enter night book coverYoung Adult/Fantasy Fiction

Twilight

Stephanie Meyer (2005)

 
·      #1 New York Times Bestseller
·      One of Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Books of 2005

The book begins with Isabella “Bella” Swan making a move from Arizona to the rain drenched town of Forks, Washington, where she happens to fall for “17”-year-old vampire Edward Cullen. By chance he happens to sits next to her in Biology and also shares a lunch period with her.

Told in a first person limited narrative style, Stephanie Meyers debut novel, though rejected from 14 publishers before being picked up by Little Brown and Company, has made its mark on pop culture and the publishing world to the delight of millions of women and girls and the chagrin of the men in their lives.

It is easy to attack the Twilight Saga because of its movies, but I’d like to talk about just this novel. Honestly, it’s not that bad. And I’d like to offer, not that my humble opinion overly matters, that I get why people liked it.

I’ve recently taken up reading some Young Adult fiction and find the decent to good ones fun to read. Naturally, I felt that I should take a look at one that created a phenomenon. Which doesn’t mean by virtue that it’s any good, but as a hopeful writer I wanted to explore what the novel did well. That is after all the point of a workshop.

Perhaps the writing has been cleaned up after it was initially shopped around but I find the writing style to be highly readable and effective. There might be a little too much of how beautiful she finds all the vampires and far too much of Edward pouting but that’s the point of the novel. I like the clumsy Bella (who is portrayed differently in the movie than in the book) and find her teenage behavior believable. She is not quite so angsty. I also see her infatuation with a boy she finds that ridiculously gorgeous. Twilight is many a teen girl’s fantasy and I think (and they’d probably agree, certainly in hind sight) that it was a mistake for all those publishers to pass on this book.

The build up, her many male suitors (despite her clumsiness and self doubt), her confusion by Edward’s strange behavior towards her and the danger that eventually comes out of her close proximity to the vampires all comes along at a good enough pace that you could give yourself over to Bella’s world through her eyes. But I am worried about the lesson the book offers. It offers up the dream, but at no cost. Even fairy tale princesses often have to overcome some obstacle, normally by possessing a redeeming strength or virtue. Her being “different” doesn’t seem to be enough. The happy ending is bought too cheaply.
And why is this 104-year-old vampire or any of the other vampires going to high school?

The only other thing that truly bothers me about the novel is that it does not do a good job of portraying just how serious blood lust is. To compare blood lust to a heroin addiction with a mere simile doesn’t offer a clear enough idea and I hope that her intended audience is not part of the ongoing heroin epidemic. The fact that Meyer’s vampires, historically creatures of the night, have been changed into creatures who do not sleep and who’s skin sparkles in the sun remains a constant barb I use against the female friends of mine who love these books. And that this book helped spawn the inexcusably irresponsible Fifty Shades of Grey is a black mark against it, to me.


 WORKSHOP
 

That changes or direction I would have taken this novel would probably not have lent itself to a multi million, or is it billion, dollar franchise. I would not have written a happy ending nor would I have had the vampires still attending high school and falling in love with a 17-year-old girl simply because he can’t read her mind. But then again, Edward is a rather shallow and immature creature. If, like in the book and movie Let Me In based on the novel Let the Right One In, the vampires don’t really mature but I still wouldn’t be going to high school.
I would have made it into Edward stalking Bella, which to some extent he did. I would have cut down on their powers. Eliminated the whole walking around in the day thing, though having vampires flee to where it rains all the time was actually an interesting touch.

I think I would have gone the route of the movie Fear where the two characters find one another and become infatuated with each other. When the girl begins to be frightened by the vampires’ dark side, or real side, she starts to desire an end to the relationship. But he just can’t get enough. What would have happened if Bella didn’t want to see Edward anymore? Of course throughout the book he’s trying to tell her that it’s too dangerous for her to be with him but she never agrees. What if she did? Would he then kill her, despite being forbidden to do so? And then, if he did, what would be the consequence of that? Or what if he decided to turn her into a vampire in order to keep her with him? How would that have turned out? But then that would have been the plot of Dracula.

If I were in Stephanie Meyer’s ear as the book was being turned down, these are the suggestions I would have been making. Of course she’s a published author of over five novels and I, well, we’ll see…      

April 2016                                                                                                                                                                                       

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