A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Article by Guest Reviewer, Samantha Tonge.
I first entered the Twilight Zone three weeks ago, when my husband went away on business. It was a long time coming. For a year or two my early teen daughter has been pushing me to read Stephenie Meyer’s series of books. Unlike many of her friends who have simply fallen in love with Robert Pattinson, my daughter had for a long time enjoyed a deep passion for these books, which she has read, re-read and re-read once more. And this was before the first film came out.
And yet I simply dismissed it all as the latest teenage fad.
Anyway, back to that Saturday night, me alone in the lounge, drumming my fingers, watching digital dross. Not expecting to be overly impressed, I reached for the Twilight DVD, loaded the player and settled back with a snack and purring cat. Two hours later, just past the witching hour, I was hooked.
Talk about the ultimate romantic hero! For those of you who, like me previously, know very little of the plot, it centres on Edward Cullen, a one hundred and nine year old vampire, helplessly pulled towards the scent of new girl in town, Bella. Boy, would he love to suck her blood – but he can’t. Not only is he a ‘vegetarian vampire’ (he and his family strive not to feed off humans), he has fallen in love. Cue pages of burning desire, held in check by his fear of harming Bella.
And that’s the core of the story – embellished with werewolves and clans of less human-friendly vampires.
Having just seen the film, I skipped reading Twilight and moved straight onto New Moon. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Would Bella ever see Edward once again (he leaves for what he considers to be her own good)? Would the Volturi (ruling vampire clan in Italy) make Edward one of them?
And now I am on the next in the series, Eclipse. And once more I find myself rushing towards its climax – will Victoria, a vampire seeking revenge against Edward, kill Bella? Or will the werewolves and vegetarian vampires, now working side by side, manage to destroy her and the reckless clan of newborn vampires she has formed? And will the Volturi hold Bella to her promise of becoming a vampire (that was part of the deal in letting Edward go earlier – um, read the books for more detail)?
I think the key to Meyer’s success is the page turnability factor. Not only does each book have its climax, and its questions, which drive you to get to the end as fast as possible – the whole series of books are pointing to the same bigger questions. Will Bella really become a vampire and live forever with Edward? Or will she give up her dream of immortality and settle for a life with Jacob, her other admirer, one of the werewolves?
Yet, Meyer has had more than her fair share of detractors. One common criticism is that Bella is a classically submissive female character, protected by the dominant hero. Not a good role model, supposedly, for our young girls. Yet when I explained this to my daughter – and we have had previous conversations about the feminist movement and the quest for equality and what life used to be like for women – she just looked at me a bit puzzled and said: “But Bella doesn’t like all that protective stuff.”
Another criticism is that there is nothing special about Bella, therefore why is she so attractive to vampire Edward, to werewolf Jacob, to high-school student Mike? My answer to that? One word: chemistry. Look back over your life, at the loves and crushes you’ve had. Unless you are super-human, several of them, you shall see, in retrospect, weren’t ‘all that’. And Bella does have attractive qualities. She cares deeply for her father, Edward and Jacob, she is stubborn, in a good way, courageous (if not a little reckless) and a bit of a loner – she’s happy not to follow the crowd. Surely this is a positive message (yes, I know, even if not following the crowd means hanging out with vampires).
The quality of writing has also received acidic comments from various blogs – apparently she uses the verb ‘to be’ too often, her sentence structure is confusing, her characters unbelievable and the book is littered with grammatical and editing errors. Can’t say I’ve spotted one – but then the writing half of my brain switches off, when I am utterly engrossed in a story. Even Stephen King added his pennyworth:
Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people… The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.
But then King recalls that when his mom was alive, she read all the Erle Stanley Gardner books, the Perry Mason mysteries, obsessively when he was growing up. “He was a terrible writer, too, but he was very successful,” King says.
Somebody who’s a terrific writer who’s been very, very successful is Jodi Picoult. You’ve got Dean Koontz, who can write like hell. And then sometimes he’s just awful. It varies. James Patterson is a terrible writer but he’s very very successful. People are attracted by the stories, by the pace and in the case of Stephenie Meyer, it’s very clear that she’s writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it’s not particularly threatening because they’re not overtly sexual. A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet.
(Posted by Brain Truitt on The Who’s News Blog).
Valid points, indeed. Meyer may not be the most talented of prose-writers, but boy can she tell an entertaining story that thrills and moves your average teenage girl who isn’t quite ready for the more graphic descriptions of adult romantic novels.
I’m not saying the books are perfect. In fact there have been several pages in Eclipse I’ve skipped over where the legends of the werewolves were explained in painfully (for me) minute detail. But I am prepared to overlook the flaws as I love Meyer as an original storyteller. Where else will you find vampires that don’t attack humans? Werewolves that aren’t, stereotypically, ruled by the full moon?
So, don’t listen to the derogatory hoo ha. Buy the books, put on your teenage hat, and decide for yourself. You may hate them and bolt at the first chapter; you may find it impossible to ignore the technical faults; or, like me, you may suddenly understand what all the fuss is about and, for one second, be reminded of the irrational, egotistical, thrilling, intense rollercoaster of being a teenager in love.
Samantha Tonge is a writer of Women’s Fiction and is currently submitting her time-slip, romantic comedy, Lunch Date with a Tomb Robber. She administrates and writes for the team blog, Strictly Writing.