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.
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.