Friday, November 7, 2008

By Popular Demand...The Twilight Review

Wow...the voting was close on that poll. I wonder what the exit poll strategists are thinking right now!? want to know what I think about Twilight? asked for it!

(Pictures courtesy of the Stephenie Meyers website.)

I began reading Twilight because my sister asked me if this series would be appropriate reading for her 13 year old daughter. Naturally, my feelings about the series are, at least, partially seen through that lens. The ' is-this-worthy-of-the-mind-of-my-beloved-niece' lens. Let me first of all say that I did not think that reading this series would be a good thing for this particular niece. For many reasons. First of all, because she scares easily and has a hard time getting some images out of her mind, I felt that these novels would leave her with some difficult images to deal with. Hopefully my other reasons for wishing for my niece to delay reading these books until she is a bit older will be clear as I attempt to discuss these super popular books.

Hopefully, you will remember that I am very leery of what I call, hyper-popular books. They often are not well written and leave me unsatisfied. I find that these books make me more critical than usual. Having said that, I have to say that I really do feel that almost any book that gets people reading is good. That doesn't mean that I think hyper-popular books are 'good' books, just that I think it's a good thing for people to engage in the activity of reading. Any writer who convinces his/her audience to stop watching TV for a while and to be more excited about what is happening in their story has accomplished a great feat and should be commended. So...I think Stephenie Meyer should be both happy with her accomplishment and respected for having had such amazing success.

I must admit that I don't really feel that the Twilight novels are particularly well written. The plot(s) are full of holes and raise many questions. For example...we keep reading how careful Edward is not to be around human blood and that he also never leaves Bella once they admit their mutual passion for one another. This left me immediately wondering..."what in the world happens when she has her period?" Sure...this is easy to gloss over as a reader and just not to think about it...but it is a hole in the plot nonetheless. Other plot holes include: Renee's lack of involvement in Bella's life. The idea that she just could never come and see her daughter just seemed ridiculous to me which left the well-meaning but utterly clueless Charlie to see after his teenaged daughter's development. This just didn't make any sense to me. Then there is the matter of Edward's overpowering attraction to the scent of Bella's blood. It seemed completely improbable to me that never in his entire existence had he ever come across someone else whose blood called to him at least to some degree. So for me...those are some examples of where the plot left me feeling less than convinced.

I have seen a lot written about the relationship between Edward and Bella. Whether or not you feel that their relationship has some serious co-dependent issues, you have to say it is unhealthy in many regards. I was happy to see that in Breaking Dawn the relationship seemed to be moving in a more healthy direction. But I didn't enjoy the intense physicality of the relationship. But I also recognize that many teenage relationships are far too physical. It creeped me out that Edward was the 100 year old vampire with the 17 year old girl. It was just kind of sickening to me. I know, I know...he was 17 forever, but he was also 100 years old!!! Sorry...just made me a little sick. I must admit that I was amused by the many bloggers and other fans who were hoping that Bella would break it off with Edward and choose Jacob. Sorry folks, but that expectation was too strongly set up in Book 1 and the series would never have been a success if that had happened. There is more to say about the relationship and words like: unrealistic and overly simplified apply, but they would take more time to explain.

It would take way too much time to discuss the characters at length, but I will say that one of the things that I find most disappointing is that Bella is set up as the "not just your ordinary" teenager character. We hear of her maturity and wisdom beyond her years often, but the truth is Bella is, in just about every way, a typical teenager. I couldn't buy that she was so mature and ready to make the life-altering decisions that would remove her from human society. Every reaction of Bella's seemed to me to be very much in line with typical teenager behavior. Her attraction to the fantastic, her need to be protected, to create drama...all pretty teen to me. So, I think we are supposed to be comfortable with Bella's decision to turn vampire, but I was very uneasy...she was too young, too immature and too uninformed to make such a decision. I would have been much more comfortable if Bella had been a young adult.

