Twilight

Okay…the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. You are going to hate me–either for reading the series and not becoming obsessed or for reading the series and not thinking it’s scum. But I am trying to stop caring about what other people think. Having a blog and posting about Twilight helps.

I gave it a chance, and here is what it comes down to for me–Twilight (the series as a whole) is not so horrible. It is not written as badly as I heard, despite its many sentence-to-sentence clichés. It’s a fast read too. Plus, I give props to the artist who created the cover art for the series, because it is simple and pretty.

Anyone who reads it, or opts not to read it, has to remember that Twilight is young adult fantasy fiction. Scout Finch and Ponyboy are not hidden in protagonist Bella Swan’s high school cafeteria, unfortunately. But thematically, I found the series interesting. The trite theme of destiny was there (that Bella and Edward Cullen are destined to be together, that Jacob Black, another love interest, is destined to be in Bella’s life someway somehow, that Bella is destined to become a vampire), as with most romance stories. Yet with that theme of destiny comes an idea of evolution. Meyer’s vampires have developed the ability to feed on animals instead of humans. Her werewolves have evolved to only appear when the scent of vampire is in the air. It’s all about smell and touch, the most basic elements of existence. I liked how Meyer weaved all of that together–evolution of immortals, humans, love, and destiny.

An important dispute critics have with Twilight involves feminism. They argue the series gives girls an unrealistic view of relationships, and that Bella is not a strong female role model. In fact, she tends to be thought of as submissive, man-obsessed, and needy. Bella perpetuates female stereotypes by devoting all of herself to Edward and falling into a deep depression when he leaves her in the second book, New Moon. Maybe I’m digging here, but I really don’t think Edward’s dominance over Bella makes her an advocate for male chauvinism. We have to remember that Edward is not a normal guy–he is a vampire.

If you look at how Bella interacts with the normal, non-supernatural guys, she is extremely independent. She does not care about their attention or affection, and that’s clear long before she meets Edward. Even Jacob, a supernatural werewolf, holds no power over her. It’s only Edward. To go even further, our culture sees vampires as highly sexualized and irresistible. Vampires catch their victims through charm, and Meyer makes sure to reference this. While Bella could go about her relationship with Edward in a healthier way, her feelings for him are supposed to be amped up because he is a vampire. I also believe that strong female heroines of our stories do not need to shun men in order to be feminist. Characters can still be completely enamored by a man and prove their feminism in other ways. Kind of like how women do it real life. So, there are worse books out there for young adults.

Now, my issues with the Twilight series. There are way too many clichés in Meyer’s writing. In each book, I had to wade through cliché sentence, after cliché dialogue, after cliché metaphor, etc. It made me antsy to finish and read a book whose narration does not harp on superficial details and descriptions. Meyer is so mesmerized by her characters’ physical appearances (not just the vampires, but also the minor characters). To me, a story becomes less realistic when the author writes about a character being a “tall greek god, with bright eyes, auburn hair, wearing a black shirt, jeans, and sneakers” (not an actual quote, but pretty close to the way characters are described). It’s somehow too much information.

Meyer just infringed on this “too much information” rule again and again. I did not need to know about Bella brushing her teeth, going to the bathroom, eating a granola bar, picking out her clothes, or taking dinner out of the oven. What actually would have been useful to know was something about Bella’s period. I know it sounds WEIRD and THE definition of “too much information,” but there is not one mention of Bella’s menstrual cycle throughout the entire series until the last book, when she gets pregnant. She figures out she is with child because she is late. It all just seems so random and inconsistent. If Meyer’s going to tell me about when Bella interrupts her conversation with Edward to use the bathroom, she could at least make reference to something as important as her menstrual cycle, which basically is the key to her figuring out she is pregnant in the last book. Even if it was just Bella wondering whether Edward has a harder time resisting her when she has her period…I mean, he’s a vampire. It just all goes together. I’d say menstrual cycles could have played an interesting role in the story, especially because the majority of its fan base is going through puberty and can relate.

Another issue I have, again, involves inconsistency. In Breaking Dawn, there is a long section from Jacob’s point of view. Where was this in the rest of the series? (I admit, the third book, Eclipse, featured an epilogue with Jacob’s point of view, but this was obviously an afterthought). The entire series is from Bella’s point of view. I understand that reading Jacob’s inner thoughts excites readers, who may have tired of just seeing Bella’s point of view all of the time. It excited me, at least. But consistency should be more important. Something like a different point of view needs to be established in the first book. That’s the beauty of a book series–it’s all supposed to fit together.

This is the criticism I would have given Meyer if I was her editor. I do not love Twilight, and I do not hate it. It’s a pretty cool phenomenon to witness and be a part of, now that I have read the books and seen the movies. Though it has faults, I cannot completely write the series off. Meyer has told an attractive story, worshipped like a Greek god and wearing lots of clichés, some inconsistencies, but admittedly, exciting and sexy.

