Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Teen Vampire Taste Test, Part 2: Wherein I Do Not Get It

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

"What is this shit?" -Greil Marcus, on Bob Dylan's Self-Portrait

I'm not one of those people who believes that YA literature is a slum for writers who can't cut it writing for adults. Writing for teens is hard -- cases in point, Michael Chabon and Carl Hiassen, both fine writers whose attempts at YA were only moderately good. And I don't believe that teen readers tolerate crap books any more than adults do. That said, I'm completely baffled by the popularity of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series.

For those who are unfamiliar with the series, it is about an ordinary teenage girl who moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father. There, she falls in love with a vampire named Edward, becomes entangled in his strange adopted vampire family, and finds herself in grave danger as a result.

And I disliked it more intensely than I have ever disliked any book, with the possible exception of The Scarlet Letter.

My reasons:

1. It is incredibly boring. It takes about 200 pages for the vampire love story to kick in, and up until that point, Twilight is just a really unmemorable high school story.

2. Bella is quite possibly the dullest 17-year-old girl who ever lived. Her only remarkable trait is that she falls down a lot, and she reminds me of Anne (aka Bland) from Arrested Development.

3. The relationship between Edward and Bella is creepily intense, but entirely without passion. The source of their attraction seems to be that he's very pretty, and that she smells very good to him. After he rescues her from a few sticky situations, he becomes very protective and possessive, sometimes to the point of sitting in her room and watching her sleep. I think there's a name for that, when your boyfriend starts isolating you from your friends and won't let you out of his sight, and I don't think it's "love."

4. The book's big climax is unnecessarily elaborate and convoluted. I have no idea why an evil vampire would go to such lengths to kill Bella, when she could easily be done in by a frayed electrical cord or perhaps a plastic bag left laying around.

I would have found explicit sex or wanton drug abuse or splattery violence less offensive that the implied message of the relatively "wholesome" Twilight, which is:

1. Girls are helpless, and need to be rescued... almost constantly.

2. Teenage girls should strive for unhealthily obsessive relationships because that's what true love is.

I can't discount the opinions of hundreds of thousands of readers who clearly adore this series. However, I have no idea why people like it when it is clearly awful.


Rhinoa said...

I am here via Weekly Geeks and was particularly intrigued as you really disliked this book which I really enjoyed. I can see where you are coming from with the points you raise, and if you didn't like the first one then I definitely don't recommend reading the others in the series which are not as good (or more bad!). I did enjoy it though like I said despite its flaws.

mary_m said...

I know, I know... I've just resigned myself to being in the minority on this one. Clearly Meyer is doing something right to have so many fans.

Rebecca said...

Reading this, I just realized I have never fully posted on my blog my thoughts on Twilight. The whole series became a huge guilty pleasure for me.I read all 3 books in one week. But I had sooooo many issues with them. Yet I couldn't stop reading.

By the end of the third book, I just wanted them to have sex already and I couldn't understand why she had to chose between the vampire & the werewolf. She could either: a) pick a normal guy instead or b) have a polyamorous relationship with both. Why choose? LOL

I also wanted Bella to be a different kind of girl.

Oh...and the mindless plotless writing felt like listening in on teenagers babbling about high school crap that no one cares about.

But I still can't wait to see the movie.Yup.

Jackie said...

It's good to hear that someone didn't like the Twilight series. I've been hearing nothing but rave reviews about it that it was putting me off of it. I'm still going to try it, but at least I know someone out there doesn't like it in case I don't as well.

via Weekly Geeks

mary_m said...

You have no idea how much better this makes me feel - the Twilight skeptics are coming out of the woodwork!

Bibliolatrist said...

Hello! I too am here via Weekly Geeks and I must thank you for this review. You've confirmed my suspicions about this series.

Michelle said...

I'm a bit confused on this one; I finishied it recently and found it to be one of those books I just couldn't put down, but I was left feeling unfulfilled. I didn't really like it very much, yet I'm drawn to the second one like a fly to UV light, which will greusomely electrocute me without word to my kin.

Julie said...

Here via Weekly Geeks via Bibliolatrist -- and I thought I was the only one who didn't like this book. I agree with everything you said, particularly about Bella being so dull. So true!

laura said...

i like watching freshman girls swoon over edward for about half of volume was poignant given the quality of available men.

i'm glad mary and brady are still prevailing out there...

mary_m said...

Ah, suddenly I see the attraction. Compared to the typical freshman boy, Edward is suddenly quite the catch.

Laura, give me a clue where I know you from!

Irish said...

Great review of Twilight. Like you I am completely baffled as to why this book is so popular. I've asked some of my friends who've read it and all they can say in response is that Edward is so dreamy. What is dreamy about a possessive, controlling stalker? If you ever figure out the draw to this book please let me know!

Anonymous said...

HELLO. You are my hero for this review. Thumbs up!

That is all!

Anonymous said...

I recently read this book and really enjoyed it. I wasn't orginially going to read it, but eventually I did. My reasons why are at my post about it.

I don't know if I'll read any of the other books in the series or not... but I do see where you're coming from on some of these points.