusual, if not unprecedented. Reading Twilight is like struggling through a viscous swamp overrun with impenetrable foliage. It is like reading a sentence that goes on forever.
I have read the sequels to Twilight. I have read the entire Twilight series (I refuse to call it a saga.), and I can say it does gradually get worse. The themes running through Breaking Dawn, the last book, in particular are sickening. I would not waste more money on these books. I have seen the movie, and I have met the fans whom do not like people who disagree with their opinions. I have come across what the Anti-Twilighters call rabid fans. Twilight is instilling terrible beliefs into these people. Some people have had problems that have lead to bodily harm for disliking this book. If you want to read trashy vampire romance, buy The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance. If you want to read vampire novels, read The Vampire Chronicles or Dracula. Do not waste your time with Twilight.
We shall have to leave that to the rabid fangirls of the series.