Stephanie Meyer, 2005

Spoilers abound, but you probably expected that.

About half-way through reading this book, I began to wish that I had read it when it came out.  Because if I hadn't basically known what was to come in the later books, I could have mustered both a little hope that the book would dig itself out of its hole, and more hate on where the book ends up.  As it is, my overall response is a relatively apathetic "Meh."  On the plus side it reads really fast, except for when supremely awkward turns of phrase threw me.  On the minus side, it was so lacking in substance as to be lighter than I like even for popcorn reading, maybe call it cotton candy prose.

As of about half-way through, Twilight, while written in a simplistic style with very poor description, didn't completely suck.  Even with what I knew about the series, I could almost convince myself that the whole thing had a pretty smart unreliable narrator thing going on.  Bella is a sullen, self-absorbed teenager with a serious crush.  This is not weird.  She is not a special snowflake, she is not mature for her age, she is not smarter than everyone else, she just thinks she is, because that's what most of us do when we're teenagers.  This is so obvious in the writing, I'm a little confused that the author seems to miss it.  Edward, despite being undead, is a teenager too.  He's not mature as he should be for a hundred-year-old vampire, he's just a posturing “bad boy” asshole.  What depresses me, is that this could have been a decent book.  After all, supernatural charisma and adolescent hormones are awfully similar.

They are both dumb characters, but with a better plot, they could have been interesting.  But the entire second half of the book (i.e. the plot) comes out of nowhere, is completely idiotic, and just... ugh.

Ways the book could have pulled out of the dive, without even changing the first half of what Meyer wrote:
  • Edward's “family” disapproves of their relationship, or demands that he turn her, or kicks him out, or something, anything with actual tension to it.
  • Bella unwittingly leads the werewolves to the vamps, or unwittingly breaks their treaty and she gets trapped in some supernatural turf war
  • As written, Edward refuses to turn Bella, but goes along with her for quite a while, separating her from her friends and family, then in the last chapter, they meet a pretty new girl, and Bella doesn't return to school the next day.  No sequel.
  • Bella leaves for a weekend to visit her mom, returns aware that Edward's affect on her is a hypnotic trick (seriously, it works with her own narration).
  • Bella finally tricks one of the vamps into turning her, (possibly can't handle the power, kills/almost kills someone?) and Edward is no longer attracted to her now that she's undead.  (This is seriously the only logic I can muster for what could be going on inside his head.)
  • Edward loses control around Bella, she manages to lie to him that she's okay long enough to get away, flees to sun country.  Lives in fear.
  • Similar: Edward finally takes out one of the hapless high school boys in a jealous rage.  This cannot be pretty.  Bella witnesses this, freaks, turns to the wolves, or possibly finds a Van Helsing-style character (preferably an older woman) to help her drive them off.
  • Edward leaves town to “protect” Bella. (As I believe happens in the next one?)  Bella leaves town to search for him.  Has adventures, nice coming-of-age fairy tale stuff.  Reaches him when she's 22, he's...still 17.  Discovers he's not nearly as pretty, or as nice, as she remembers, moves on with her life.

All of these would have been plausible endings.  If one of these things happen in the later books, somebody let me know.  What is not plausible is the pablum that was written. 

More Nit-picky things:
You can tell this isn't a teenager or young person writing, even in 2005, because Bella seems to be fighting a losing battle against pop-up ads from the instant she opens her browser.  Sweetie, that's not the internet, that's a virus.  You should get that checked.

Also, I find the image of touching/kissing/whatever someone whose body feels hard and cold, like marble, to be extremely unsexy.

Why doesn't Edward want to turn Bella?  All his reasons are dumb, unless there's something terrible about being a vamp, but that just doesn't seem to be the case here.  Something else this book badly needs is the downside to vampirism, other than an urge to eat people, which they don't seem to have much trouble with.  Similar to Interview, the biggest annoyance with being a vampire seems to be a sense of existential ennui.