Rating (out of 5): 

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12 Comments

  1. Amy

     /  12.05.2011

    Steph,
    I totally agree about the period thing and was thinking that throughout the time reading the series. Your point about her fan base going through puberty while reading the series is really perceptive and makes me wish that aspect of things were there even more! I also wished I was her editor and wanted to cross things out or change things while reading ;-)… Good review!

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    • Stephanie

       /  12.05.2011

      Thanks Amy! I was kind of afraid to put that because I didn’t want to gross anyone out, but it’s definitely how I feel haha. Glad to see you share the same thoughts as me!

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  2. Nice fair review. I haven’t read the books or seen the movies, though it is on my to-do list. I’ve heard so much positive & negative on this subject that reading your unbiased review was quite pleasant.

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    • Stephanie

       /  12.05.2011

      Hi Rita–I hope I have not spoiled anything for you if you plan to read/watch! But with all of the conversations Twilight generates, I’m sure you’ve heard too much anyway. I’m glad you saw my review as unbiased. I call it indecisive, haha. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Cassie

     /  12.05.2011

    I completely agree with you on this. There are so many horrendous cliches throughout the entire series, yet thematically I think these are very interesting stories. And yes, people need to understand that they are young adult novels! I also agree with the inconsistency issue! I like hearing from Jacobs point of view in Breaking Dawn because at that point in the story I didn’t really want to hear for seven chapters how Bella felt about the baby. It was nice to see an outside perspective and it made it much more suspenseful. However…the whole time I was reading it, I was bothered by how inconsistent it was with the rest of the series. Meyer shouldn’t have used her last book to shake things up and rotate who’s point of view the story was being told from. It bothered me while I was reading it more than I found it interesting. Nice to hear someone being honest about the series! I tired of haters who won’t admit that they actually like the series and the hardcore lovers who think these books are the end all be all of great literature.

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    • Stephanie

       /  12.05.2011

      Cassie–I definitely recall feeling the same way…I was like, “oh my God, am I really going to have to read about Bella fawning over her kid for the next 100 pages?” So you are right, it made it much more suspenseful…and gave her the chance to give that twist with Jacob imprinting on the baby! That was well done. But it would have been twenty times better if we were used to hearing Jacob’s point of view from the start. I was hoping to be honest, so thanks for letting me know I accomplished that, and thanks for reading!

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  4. James Rizzi

     /  12.06.2011

    I liked your review. My unsolicited rebuttal, however, comes only to your paragraph concerning the feminist argument. I don’t think she’s an advocate for male chauvinism, but rather for feminine passivity. That being said, one must consider the genre. Edward, as you say, is indeed a vampire, and vampirism stories have their own nuanced character structures. If anything, calling the novel anti-feminist must be highly qualified: the genre itself broke out of chauvinism sometime in the latter half of the last century by introducing strong female archetypes into the mix rather than having them be only the swooning victims we think of from the movies of the 1920s. As Dr. Curley pointed out so many times in class “nothing is more of a threat to Capitalism than a lesbian vampire” – the shifts have to do with political and cultural trends and what vampirism means in reaction to the framework within which it operates. My critique of the feminist arguments against Stephanie Meyer, then, is not that they missed their mark but that they aimed at the wrong issue. What one must consider is why Meyer portrays Bella the way she does in such a radical regression – since the passive relationship is only with the vampire, why is an otherwise strong female protagonist brought down so much and made back into the swooning melodramatic heiress we’ve all come to hate as a cliche. Bella may be a new take on that cliche, but her progressive social attitude outside of her vampire relationship seems only to highlight, at least for me, the fact that she is still the cliche – just another one on top of Meyer’s already-too-high stack, I suppose.

    In any case, thanks for reading the books for me Steph!

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    • Stephanie

       /  12.07.2011

      All comments are solicited, especially rebuttals. Really interesting take, James–I didn’t even realize that vampirism broke out of chauvinism…and I wrote that whole paper on vampirism in Clarissa. Usually it’s about a young virginal female being taken advantage of by a stronger, rakish male, that eventually causes her death/demise. I guess the difference here is that Edward has good intentions, and really does not try to make Bella obsessed with him–it just kind of happens. He’s actually more of a positive figure in the books because she’s always trying to sleep with him and he keeps telling her she needs to wait until they are married. And he’s always a perfect gentleman and doing what he feels is best. Hmm…I feel like I should add that to my review, because now I feel like I left out something important on the subject, haha.

      Thanks for your thought provoking comment, and you’re welcome =)

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  5. Alyssa D.

