26

Twilight (Book)

Twilight review!Reviewed by Morgan Elektra

Written by Stephenie Meyer

Published by Little, Brown Young Readers


Twilight review!Reviewed by Morgan Elektra

Written by Stephenie Meyer

Published by Little, Brown Young Readers


There’s something you need to know about me. I’ve mentioned it before, but I feel I need to really impress it upon you now. I love words. And I don’t mean like, “I’m an avid reader” kind of love. I mean I regularly engage in a passionate affair with the written word. I love the way words look on paper, and the way they sound when spoken. When someone, anyone, strings them together in a way that pleases the eye, the ear, or the mind, I feel physical satisfaction. I’m not just a bookworm. Give me a dictionary and a thesaurus and I can occupy myself for hours. Talk to me about palindromes and synonyms and subtexts and I’m all a quiver. I’ve always been this way.

At the tender age of seven, in addition to reading my Nancy Drew, The Babysitter’s Club, and Encyclopedia Brown, this zeal led me to explore my parent’s extensive library – to pick up books like The Fall of the House of Usher (I barely understood it, but what a lovely sounding title!), The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and Pet Sematary. Thus began a lifelong habit of insatiable literary curiosity. It doesn’t matter if it’s a painstakingly crafted work of erudite art like Floubert’s Madame Bovary, or a children’s book like Dr. Suess’ The Butter Battle Book. Whether its poetry, true crime, fairy tales or romance novels, I’m willing to give everything a fair chance – and if it’s any good I devour it greedily.

I tell you this, because it’s this voracious inquisitiveness that has brought us to this place. Until my dear colleagues here at Dread Central began reporting on the upcoming “>Twilight movie, I was fairly unaware of the existence of the series. I’d heard the name mentioned in passing, but it had never been on my radar. And then we posted our first news item on it and I thought “Hmmm, a vampire movie. Interesting.” And that was about it. That is, until people started posting comments responding to the news. The rancor, derision, eye-rolling and mocking directed at the film news made me wonder – Young adult or not, was the source material all that bad? I had to find out for myself.

Book 1: Twilight

I was skeptical enough not to want to blind buy and spend $16 or more dollars on a book I might not like, so I added the first book in the series to the top of my Bookswim pool. (Bookswim is like a literary Netflix; it feeds my addiction beautifully.) Right off the bat, the reader is introduced to 17 year old Bella Swan, from whose perspective the entire story is told. Author Stephenie Meyer quickly establishes Bella as a unique character, both within the context of the fictional world she’s created and in the pantheon of young adult heroines, which was surprising.

Given the series’ explosive popularity with teenage girls, I was half expecting a heroine who fit in with her contemporaries, like pop icons Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Or perhaps more fairly, like “Gossip Girl”’s Serena van der Woodson, or Disney’s Hannah Montana.

But Bella resembles none of these characters, real or imagined, in the slightest. Instead, she’s somewhat shy, sarcastic, self-effacing, intelligent, clumsy and introspective. She cares nothing for sports or fashion. She loves to read and listen to music; she’s smart but not overly nerdy. She’s just as squeaky clean as any Disney “it” girl – she does her homework, cleans her room, cooks dinner for her divorced father, and is loathe to skip class – but without the bubble gum, Crest white smile, super saturated color, saccharine sweetness that makes Disney fare so wincingly unappealing to grown ups. Bella’s often dry wit, self awareness and insightfulness are a pleasure, which is thankful, considering the reader spends the next 400+ pages inside her head.

Of course, the story that unfolds focuses on Bella’s recent move to the small town of Forks, Washington and subsequent romance with Edward Cullen, a boy in her class who just happens to be a nearly 100 year old vampire, the youngest (technically, he’s still 17) of a family of vampires. And though Edward hasn’t fed on a human in over 80 years, Bella’s blood smells to him like the rarest of fine wines to a connoisseur. So, apart from the normal trials and tribulations of young love, the pair must deal with his constant struggle to overcome his desire for her blood.

The potential for melodrama is incredibly high, but Meyer manages to avoid most of the pitfalls of teen angst. The writing is, on occasion, admittedly somewhat awkward but that lends itself to the environment of Bella’s mind rather well. And I was more pleased than I would have thought that Meyer remains true to that environment. We learn nothing that Bella doesn’t know, see nothing that Bella doesn’t see. This can be frustrating at times, but it allows the reader to feel the same tensions and exasperation Bella feels. And the reader learns a great deal about Bella’s character through her thoughts, deeds, and reactions. She manages to both be an admirable Everywoman and truly extraordinary in a way that has nothing to do with being a supernatural creature.

Speaking of the vampires, Meyer does interesting things with the vampire mythos, playing with almost all of the preconceived notions established fang-o-philes might have; expanding on some ideas, doing away with others completely, and creating several of her own unique characteristics. The vampires of Meyer’s creation possess preternatural speed, strength, agility, and heightened senses; have skin as hard as stone, no fangs and a venomous bite. The sun doesn’t hurt them, nor do crosses, garlic, or wooden stakes.