Sorry Meyer, but Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex is not a new or interesting excuse for putting a damper on teenage hormones.  

Also, being unrealistically clumsy and a danger magnet is only an appropriate character flaw if you're the token girl in a Saturday morning cartoon in the 80's.  Being sure you've found the answer to your life and your true love at 17 is a great flaw.  Too bad Meyer didn't realize she'd written it.

And she desperately needs to learn to 'show don't tell'.

Why in the name of anything holy, if you were immortal, AND needed to avoid humans to some degree, would you choose a cover as a HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT?!?  That, more than anything, causes me to recoil in disbelief, and doubt that the vamps are entirely sane.

Also, they smell nice?  WTF?  That's just... too weird for me.

It was interesting reading this one right after Guilty Pleasures, I found myself comparing scenes.  Both first person, romantic/scary vampire books, neither written super well.  To be fair, Guilty Pleasures is definitely written for adults, and a lot of what I disliked about Twilight was how wussy it was.  Not enough sexuality, not enough violence, not even for your average teen movie, much less a vampire novel.  Also, despite often being technically clunky, I find Hamilton's writing just more fun.

But, choose for yourself.  On kissing a vampire:
Edward hesitated to test himself, to see if this was safe, to make sure he was still in control of his need.
And then his cold, marble lips pressed very softly against mine.
What neither of us was prepared for was my response.
Blood boiled under my skin, burned in my lips.  My breath came in a wild gasp.  My fingers knotted in his hair, clutching him to me.  My lips parted as I breathed in his heady scent.
Immediately I felt him turn to unresponsive stone beneath my lips.  His hands gently, but with irresistible force, pushed my face back.  I opened my eyes and saw his guarded expression.
“Oops,” I breathed.
“That's an understatement.”
His eyes were wild, his jaw clenched in acute restraint, yet he didn't lapse from his perfect articulation.  -Twilight, Page 282

He was going to kiss me.  I didn't want him to.  But I didn't want the police to stop and question us.  I didn't want to explain the blood stains, the torn blouse.  His lips hesitated over my mouth.  His heartbeat was loud in my head, his pulse was racing, and my breathing was ragged with his need.
His lips were silk, his tongue a quick wetness.  I tried to pull back and found his hand at the back of my neck, pressing my mouth against his.
The police spotlight swept over us.  I relaxed against Jean-Claude, letting him kiss me.  Our mouths pressed together.  My tongue found the smooth hardness of fangs.  I pulled away, and he let me.  He pressed my face against his chest, one arm like steel against my back, pressing me against him. He was trembling, and it wasn't from the rain. -Guilty Pleasures, Page 39-40
But for all my problems with the book, I can't hate Bella.  She's annoying and dumb, but I just want to give her a small superpower, some tai chi or ballet or something to fix her balance, some friends, and some common sense, and hope she discovers the worth of being her own person.  I know that's not how the books go, but in the world where I don't read any more of them, I can dream.

1 Star - Didn't Much Like It

Vampiric powers in Twilight include:
No explicit hypnosis, do have intense personal charisma
No animal Control
Cannot turn into bat, wolf, dust
Appearance stuck at age of 'death'
Smell nice?
Individual vamps have extra powers pulled from the Psionics Handbook: mind-reading, empathic control, precognition.

Limitations include:
Reflect sunlight very...obviously.
Do not sleep during the day, or need darkness for powers
Do not need to be invited into a building
Not weak against garlic, roses, crosses or other holy symbols

New vampires?
Made by “venom”, transmitted in a single bite.  (“Venom?”  Seriously?)  This should push these guys way way down on the Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness, but it's explained that they almost always kill anyone they bite.  Except for these vampires.  Who are all nice and sweetness and light, and American as apple pie.

How to destroy:
Dismember and burn, apparently.  But they're super strong, so I'm really not sure how a human would go about killing one of these guys.  It's very unclear why the Twilight vamps haven't overrun their world.

Next Week:
The book that we got for free, that inspired me to go on this wild vampire chase:  The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan


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