If you are reading this and thinking that I absolutely hated all of the novels, you would be wrong. I didn't hate them. I just wasn't bowled over by them and am quite surprised at the overpowering response to them. I think I was much more critical of them then I would have been if I had not heard so much about them before. I was careful not to read spoilers before reading the novels and was glad to have only heard of the reputation and not the actual plots of any of the novels. I also think it was great to read all four at once. I read all of the books very quickly and was quite impressed with Meyer's ability to propel the action of a novel forward. I also thought the idea of "vegetarian" vampires was extremely creative and made the idea of vampires much more enjoyable and endearing. Having some vampires who possessed special gifts was also a great device. Of all of the books, I thought the fourth, Breaking Dawn was the best. I am feeling like this post is getting way too long. But...I think that is at least a beginning of a summary of my thoughts on the much beloved and hated series we refer to as, Twilight. get to tell me if you think I'm right or wrong and share your feelings about Twilight with us all. Were you one of those who were "bitten"? Or do you detest the books?

Let's Discuss!!!

Note: I haven't fully proof read this review and so if there are words that are wrong or misspelled or thoughts that don't seem complete...please look over it for now...I'll keep editing.


Kristina P. said...

Leslie, I literally could have written this review.

And you see in my profile statement that I bring up the 100 year old thing, and a minor. It IS creepy.

I only read the first two books, and I don't hate the series, but like you, I don't think they are particularly well written, and they just didn't hold my interest.

My overall issue is the major, major hype of these books. I just don't get it.

The funny thing is, I think that at least 3 people started reading the series after either seeing my somewhat negative review, and reading my somewhate negative profile statement, and they all loved the books, so who knows?

Amanda D said...

I thought the first one was okay, the second one was better and the third was good, and the fourth was okay. I agree that they weren't well written. I have met so many people who so disliked the Bella character, but I quite liked her. I suppose because she seemed like such a typical teenager {like myself, perhaps. Clumsy, self-absorbed, etc. :)}.

As far as the movie goes...I'll see it but I can't imagine that Hollywood can stand up to the movie I had in my head as I read it. I'm sure I'll be disappointed.

I did read somewhere that Meyers realized after book 3 that most of her readers were young mothers so she changed the last book from being aimed at teenagers to being aimed at the young mother age group.

Whitney R said...

I like them. I left a long comment about them on someone's blog.... I'm trying to remember.

But I think they are a great fiction book and I agree with the holes. I think they are a great escape from reality. But that's the thing I think most people need to understand - It Is Not Reality.

I own all 4 books and have read them through twice (Except the fourth... only read that once) and in a few years I'm sure I'll read them through again.

I like them, but I'm not crazy about them like quite a few are. :) I enjoyed your review.

Jillene said...

I have read all 4 and I liked them. I agree with there being holes and stuff but when I read them I took them for what they were--books for teenagers. I think that reading them with that in mind made it eaiser to let the holes pass by and just enjoy the books.

Chelan said...

I wondered some of the things you mentioned as well...especially the period thing!:-D
Here's is how I see things as far as these series are concerned.
I love these books (you knew that of course) and I just can't bring myself to criticize them. Why?? Because Stephenie is not a professional writer. She's a mom of 3 boys who had an amazing dream one night and woke up and started typing it up so she wouldn't forget it....and then it grew into all of these books!It just amazes me that someone with no prior experience in creative writing could just suddenly be able to create this world. I think it says a lot about the potential hidden talents that each of us might have. Her writing does have a "raw" quality about it,but I love it...even her repetitive use of words like chagrin...marble..etc... And like you said, if it gets non-readers like me to read, then it can't be that bad. Plus, these books practically saved my sanity during this election year :-) I'm so glad you read all of them. #4 was a favorite of mine too...tied with #1.

Aunt LoLo said...

I loved the books...but not for the reasons you might think. I think what Stephanie Meyer did that made her books so WILDLY popular WAS her intensely physical scenes. I'm going out on a limb here...but, sometimes, as a new mama (sleep depped and kid crazy as I was when I first read the first book) you need something a little more stimulating than the daily newspaper and your friends' sweet blogs. I was there - I needed something that I really WANTED to follow, that wouldn't leave me feeling filthy afterwards. Stephanie Meyers delivered.

Another reason I love the books is this - it's changed my parents' lives. They'll gladly admit it! My mother is an aspiring writer, and she loved Stephanie's style. One day, after sighing through a few hours of one of the books, she realzed, "Hey! I CAN have that in my life! I've got a husband!!! Where is he?" I think it inspired MORE devotion and interest in quite a few couples who needed a little...boost. Is that too much info?

