Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review: The Vampire-Human Conundrum


When a book garners as much attention as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, I find it necessary to read just to find out what all the hype is about. I was a Twilight virgin. I haven’t seen the movie, and I knew little beyond the fact that Edward Cullen is a vampire and has a forbidden love affair with a human, Bella. It sounded all too familiar, as I had an unhealthy obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer back in my teenage days, but I took the trip back to adolescence none the less.

I pretty much just summed up the plot for you, but I will get a bit more detailed for review sake. Seventeen-year-old Bella moves to Forks, Washington, to live with her dad and is immediately intrigued by the Cullen family, particularly the youngest, Edward. Edward is unnervingly gorgeous and suave, and, for some reason, seems absolutely disgusted by Bella. Eventually Bella learns that Edward and his family are vampires. So much for the normalcy of small-town life. Of course the disgust doesn’t last long, and Edward reveals he has never been drawn to anyone like he is to Bella (and vice versa), and so begins the human-vampire relationship.
Now, I have read a lot of commentary on this book. Sci-fi enthusiasts angry that Meyer changed the traditional characteristics of vampires; feminists angry that Bella has a dependency on Edward; and lots and lots of female fans raving about how Edward is the definition of “The Perfect Man.” It is easy to get frustrated at times, but remember what it is: YA fiction intended for pre-teen and teenage girls.
Bella is a pathetic character who has no sense of self-worth and absolutely no self-confidence. She gains these only when Edward expresses his undying love for her (and even then, her confidence is questionable). But her emotions appeal to the sappy side of girls who just want someone to love them unconditionally that will always be by their side. It’s not a terrible quality, as long as it’s not one’s only quality. Edward was the most likable character by far, for the sole reason that he’s a witty smart ass (a characteristic they apparently replace with “brooding” in the film).
Meyer’s writing seemed typical for its audience, though oftentimes pages are filled with only dialogue and the reader is left to decipher who said what. Bella and Edward speak in very subtle terms, never completely revealing, in so many words, exactly what they are talking about, and sometimes I just wanted to yell, “SEX.  YOU MEAN SEX.” Other times, I was so confused that I just gave up on trying to figure out what they were hinting at. The structure is also questionable. We hear Edward and Bella pine for each other for the first 350 pages, and then it’s as if the author forgot she needed dramatic action, which she then uses to fill up the last 150 pages. There were many questions left unanswered, which I can only assume were there to set up the next three novels.
Twilight isn’t a terrible book–it definitely kept my interest so that I finished all 500 pages with lightning speed. It just has a specific audience. I think many people expect it to be on level with Harry Potter, a children’s book that seems to be appropriate (and enjoyable) for all ages. But when the plot focuses more strongly on the love story than the magic, a lot of people are going to lose interest.


Kami Garcia said…

I am a HUGE Buffy fan and always draw comparisons, as well. Personally, if I am in the mood for vampires, I always turn to Anne Rice since she is the master. Not as campy as Buffy, but just as addictive. Blackwell Farm and Servant of the Bones are my favorites.

alex said…

I love YA fiction, and I love a good romance, so I keep trying to read the Twilight books. But the characters just bore me too much.

heidenkind said…

I wouldn't say Bella has no self-confidence–she's just a very introverted person. She doesn't want to be the center of attention or popular.

I do agree with you about the last 150 pages, though–that was kind of lame and seemed completely out of character of the rest of the book. I also agree about the intended audience. I enjoyed it because it made my inner 13-year-old happy. 🙂

colin said…

Buffy vs. Edward Cullen:

Sheila DeChantal said…

Nicely reviewed. I agree, Bella's character angered me for her weakness and co dependency. I too breezed through all of these books, enjoyed them but they are not on the level of Harry Potter.