     /  12.06.2011

    Stephanie, I enjoyed your perspective on Twilight and you make some solid points. Bringing up Bella’s menstrual cycle was GENIUS, something I did not even think of and, now that you mention it, I am curious to why Stephanie Meyer left this very feminine and very HUMAN aspect of Bella out of the novel. Kudos to pointing that out for me. However, I still see Bella as one of the greatest anti-feminist characters in literature. Truly, Edward being an attractive, sexy vampire is bound to get her estrogen pumping BUT Bella is such a push over and incredibly selfish! First off, she becomes obsessed with turning herself into a vampire out of pure vanity (in my opinion) – she does not want to stay human because, while Edward stays young and sparkly, she will become old and grey. It’s like botox and facelifts for the fantasy genre. Whatever happened to being loved for who and what you are? My next argument comes from Bella crumbling into epic nothingness when Edward leaves her in New Moon. GROW A BACK BONE! YOU KNEW HIM FOR A FEW MONTHS AT BEST! It angers me, especially with how successful Twilight is for the tween/teen category. With minds like sponges, so easily influenced, Bella can become a catalyst for extreme superficiality and teaches young girls to 1. change themselves for a guy if you don’t feel good enough and 2. if they leave you, just curl up into a hole and die. Maybe it is just me, but I feel like there are so many young adult novels with relatively strong female characters (Katniss from The Hunger Games, for example) and Bella just does not do it for me.

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    • Stephanie

       /  12.07.2011

      Yeah, exactly, the menstrual cycle is ridiculously human lol. I think I touched on this in my response to James, but your comments reminded me just how selfish Bella is. It’s Edward who loves her for who she is and who wants them to wait until marriage for sex, etc.. Bella’s the one who wants the “immoral” things and engages in lots of self-sabotage. I feel like the morality in the books reflects Meyer’s Mormon background so it was perfect that Edward is old-fashioned because he comes from a stricter time period. That was a creative way for Meyer to include own moral philosophies. Edward, then, is supposed to be a positive figure that is helping/teaching Bella to be a less selfish and confident person. I’m wondering where the feminism/anti-feminism fits into this now, because I forgot how nice Edward is.

      Your comment really got me thinking! Thanks!!

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  6. kathryn

     /  3.05.2012

    Finally, someone being open about Twilight! I really enjoyed your honest review.

    For me, the biggest problem I have with the whole Twilight movement is the amount of people who read all 4 books and then said “they were complete terrible crap”. I feel like millions of people did that, and I feel like millions of people are lying to my face, to each others faces, and are then complacently accepting each others lies. That is a way bigger fundamental issue for me then a story of a girl being so in love (with a vampire) that she lost herself. Hey… it happens all the time.

    So back to the big fat lies for a moment. As an avid reader I know first hand how hard it is to get though a book when you are not enjoying it. It’s really grating… a nightmarish chore… and when I really don’t enjoy a story…. when it is really THAT terrible, I simply don’t finish it and breathe out a great sigh of relief. I also know that i certainly would not pick up a sequel (or three) unless I enjoyed a story on some level or another. I think the only people who would honestly plow through 4 books that they hated every inch of are book reviewers.

    So what I am trying to understand is… where did all the shame come from? Why does everyone feel the need to hide the fact that they enjoyed the series, or read it at all? Thats right, I think there are closet Twilight readers… people who will not even admit to having read it. What century are we living in again? Like you said, its YA… it’s a high school vampire werewolf love story… did anyone really go in expecting Dickens? No. I read a lot of YA novels, they are fun, emotions run high, fantasy is key, and unless they are classics.. there often tends to be editing blunders, or the occasional moment that makes you cringe.

    I personally thoroughly enjoyed Twilight for what it was, I sort of saw it like a harlequin romance for teenagers… with all those rescue scenes and sexual tension, but without any graphic writing. Who really likes the words ‘thrusting” or “shaft” in a novel anyways?! Shudder. It was a fun and compelling story with a happily ever after ending. I love happily ever after endings… they run short in this world.

    Thanks again

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    • Stephanie

       /  7.31.2012

      Hi Kathryn! I don’t know why, but I saw your comment way late!

      You make some really good points about the whole prospect of reading the Twilight series and the shame/hatred people might feel while doing so. I’m sure there are closet Twilight readers (when I was reading, I actually had the books I borrowed from a friend, and brought them on the train with me during my commute to my internship at the time…and yeah, I admit it, I was worried about my image. I then proceeded to bring Ulysses by James Joyce the week after I finished the Twilight series lol).

      I did enjoy Twilight for what it was too–though I did cringe a lot (not due to words like “thrust” or “shaft,” thank God). And you are so right–reading novels we hate is a pretty painful process, so for people to plow through 4 novels must mean there was something else hooking them in. I think it comes down to it that Twilight is a good story–it has a good plot, it’s well paced. The only problem I had was the cliches and some unrealistic/inconsistent aspects concerning character and perspective.

      I’m glad you thought my review was honest! Thanks for giving me an honest response =D

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