I'm just saying, Stephanie Meyers gave an exhilarating, passionate story....that was still clean enough to not offend our grandparents. The fact that they were vampires made it interesting, but it definitely wasn't necessary. I scare very easily, and I have nightmares/dreams about anything that scares me in the LEAST (commercials included.) These books gave only HAPPY dreams, if any!

Anonymous said...

I *loved* the books! They were so much cleaner than usual teenage fare (think "Sweet Valley High), they make abstincence look "cool" (as opposed to even the PG movies), and I had so much fun reading them that I didn't even notice all the "holes" in the story!

I thought it was funny that you asked about Bella's period--Stephenie Meyer was asked that question by a fan, after which she wrinkled her nose and said "gross! next question!" I think some people just don't like to go there--too much information, LOL!

flip flop mama said...

I pretty much agree with you. I enjoyed reading them while I was immersed in the story but they left me feeling, um, unfulfilled at the end. The story was entertaining, but lacked a lot of substance. I too am very skeptical of books that become so widely popular--except I love Harry Potter--so it took me quite a while to actually read them.

Mikki said...

I enjoyed reading the first in the series, I haven't read the rest of them yet, not because I don't want to, just don't have the time. (it would interfere with blogging LOL)

I didn't even think of all those holes. I just enjoyed it without giving it much thought. Which for me is the point, I'm usually reading to get away from the craziness of life around me, and I just want to escape to another place--this book allowed me to do that, not a lot of thinking had to go on on my part. :o)

Cosmopolite said...

I'm sadly addicted to twilight. Even with the plot holes, the creepy age difference, etc. etc. I can't help but be addicted.
Your review is extremely true, and yet I go on obliviously with my fingers in my ears yelling "LALALALA" because I love Twilight.
They need rehab for twilight addicts.

Traci said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you. Especially concerning Bella's supposed "maturity". I think Bella and Edward's relationship is so typical teenager, particularly regarding communicaton. Instead of really talking to one another about important issues (like pregnancy) they both jump to dramatic conclusions and manipulate one another into doing what they each want. I mean, is that mature?

I am like your neice. I scare easily and sometimes hang onto disturbing immages. This series gave me a few difficult things to deal with - particularly Rosalie's story. For that reason alone, I would encourage my kids to read Twilight when they're older.

But I did enjoy reading the books. They were fun (for the most part) and absorbing. A good escape from my sometimes boring routine.

Jill said...

I'm not a fan. I read the first three, and quit there. I expected more knowing that she was a member of the church. I know, I know, everyone says "Bella wasn't portrayed as an LDS girl living those standards." But, these books were targeted for young women in an impressionable age and I disagree that these books are "clean" or even "PG". It made me angry when Bella lied to her dad about having a sleepover with a girlfriend and then shared a bed with Edward. I know that in the fourth book both infidelity and abortion were suggested to Bella and that is contrary to the standards of the church, even if she didn't do them. What does that tell young women?

I won't let my daughter read them, I won't see the movie. I'm disappointed that an LDS author with the exposure to the world like she has would portray a world where the standards she claims to live everyday are not upheld.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I enjoyed reading the series for escape reading. I think I enjoyed book #4 more than the others (once we got past the drawn out honeymoon scene), because I felt the quality of writing and the plot was better.

Spot on review :) !!

Summer said...

Well I would discuss more but I already put up two posts about the immense problems I have with this series. :)

I don't know why The Host isn't being raved over. It's superior in every way.

stephi k said...

My husband used to work at the prison and so the pedofile-like age difference creeped him out too (he read them). I would not let my 12-year-old read these books either.
I read that someone asked Meyers the period question and she just said "Gross!"
She also has said that she does not think she is a great writer, but a pretty good story-teller. I agree. I enjoyed them.

Richelle said...

I pretty much agree with everything you said. Good book over all. Definitely don't think a 13 year old should be reading it. The last book especially concentrates so much on their physical relationship. I would feel uncomfortable with my daughter reading it, until she was more mature. It was an entertaining read, though, and I liked how it ended overall.

Nancy Clark said...

