Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

>> Thursday, September 28, 2006

I'm not much of a YA reader (I didn't even read YA books when I was a YA... I don't think I knew at the time that such a thing existed, actually), but Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer generated such an intense buzz that I was interested enough to buy it.

About three things I was certain.

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him - and I didn't know how dominant that part might be - that thirsted for my blood.

And Third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

Isabella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Isabella's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Isabella, the person Edward holds most dear. The lovers find themselves balanced precariously on the point of a knife - between desire and danger.
Well, I liked it. I didn't think it was the best book ever written, and it isn't going to send me on a YA glom, but it was a good read. A B.

Bella Swan didn't want to move to Forks, Washington, the rainiest, most boring place in the country, but her mom has recently married again, and her husband is a baseball player. Bella knows her mother would love to go with her new husband in his constant travels, so she decides to sacrifice and go live with her dad for a while.

Forks is just as rainy as Bella remembered from when she lived there, but it's not nearly as boring. At least, not once she meets the Cullens.

The Cullens are weird. Beautiful, but weird, especially Edward. Bella really can't understand what his problem is with her: sometimes he acts as if he finds her disgusting, sometimes as if he finds her fascinating. And when he saves her from being hit by a car in such a way that should have been impossible, Bella begins to suspect that there's something not quite human about him.

This is an extremely readable book. It's very long, but it's written in such a way that it reads very quickly, especially the first sections. Meyer lost a bit of my interest the end, though (more on this later).

The book is best and most interesting when Meyer is developing Bella and Edward's relationship. We readers know from the beginning that he's a vampire (at least, those of us who read the back cover blurbs do!), but Meyer manages to make him mysterious and the intriguing anyway. Why did he immediately have this strange reaction to her? What is his story? Who are these people he lives with? And for those of us who've read about 1001 different vampire mythologies lately, just what does being a vampire mean in Meyer's universe?

When we start getting our answers, the book gets more and more absorbing. Bella and Edward's is an extremely emotional, sexually charged relationship. Nothing more happens than a few (very passionate) kisses, but the sexual tension here was thicker than in a lot of erotic romance I've read.

There isn't really much conflict in their feelings... I mean, pretty soon, she loves him and he loves her, but Edward's nature presents a pretty much insurmountable one, because Meyer's vampires are very definitely not cute and cuddly and inoffensive ones. Given this, it would have been easy to cross the line into a woe-is-me, overwrought tone, but Meyer manages not to do this.

I had basically two problems with Twilight. One of them concerns a plot issue, and I guess would be more minor, while the other one has to do with the whole concept of the romance between Bella and Edward, and is the reason why I don't think I'll read the next book in the series, New Moon.

I'll start with the smaller problem. Once the other vampires show up and the suspense subplot comes into play, the book became a lot less interesting to me. I thought there was more than enough conflict intrinsic in Bella and Edward's relationship that we didn't need to have this out-of-nowhere external conflict appear. It wasn't particularly interesting one, either.

As for the bigger problem, it's basically that unless Bella is turned into a vampire, too, (and this is not a path I see Meyer taking) I just don't see a way in which her relationship with Edward can have a happy ending.

Why? Well, it has to be one thing or the other. Either Edward is forever 17 physically, but time passes for him emotionally, in which case it's icky, because this is then a 100-year-old man with a 17-year-old girl, or he's forever 17 both physically AND emotionally, in which case, what's the future of the relationship? In 10 years she'll be a 27-year-old woman with a 17-year-old boy. Both options are bad.

Fortunately, this was something that didn't occur to me until after I'd finished the book, so while I was actually reading, other than the silly suspense subplot at the end, I enjoyed the romance and the plot tremendously.


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