Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

So yeah. I read the tween vampire romance thing. I’m not ashamed. Not too ashamed anyway. Think about it the way you would Harry Potter and you’ll feel less guilt about how delicious it can be sometimes.

Twilight is the first in a four novel series Mrs. Meyer wrote over the last four to six years. There is a movie, which I’ve not seen. The novels sold; bigtime.

So I read through them in the first month of this new year, amid the tumult and pomp of presidential transition and towards the springlike week of Valentine’s Day. They were a great candy coated escapist fantasy.

Bella Swan moves to the town of Forks. She’s an odd-girl out, who doesn’t fit in with much of anyone. She’s awkward and charming and horrifically self-absorbed. Then she meets the Cullen family and her world is changed forever. Cause… You guessed it. They drink blood like barflies shoot tequila.

This first novel deals with Bella’s budding relationship with Edward, and her coming to grips with the supernatural elements of the world around her.

It’s short, written at about a sixth grade level.

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
In the second installment, things continue more or less in the same tempo as they did in Twilight, only with a change of leading man. As the title indicates, the werewolves which were hinted at in the first novel come out to play, and we learn lots more about them. Poor Bella is heartbroken, and cries entirely too much throughout this book. Jake’s loveable demeanor and the ending redeem what is otherwise the weakest entry in the series.

Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
The tween vampire bit takes a step forward here and we get a healthy tale of teen boys fighting over the girl they both want. Of course, one is a vampire, the other a werewolf, but hey, that’s what you get when you take a trite trope, like using vampirism as a metaphor for budding sexuality. However, the yarn is entertaining, very fast to read, and I almost guarantee you’ll go out to buy the next one right away. Because, while Mrs. Meyer seems as unaware of convention, or the rich canon in which she is writing as one could imagine, she does make you want to know what happens next to Bella, Jacob, Edward, Alice, and the rest.

Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
Here, in the final installment of the mighty Twilight series, things take a big leap forward. For starters, the book is much longer than the previous three. Second, the writing style and narrative jump about five grade levels ahead. We’ve finally got sex, some seriously gruesome scenes, and so on. One gets the feeling that Mrs. Meyer either had a lot of help here, or that it took her a thousand published pages to get warmed up, and that she’s finally come into her own a bit.

The plot takes a radical right turn pretty early into the novel. There’s a cool final showdown, and things are resolved to my satisfaction at least. The core mechanics of the series are still all here: pain, love, loss, angst about feelings, etc. (So don’t expect literature, just expect a slightly matured and longer version of the previous novels.)

As some reviewers have noted, the fourth book can be considered a bit clumsy (like Bella), because almost everyone gets what they want, and frequently we have to bend through some pretty uncomfortable suspensions of disbelief in order to accept the whys and wherefores of the deal. But everything is nicely wrapped up in a bow by the end, so you get what you came for, I suppose.

I’m comfortable saying that I enjoyed this series. I bought the central tenant, and the special powers that the vampires have make you want to be one. So it’s aspirational, and cheesy, and crunchy like popcorn without offering any real sustenance.

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