Twilight – the series

Saturday, May 2, 2009 Permalink

When I started this it was about my oft-used coping mechanism of watching and re-watching certain comfort movies.

I went off track sometime during the draft, however, as I talked about my latest crutch and it seems that this has turned into a review or analysis of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. So, I will have to get back to the coping mechanisms later as I ponder the success of the novels: Twilight; New Moon; Eclipse; and Breaking Dawn. (Known from here in as 1, 2, 3, and 4 out of laziness). After all, it is rare that something can incite anticipation and passion in teenagers and adults alike. So why, I wonder, is the series so popular?

I have one friend who has read them for the vampire factor. Not a goth, but an intelligent and articulate mother, she loves all things other-worldly.

I don’t. If there was a reason I initially rebelled against reading the novels, it was for that exact reason. I don’t like the Sci-Fi or the Fantasy genre. Sure, I want to escape from the mundane-ness of my life, but not quite that much. Also putting me off was the fact that the novels targeted young adults – an audience I deviate from. Significantly.

I started inadvertently about six months ago. Almost by accidence or circumstance. My local library has new novels on weekly loans. And there it was, sitting there one day and so it was borrowed. In desperation (of reading fodder) more than design.

Immediately I was addicted. I remember my early thoughts. There, one Saturday afternoon in the bath. It was an easy read. Simple and welcoming. I read it in one sitting – in a couple of hours. And I was desperate for more.

What was it then; that drew me (and others) in? After recently re-reading the series, a number of things strike me.

It is the ultimate fairytale. Good girl falling for the bad guy. Not just a bad guy, but a superhero bad guy. Interspersed with hints of Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy, our hero, Edward Cullen is wealthy, dark, brooding, intense and enigmatic. He is fiercely protective of young Bella Swan and her honour. He is every girl’s (whether we admit it or not) ultimate fantasy.
Bella on the other hand, is described as nothing special. Attractive, but not beautiful. Awkward and shy. Though a novelty for the small town of Forks, she is pretty normal. Spectacularly unspecial, in contrast to Edward’s beauty and prowess.

Theirs becomes the ultimate love story.

Book 1 drew me in. Book 2 I hated. Fortunately for author Meyer, I had read the excerpt online of what was to be (and may still be) Book 5 (Midnight Sun) – Book 1 from Edward’s perspective. This novel provided much context and made me realize (retrospectively) that much was missing from Book 1. What surprised me the most, was – even though I knew what happens – I loved the draft Book 5 and wanted more. I wanted her to finish it. I wanted more of Bella and Edward.

After the disappointment of Book 2, I continued reading. I realized in retrospect that Book 2 provided context for later storylines, but it lacked everything Book 1 offered – Edward and Bella – the love story. I had heard from a friend that Book 2 was a let-down so I stuck around for 3 and 4, which I devoured with relish.

Having said that, I am unashamedly critical of parts of the novels. Meyer skips periods of time and then goes into detail about others and I felt as it was missing huge chunks of the storyline. I read on her website, that after Twilight, she wrote Forever Dawn, which further explored the Bella-Edward love story. She said it was around this time she got the publishing deal for Twilight and learned it was being marketed as Young Adult (YA) Fiction. She says that Forever Dawn wasn’t suitable for the YA market, so she shelved it and set about writing New Moon. She was therefore writing Book 2 as Book 1 was being edited. When she found that Jacob Black took over Book 2, she had to go back and weave him more into the storyline of Book 1. I wonder if that’s why Book 2 suffers. Perhaps she set out writing with no direction, other than to defer the Edward-Bella love story until she could work out how to weave it into the YA genre.

In some ways I can understand young girls’ adoration of the novels. In some ways they are a tad self-indulgent. Every fantasy comes true. Everything is a tad too perfect. Bella gets to remain the centre of attention, adored by some, hated (seemingly irrationally) by others who go to any end to see her destruction. Some of this is too contrived and, though it didn’t interfere with my reading, I consciously eye-rolled at the storyline from time to time.

Throughout the series I managed to ignore the lack of realism. I mean, the likelihood of our heroine coming across a vampire and werewolf in middle America? It was only the level of self-indulgence that Meyer allowed herself that irked me.

I agree though, with those critics who have commented on the extremity of Bella’s weakness and a perception that the ‘damsel in distress is rescued by the strong hero’. Meyer rebuts this, saying that in later novels, Bella in fact saves Edward. True, but only when she becomes a superhero herself. She explains that Bella seems weak in comparison to the Cullens and the werewolves. I am sure this is the case, but the constant references to Bella falling asleep and having to be carried around and her constant exhaustion offered me pictures of a pale, weak girl. Not a potential role model for young women.

My rant over, I must admit I can only recommend the novels to a potential audience.
I am not sure if author, Stephenie Meyer is a literary genius, but she has got a way with a storyline and she presses all of the right buttons, to draw us in and make us want more.

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