In a Writing Excuses Podcast on critical reading I was challenged to read a book that I didn’t want to read and learn from it. The book I selected was Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Now, I am not a huge fan of horror or romance. I am also male. Considering that, I will try to be as fair and honest as I can be in reviewing this novel, I want to focus on the strengths and weaknesses in story and writing as opposed to the things that I won’t like no matter how well it is written. That said, here goes.
Mere moments into this book I was frustrated with Bella’s motivations. She is off to her first day of school and worried about making friends and being embarrassed. Real. Believable. Understandable. Contrary to her expectations, the other kids in school are quite nice to her and seem to accept her. Suddenly, Bella adopts this wearisome attitude like she is simply humoring the stupid mortality of Mike and Jessica, who are clearly quite willing to be her friends. Fake. Unrealistic. Lame. To me this is a false promise made by the author and it made me immediately distrust Bella as a character. Throughout the book I continued to be mystified by her shallow motivations.
There is never any reason given as to why Bella is attracted to Edward. Only an “inexplicable attraction” alongside obsession with his “perfect”, “godlike” body. This rocky foundation for attraction is reinforced only by further infatuation when Edward saves her from the van crash and the creepy stalker person. The only reason Edward is attracted to her is because she smells good. The romantic elements felt unrealistic and extremely clunky. Edward and Bella fell in love because the plot said they were supposed to, not because they were written in love with each other in a realistic and intriguing way.
Bella also felt like a flat character. She is a bookworm, cook, and klutz. Edward is a shiny tragic action hero.
Edward constantly warns Bella about how dangerous it is to be around him and in love with a vampire. To me this was a promise that Bella was going to experience some serious danger. I was very much let down. When James and his coven show up and he wants to hunt Bella I got excited, I was looking forward to some superhuman dueling/vampire MMA. As the Cullen’s made a plan to hide Bella and lead James off I had a pretty good idea of how the rest of the book would pan out. They would try and fail to hide Bella, James would either bribe/capture/threaten Edward and/or Bella would do something stupid and James would get her. I was honestly excited to see what would happen.
Then Bella gets lured away from the Cullens and falls into James hands and she is in serious danger AND…. Deus Ex Wrench. The Cullens show up and in just one sentence the entire threat disappears. “Emmet and Jasper took care of him.” Another false promise. Sure, she gets hurt but this entire terrible threat that the entire book hinged on was resolved completely lamely and it didn’t cost the characters anything other than some relatively short term discomfort. All things considered, the false promises and weak characters made this story very difficult for me to enjoy.
As to the actual writing I was frequently annoyed by several common occurrences. Edward’s body and facial expressions are described repetitively at least a dozen times throughout the novel. “beautiful”, “perfect”, “godlike”. It was very irritating and if that is an honest representation of how a teenage girls are viewing guys then I am honestly disheartened by the human race.
One thing about the book that was well written is Meyer’s control of tension. When Edward is tempted to kill and eat the girl he is love with it makes for considerable sexual tension even when he just touches her cheek. Unfortunately, because the characters were so dishonest it kind of ruined the illusion for me because I was never once afraid for Bella until James arrived.
All things considered this angsty teen vampire romance novel was pretty much what I expected it would be. I can see why a lot of people would like to read it but I am not going to waste time finishing the series. I originally planned to, and I got aways into the second novel when I gave up. Once again, another false promise. The resolution of Edward’s and Bella’s relationship at the end of Twilight was: “This is going to be difficult, but we love each other and no matter what happens we will always be together!” New Moon begins: “Papercut-PSYCHE!” and their relationship falls apart. It completely invalidated anything the first book did well for their relationship. When I ran into the four blank pages that chronicle the number of months that Bella sat around depressed I refused to continue.
I read it. I learned a few things. I’m glad to be moving on to other books.