I read the first three books during a vacation; they were entertaining and kept me from interrupting my husband while he caught up on work during the evenings. My main problem was whenever people saw me with the book (or if I ever mention having read them) they exclaim, "Twilight?! I'm totally obsessed too!!" I kept the 4th book hidden while I read it at the hospital during a recent maternity stay, so I could save myself from the nurses a)giving away spoilers, or b)assuming that I was an obsessive fan counting down the days until the movie release. And I must say, I never could get past the whole 100-year-old man creepiness either.

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Leslie said...

Thanks to everybody for your awesome comments. I know that there are a lot of emotions about this series! Hopefully you can all understand that my criticisms didn't mean that I don't appreciate the books or that I don't appreciate what Meyer has done with the series! I appreciated Stephi K's comment that Stephenie Meyer didn't think of herself as a great writer but as a good storyteller. I think she's definitely that! I mean...if the stories weren't interesting, could I really have read them in 2 days (for each book)? No way!!! And...I think she has great potential as a writer too so I hope she continues to write. If there are still people wanting to comment on this...please do! I love to hear what your feelings and responses were to the novels.

Kirbell said...

Firstly, I applaud Stephenie Meyer (hubby's cousin) for writing down the story that came to her in a dream and giving a voice to the characters she felt almost created themselves WHILE SHE WAS BUSY RAISING THREE CHILDREN. I can't even begin to think about doing anything like that with my 3 kids around. I also give her kudos for following through by finding a publisher and submitting herself to the endless editing and changing of her "baby" and having to deal with both the positive (slightly insane) and negative reactions to her books.
I have watched her journey from the beginning, when she first had the idea, and I am amazed by it all!
I do agree that they are not the best written books, nothing anyone's going to be reading in college, but they are still very good. Especially the story.
I think that a lot of the criticism comes as a result of the popularity of the books and the fact that you have to ask yourself what makes them so popular. Personally, I don't want to be part of a vampire-crazed, love-deprived, teenage drama-queen crowd, so in a way, I don't want to let myself like the books. I almost wish I could be a teenager again and read these books with my teenage mind and compare Edward to the likes of Doug and Ryan and Zach, cry with Bella wen she cries and imagine what I would do if I were in her fantastical situation. Almost.
But I am an adult and while I enjoyed the escape, they're not a classic. So I will let my daughter enjoy them when she is old enough...I think 16.

Sarah said...

I used to love the Twilight series. LOVED it. I've read all the books, including the unpublished Midnight Sun, bought so much merch it's not even funny anymore, and just basically dissolved into a bubbling fan. When I saw the movie, it disappointed me so much that I snapped out of it. I am now happily anti-Twilight. :)

All the plot holes and inconsistencies just further my negative opinion of the books. Meyer has said herself that she "doesn't think about what [she's] doing" when she writes. I hope I am not the only one who is baffled by her success based on this statement alone.

Speaking as a fellow writer, I think Bella Swan is a Mary Sue. For those who don't know the term, a Mary Sue is a character whom everyone instantly loves, including his or her love interest, has no notable flaws, and is basically perfect in every way. Some Twilight fans may argue, "But her clumsiness!" That would have been a good flaw if it had not been portrayed as endearing. And the fact that she thinks she is "plain" when she is indeed very pretty? Irritating in and of itself. I could go on.

Personally, I can't stand Bella. In the second book, when Edward left her, her lethargy just reinforced her codependency in my mind. Jacob was there for her. Jacob picked her up every time she fell. Jacob healed her. And what does she do the very moment she hears about Edward? She runs off to him, leaving Jacob confused, hurt, and alone. I feel for the guy. And in the third book, when she realized she "loved" Jacob and Edward, I wanted to throttle her. Love is all about commitment, and when you truly love someone, you love only that person. Attraction and love are two completely different things. Bottom line: Bella needs to get her head on straight.

And don't even get me started on Nessie (I'd use her full name but it's just too bothersome). The fact that Meyer tried to explain vampires--which are mythical creatures, let's keep in mind--with science is absurd. The reason vampires do not exist is because they cannot be explained with science. It's as simple as that. Nessie should not even exist. But for the sake of argument, let's say Bella does get pregnant. Nessie would not be half-and-half. But that's far too long to explain, and this comment is long enough.

In conclusion, I hate the Twilight books. I think they were poorly written, and their success is just disappointing. However, I don't think Stephenie Meyer is a bad writer. I just think she needs a little more experience. Anyone read The Host? I love it. ;)