They do drink blood, though the Cullens have made the choice to only feed on animals. However, this is a rare trait, common only to them and one other small coven in Alaska. None of the other vampires you meet throughout the series share this preference – which in fact leads to the climax of this lover’s tale, and perhaps my biggest issue with this book. I don’t have an issue with climax itself, when a group of nomads stumble upon the Cullens during a game of baseball vampire-style (which, cinematically speaking should be a fun scene in the film, if done right) and one of the group (a tracker named James) gets a whiff of Bella’s yummy blood and decides to hunt her. It’s high octane, full of tension and emotion and a good dash of pain (though nothing overly graphic). My issue is that the last hundred pages feel fairly disjointed from the first 400.

The beginning four fifths of the book build very slowly. It works very well to establish the world the reader is going to inhabit (hopefully) for the next three books; the environment, the characters and their traits. A first time reader will likely only notice that the dialogue is generally snappy and often funny, and that the major characters have very distinct personalities. It’s only if you stick with the series that you realize how much of a foundation Meyer builds within that first book.

And that’s a great thing … but once the story progresses from foundation to action, it happens in a split second. It’s hard to switch gears from the experiences and hardships of young love to a life or death game of cat and mouse. For me, it took a bit of time to go from one speed to another. Though once I did I enjoyed the climax and denouement quite a bit. Aside from the swift change of tone and pacing near the end, my only other gripe would be the abundant over-usage of the word “incredulous” in all its forms. I ached to mail Ms. Meyer a thesaurus with the entry for the word highlighted.

But still, Bella is a treat to get to know and her and Edward’s story is amusing, sweet and exciting – in more ways than one. Meyer has been hailed because Bella and Edward’s relationship is chaste. And it is chaste, just not puritan. Bella is a passionate girl, and Edward doesn’t just lust after her blood. But given the situation, Edward’s strength and Bella’s tantalizing smell, even kissing is playing with fire for the pair. Still, it doesn’t stop Meyer from writing several steamy scenes of nuzzling, non-sexual touching, and kissing that one reviewer dubbed “the erotics of abstinence”. It’s a good term, and Meyer definitely proves you don’t have to have sex to be sexy.

I freely admit the book has its flaws. The writing is solid, but not exactly inspired. It’s occasionally awkward, and the wording somewhat naïve. There are also the pacing issues I mentioned. But I still enjoyed it much, much more than I ever thought I would. I was entertained thoroughly. Granted, this is very much for the ladies – although it’s not overbearingly girlie or lovey-dovey, so it’s not impossible that a guy could enjoy it. But I think those who love vampires would enjoy Meyer’s clever twists, and those who enjoy a good epic romance will enjoy Bella and Edward’s. Twilight is a strong opening piece that makes the reader want to know what’s going to happen next. And that’s never a bad thing. I’m still skeptical about the movie, but as for the book… like another recent children’s book series by a certain Ms. Rowling, I think if you write it off as mere kid’s stuff, you’re really missing out.

“>“>“>“>

3 1/2 out of 5

Discuss Twilight in the Dread Central forums!

Get Your Dynamite Reanimator Box Of Dread

Box of Dread
*US Residents only

Morgan Elektra

  • Cash Bailey

    I don’t think I’m alone in saying that Creepy should review the movie when it comes out.

    I imagine his rage would boil over just buying the ticket.

    • Uncle Creepy

      There lies the problem. There will no doubt be people who will say “Why have so-and-so review it if they don’t even like those movies! That’s not fair!” or “You can’t trust so-and-so’s review because they like anything to do with that kind of thing! That’s not fair!” You just can’t win! You see its sticky. This is obviously not my cup of tea, but if it’s still a decent movie I wouldn’t bash it.

  • arandomthought

    I still relate this closer to the sisterhood of wolves(another blood & chocolate like story, if I got the name right)stories that I just can’t get into because of the overly romantic portion. At the same time I liken this to the fact that I’m not into the romance/drama genres.

    I’m more for the warhammer, MTG, Alien, Predator, Doom type series. More fast paced with some romance placed in as a way to establish the characters personalitys and as a form of interaction, but never getting so mushy it turns into a cheese-fest. They always advance in story, always advance in action, and always advance in violence(something I relish in bookwise). Saying this,I appreciate the review, it gave me a fantastic idea of what to expect and whether or not it’s for me.

    I will however be looking forward to more book reviews from you. Could you by chance review some older books? Also, could you review some alien books as well as some other series. Or could you recomend a good book review place?

    • Morgan Elektra

      This is definitely heavy on the romance, less on the action (except for the last part, as I mentioned). We’ve got lots of book reviews on the site though, if you look at the reviews section. And there are plenty more coming! If you’ve got some suggestions of books you’d like to see us review, drop me a line. I’m always up for a good read!

  • Cash Bailey

    Why am I not surprised you got a girl to review this book?

    I would have been more curious to have Creepy read and review it. It would have been a bloodbath!

