Friday, February 5, 2010

Review: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

I know, right? Two things. 1.) I am well aware that I am quite probably the last person on the planet to read this book and therefore you don't really need to hear my thoughts on the subject since you all have already read it yourselves and formed your own opinions which are unlikely to match mine. 2.) You certainly never thought you'd see me read this book (or maybe you just thought I'd never admit to it, former book snob that I am) but I like to be full of surprises. It would be a surprise if I liked the book, wouldn't it? OK, I'm not *that* full of surprises, folks. In simplest terms, I fail to see what is so appealing about this at all. Perhaps I went into this with a bad attitude, not liking vampires at all, being skeptical of any book dubbed "the greatest love story of all time" written in say, oh, forever. I was afraid it wouldn't live up to its hype. And before all the Twilight defenders either unsubscribe from the blog or leave nasty comments (you wouldn't do that, now would you?) let me say that even had this been a good book, it couldn't have lived up to the hype. Unfortunately, this was not a good book.

I read it for two reasons. I hate being out of the loop on books that are causing conversations all over the place, even in the non-book world. I have resigned myself to being out of the loop when people gush over the likes of Nicholas Sparks because I actually read one of those once and went into insulin shock while trying to wrench my emotions back from the blatant manipulation oozing through the treacle and well, I just can't tolerate another dose of Mr. Sparks as a result. But this one... I could overlook the vampire angle and give it a shot and join the conversation, right? The second reason I read it I've already discussed on here, the fact that the elementary school banned it from being brought in and read by students even during their sustained silent reading or whatever they call it these days. That, my friends, was the true call to arms because I could have procrastinated over reason #1 long enough for the whole thing to die away. But reason #2, well that needed immediate action.

And did I find anything objectionable in it that made it worthy of barring it from the school? Well, other than egregious writing, nope. Yes, I am sorry to say that it really is dreadfully written. And yes, I get that Ms. Meyer is laughing all the way to the bank and I am sitting in my freezing cold basement pounding out this quasi-review for no money whatsoever. As a matter of fact, right about now, my hands and feet would rival the ever cold Edward and family temperature-wise. The universe does love irony. But back to the writing. I'm sorry to say that I can't get over the stone and marble descriptors of Edward every time the poor reader is forced to encounter Bella in Edward's arms or kissing his cold lips. Go ahead and throw in the alabaster brow and get all the hideous cliches out of the way all at once. But see, Ms. Meyer doesn't just use these completely ridiculous descriptors once, she uses them every last time, throughout all 498 pages of this bloated, overdone piece of...teenaged entertainment. ::Ahem:: Trying to keep this rated PG and all. As if she didn't trust her readers to hold onto the important descriptions of her characters, we have Bella's clumsiness and Edward's beautiful, cold stoniness reiterated over and over again. Really, where was the editor with the red pen scratching things out?

As if the cliched, repetitive descriptions weren't enough, the reader is also treated with the cloying, facile character of Bella. "Oh. You're a vampire? Ok. I totally trust you not to kill me. And furthermore, please kiss me; I'm sure you'll control yourself and I want to touch your alabaster lips. Oh, and don't forget to swoop in and save me from my stupid self each and every time I decide to go off plot about something I know nothing about. Because I love you and will love you forever." Argh! This is the girl every teenaged girl wants to be right now? Sure, there are teenaged girls out there who are simple and naive. And there might even be some as simple, naive, and stupid as Bella is but I for one don't want to read about them. And as an author you can't create a character you tell us is amazingly smart and then have her be a complete and total nincompoop. Because you see, we stop believing your "telling" and believe your "showing" instead and start wishing that Edward would just shred the little ninny and put us all out of our misery. As for Edward, we never really do get a fully rounded picture of him since we see him through Bella's rose-coloured glasses all the time. But perhaps it's a blessing that we don't know him all that well. I can only imagine the extended passages of angst over him being bad for Bella that we'd have to read. Oh wait, we get to hear this very thing (repetitively) whenever he and Bella have almost any conversation. And while she's thicker than a block of wood about the danger of having a vampire interested in her, I, as a reader, am pretty smart, got it on round one, and didn't need to waste valuable reading time seeing the same argument over and over again.

I have read reviews by other people who thought that the picture of teenaged obsessive love was disturbing and the fact that Bella is forever a damsel in distress needing her vampire charming to come and save her was a blow to feminism and I appreciate these arguments. I even agree to some extent. But I'd venture a guess that much of this social and political subtext goes right over the heads of many of the intended audience. And those who do catch it are smack in the midst of a time of life where the drama of romance and love reign supreme. Do they care about the whiny, insufficiency of a character like Bella? Do they even notice? Would I have noticed if I had read this back then? I mean, who can tell with the teenaged psyche?