    • Morgan Elektra

      Good writing is good writing, whether you enjoy the subject matter or not. This was well written. If you don’t like romance, this isn’t for you… clearly. But to suggest my gender somehow makes me incapable of providing an unbiased, honest review of a book just because it’s got a romantic story line is pretty ridiculous.

      • Cash Bailey

        These are girly books, that’s all I was saying.

      • Terminal

        For me it’s not about gender so much as it is about pretending to be objective by giving something to the desired audience knowing there’s a rave coming. It’s fish in a barrel. Like a kid reviewing a Harry Potter book, or a Goth reviewing an Anne Rice book, you just know a woman is going to give this book a rave. It’s the pretense of objectivity where there will obviously be none that discredits the review; it’s hardly a gender issue you’re making it to be. I mean I guessed instantly you’d give this a good score without scrolling down. I’d also have loved to see someone more impartial review the book.

        • Sirand

          That’s the most nonsensical paragraph I’ve ever read. What are you getting at, Terminal?

          • Spaceshark

            The general idea may be: “Men hunt! Women cook!”

          • Terminal

            Sexism weak argument!

          • Sirand

            Terminal sexist! Need English lessons!

          • Spaceshark

            Nothing beats MY EngRish.

          • frank_dracman

            All your sexism belong to Terminal!

          • Spaceshark

            I stand corrected.

          • Terminal

            The review fakes objectivity when obviously the book was going to get a good review. And it has nothing to do with sexism. That’s too easy.

            I’d add a simpler description, but you can’t draw on these text boxes.

          • The Woman In Black

            Why is it “obvious” it would get a good review? Because it was Morgan writing it or just because it was any old female?

          • Sam Hell

            You and alot of folks here have misunderstood what Terminal is trying to say. Personally, I think he makes a vaild point. Terminal works hard all day. All he’s asking for is to come home to a clean house, and you know, maybe a hot meal every now and then. He just wants Morgan to stop neglecting her duties as a woman, that’s all. Sounds reasonable to me.

          • Morgan Elektra

            You can disagree with my opinion on the quality and entertainment value of the book all you want, but you have absolutely no reason to call me a liar.

            What I want to know is, on what basis are you making your assumption that I was “obviously” going to give this book a “rave” review if it’s not my gender? And don’t worry about needing pictures… I was reading at the 12th grade level back in 5th grade, so you don’t even need to use little words.

        • Morgan Elektra

          To suggest that every woman would love the book simply because it’s a romance, and therefor could in no way be objective, is utterly inane. The book was very entertaining. I thought that with my head, not my vagina.

          And Cash, sorry to disappoint but I’ve already staked claim on the movie review, being as I’d read the source material. But if it makes you feel any better, everything I’ve seen so far from it has made me think it’s going to suck pretty bad. See? I’m capable of being reasonable despite my estrogen levels. ;)

          If either of you care to stick with it, I’m in the process of reviewing the other three books in the series (I’m putting the finishing touches on the review for book 2 and working the rough draft for book 3). I’d be interested to see what you have to say about my opinions when all is said and done.

        • Uncle Creepy

          “you just know a woman is going to give this book a rave”

          How can you say it’s not about gender and then make that statement?

          Terminal, I love ya buddy but that is the most asinine and sexist thing I’ve read in ages. That’s just as insulting as saying a guy would bash it just because of its subject matter. Whether it’s good or not. *shakes head* A woman couldn’t possibly be impartial or objective to said material! Them yucky girls!

          Give me a break, dude. It’s 2008, not the Fifties. Women are every bit as capable to do anything that a man can do, especially flex the old intellectual muscle.

          And we didn’t “give” anyone anything. Morgan volunteered. Also, I fail to see where 3 1/2 out of 5 is considered a rave review. Did you even read what she wrote?

          • Sirand

            I have a feeling Terminal doesn’t get laid much.

          • Messiahman

            Replace the word “much” with “ever,” and you’ll be right on the money.

        • arandomthought

          I could smack you for this one. I’m considered “goth” by those around me, and I actually can’t stand anne rice. I just don’t enjoy the books that much.

  • Floydian Trip

    I read a couple of paragraphs and am ready to give my full review whenever DC calls me.

  • Zayzie

    I tried reading this book one time, and stopped 20 or so pages in because I didn’t enjoy the writing. My friends told me that if I had waited I would’ve enjoyed it, but I wasn’t sure. I then tried to find some reviews that would fit my tastes and usually just found biased ones, so I didn’t really look any farther. And then I read some of the comments which were odd, since this is one of the most objective reviews I’ve ever read about Twilight.

    I was able able to read your review and think about how I would feel about reading the book and I would probably get bored, and definitely wouldn’t enjoy reading about Edward. I don’t think it has anything with the books being “girly” because if anything it seems like someone’s version of a vampire society, mixed in with some werewolves. I got the feel it moved a bit like Harry Potter, if it were a romance series.

    I’m just not into this kind of romance stuff, and that’s all I really wanted a reviewer to tell me was if there was anything else to to the book. So thank you for finally giving me a review that helped me fully understand what this book is.