But despite the larger thematic problems, I still go back to the less than stellar writing showcased in this novel. It absolutely grated on my brain. Reading the dialogue aloud made me laugh, especially when it wasn't supposed to be funny. The descriptions were tired and modeled after the worst examples of the romance genre (this coming from a happy reader of romances). The characters were one dimensional and predictable. And the scenes that were meant to be revelations after a climatic build? Well, they were farcical. Sparkly vampires? Really? But assuming things like this, our author then conveniently ignores her set-up when they no longer suit the plot. If vampires sparkle, they must live in dreary, rainy, cloudy places like Forks. Not sunny places like Phoenix. When they get to Phoenix (by night of course), they hide out in a hotel room. Until, of course, they have to go to the airport. But their car has tinted windows, right? And apparently they used a Star Trek transporter to get into the airport from the car since no one noticed these creatures made up of diamond lights walking in their midst into the terminal. Likewise no one noticed these same creatures heading en masse to the dance studio to rescue our idiotic heroine again. It must have been one of those multiple rainy days for which Phoenix is well known, ya know, in order to maintain plot integrity and all. What plot integrity? My point exactly.

I do not understand the appeal of this book. I won't be going on any further, I will not see the movies. I will shake my head and try to keep my mouth closed on the topic unless directly confronted by someone over it. In short, I will respect that it is a publishing phenomenon and realize, once again, that I just don't get the general public. And in an effort to say something nice, I will say that I am exceedingly grateful that it was simplistic enough that it took under 3 hours of reading to finish a book of almost 500 pages. Do I weep for the trees that died to print this book? No, but I weep for the authors who are masters of their craft who deserve this kind of readership and yet lose out to something of this calibre. And I am eminently thankful that my daughter has evinced no desire to read this one (although her choices are often not much better).


  1. Hee!

    I haven't read it!

    I keep thinking that I should since I probably shouldn't have an opinion about it since I haven't read it, but I just can't make myself do it. *shudders*

    Good on you for being braver than me, though.


    Sorry, I loved this post. First of all, you are not the last person in the world to read this book. I have not, and I will not. Second, I'm with you on the Nicholas Sparks thing- yuck!

    I'm glad to hear that I'm not missing anything as far as these books go. Although, I will admit that my husband made me watch the movie and it wasn't that bad. He has a vampire thing going on. The movie actually sounds FAR better than the book.

    How do you feel about Harry Potter? That is the first and only YA series that I've ever loved, and if you didn't like it, I think that I might cry, LOL!!!!

  3. Ugh, I also totally don't want to read these books (although reason #1 has been brought up several times by my brain and a few savvy friends)and now I am sure I won't. Personally, I find it offensive when people think books for teenagers don't have to be very well written or logical etc because you know, kids aren't very smart yet so they won't notice. Grrr, quite the opposite! I think teen books should be BETTER than adult books and a lot of them are. Perhaps not popular series books but man, even the Sweet Valley High and Flowers in the Attic books sound better than this garbage (I wasn't going to go for a cheap shot with literary comparisons.) While I am sorry you had to be tortured, I am happy that I got to read your review! You are so funny when you're angry!

  4. ROFLOL!! This is the review I wanted to write for Twilight but never did. You and I have a lot in common, Kristin. Not only could I not abide Twilight, but I tried one Nicholas Sparks novel and was supremely overwhelmed.

    I have an award for you here:

  5. Your are not the last. I read this book when it first came out but only half way through, I felt bored and and lost interested. I haven't gone back to it ever since, I watched the movie though, nothing really special to me.... May be I had watched a lot more exotic Japanese and Chinese vampires TV dramas and animinatios when I grew up in Hong Kong.

    I found the Twilight kind of lame...

  6. This was hilarious and completely and totally true. I agree with everything you've said but I must, shamefully, admit that the Twilight Saga has been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I'm a sucker for the Jacob-wolf type characters and adore the movies. Though I do find myself laughing in the theatre while everyone else is biting nails.

    But, alas, when Eclipse comes out I will unleash my inner fangirl, don my "Team Jacob" t-shirt and squeel with the other girls waiting outside the theatre...

  7. Yeah, I got maybe halfway through Twilight. There was the whole Edward watches Bella while she sleeps ick factor. It was also a little dull. I put it aside and instead zipped through the first two books of the Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series that I also happened to have out from the library at the time. That series was more my paranormal style.

    - Christy

  8. My book club read this one a few months ago. I steadfastly refused to read it, until my best friend pretty much begged me to days before the meeting. It was pretty bad. I went on and read the second one around Christmas, and it was even worse.

  9. Kristen you won't be the last to read this, I was planning to never read it, but alas those plans have come unstuck and I shall be forced to read it sometime. As you know I'm reading through the 1001 books that make up 1001 Childrens Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up. Sadly this book is included, actually it's the only title that I was disappointed to see included. Otherwise I could continue on my merry way and ignore it. I loved your review BTW, it was pretty much what I expected you to think of it, and for that I'm glad. I guess I can see what the teenage thrill is but this book was also huge with the 20-something women. I know plenty of employed educated 20-somethings who literally gobbled up this series. It's completely mystifying to me. In the meantime I'll put it off as long as I can I think.

  10. I think I'll forward on your review to my daughter. I did read all four books, to know what she's reading - I couldn't phrase it as well as you do!

  11. I just love this review. Everything I feel about this book you managed to explain so eloquently.

    Twilight is extremely over-hyped. And it makes me sad that so many are obsessed with this when there are much better reads available.

  12. Well, if you are ever held at gunpoint and forced to read another, skip to the last. It has the same style issues, but Bella pretty much stops whining, because she has everything she ever wants. Times two.

    OK, she finds some stuff to whine about, because she is stupid and it's important to be consistent, but it's much more pleasant. And the giggles as the author throws her yet another present are fun.

  13. My niece, an otherwise intelligent and sensible young woman, has urged me to read this series, and--whoa!-- I was almost convinced. THANK YOU for saving me.
    You and I have such very similar reading tastes so I'm going to trust your thoughts on this (partly because your reservations and mine were identical).
    Yay, Kristen - thanks for being so honest!

  14. Greatest love story in what forever, did you say? You are cracking me up! I don't remember what was written on the cover, but if that was there, I will definitely burst out laughing on the spot!

    And I agree with everything you said. I enjoyed this book, but that's it, once I drove common sense from my head I enjoyed it, otherwise it was so poorly written and so repetitive that it drained my patience away!

    As for Edward's viewpoint, it is given clearly in Midnight Sun. I doubt you will read any of Meyer's work, but I did feel Midnight Sun was well written, and unlike Bella, Edward just wanted to rip Bella's throat away, like a real vampire, lol!

    Btw, I really liked your review! ;-)

  15. I am subscribing to comments just so that when you start getting all the "You SUCK. Twilight is the BEST BOOK EVAH. You must be stupid not to know that" comments I can enjoy them as well. For an example of such comments, here's my review (on an alternate blog, not Bookslistslife)

    I didn't even say I hated the book, just that the writing was bad.

  16. Great review! Had I written a review on Twilight it would have sounded exactly like yours. I agree, I can overlook a lot about plot, stupid characters, etc, but the writing just makes me shudder even to think about. Especially when every person I have talked to about this book exclaims, "And they're so well written!" It's hard to hold back my derisive snort and nod politely when that sentence comes out.

  17. Love, love, love this post. Of course I never got caught up in these books so of course I love it. Your review was amazing.

    I've got an award for you :0

    Lynne's Book Reviews

  18. lol. i appreciate your review on every level but have to disagree on one point.

    i teach english to several classes of reluctant readers (basic skills level) who might pick up a magazine once a year. these kids hate reading but when one girl heard about this book from a cousin (a few years ago), it swept through the school like wildfire.

    kids who never picked up books for pleasure had their noses buried for hours. to be honest, i couldn't care less that the writing sucked. stephenie meyer had captured the attention of every female student i taught.

    from there, they begged me for suggestions for other YA books like twilight. i was able to convince them we should read pride & prejudice (a condensed, simplified version) and they agreed--they loved it.

    i won't say that all of my students have become readers as a result of the twilight series, but it has opened their eyes to the fact that books are a valid form of entertainment.

  19. sorry, if your blog isn't set up to accept NAME/URL, my information doesn't show up! I don't have a blogger account and ditched my wordpress one last year.

    I'm Natalie from Book, Line, and Sinker. :)


  20. I totally agree with you, but these are guilty pleasure books for me.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  21. I think the fun of having read Twilight (or in my case, having skimmed through it) is getting the jokes of the parodies; I have an entire Twilight commentary section on the sidebar of my blog. BTW, the review on my blog was written by my daughter, who was 15 at the time, and it sounds a lot like your review. Hope that's reassuring!

  22. This review is so awesome! I agree with everything you said. I did read the whole thing and thought it was average, bad writing and decent story (well, certainly one that could have been told in 350 pages).
    No plans to read the next one or see the movie. Way too over-hyped.


I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

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