Review: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
*WARNING - Long and Rambling Review - no spoilers*
This was my first venture into the Young Adult genre and it was completely based off not only the surrounding controversy of the novels, but the overwhelming out pour of reader love and devotion. In addition, it seemed that not only teens could appreciate the saga but people of all age groups were transfixed by these hefty novels as well.
So after dragging my feet for a very long time I finally succumbed to "Twilight Mania" and got my butt down to Wally World to purchase my very own discounted copy. Even though all four installments sat gleaming before me in their ebony covers, I decided I would only purchase the first for I was still skeptical in regards to their greatness. Plus I thought I would hate any romance novel that didn't have sex in it so I decided not to waste me money.
To my utter and delighted surprise, I fell in love with all things 'Twilight'. Now I'm not going to go into too much plot detail in this review of 'Twilight' for I truly think that what these characters go through is an amazing journey through the forbidden that should be left up to the individual reader to explore. That being said here are my thoughts.
On a personal note, and this may sound stupid, but simply put 'Twilight' touched upon all the fantasies of my teenage years. As a awkward late bloomer, I was very much on the fringe of high school society and I always longed to be a girl like Bella Swan. The subtly pretty girl who had no idea she was pretty. Plus I wanted to be conflicted, silly I know but it's the truth. I had no ghosts, nothing to make me sad. I was a privileged girl going to a school nicknamed 'Snob-halla" because of all the rich kids enrolled. Instead, Bella exudes sadness in such an intriguing and mysterious way that she unintentionally draws people to her. Yet at the same time Bella shuns all attention. While I most definitely embodied the latter trait, I most certainly never drew people to me in high school.
Also Bella is smart. Not that I was an idiot but Bella is knowledgeable in such a way that I had longed to be. She's well read, great at math, and has a knack for science. These are all areas that I struggled in and being within Bella's POV and her ease at academics felt liberating in the reader sense.
Bella Swan is sentencing herself to her own personal hell, Forks, WA. Unfortunately the overall dreariness of the Washington State climate has a depressing effect on Bella. She can't help but feeling that the heavy and lingering mist of Forks, pressing down so persistently upon her spirit, has made her homesickness all the more unbearable. But it's time for her mother to spread her wings and after seeing her mom off for belated honeymoon bliss, Bella feels that it's time she lived with her father Charlie for a while. Born in Forks but raised in Phoenix, AZ Bella is a lover of the sun. You wouldn't believe this if you saw her with skin porcelain white and so translucent that the blue of her veins wouldn't escape any one's notice, especially the notice of the mysterious Edward Cullen.
Bella and Edward's love story, the overall nitty-grittiness of it, does not in any way resemble the "teenage romance". In some respects it's juvenile but if you stripped the time and age from the equation one would see the epic quality of a love that transcends all time and place. It's an intangible, all encompassing, once in a life time kind of love. I think this is partly the reason why adults can appreciate and enjoy 'Twilight' because it speaks to the romantic soul. The renewal of wonder in that there is some truth to the term "soul mates" and that in our universe you are possibly destined to become consumed with love for one and only one other person - your perfect match, the other half of your soul. (this notion is somewhat broken in 'New Moon')
While this concept is vast, Meyer brings it to life with flowing prose that sweeps the reader along into the world of innocence. Where love and it's corresponding emotions are lived and breathed for the first time for these characters, but acts as a youthful reminder and a passage back in time for us veterans of love. It brings our jaded and cynical souls back to when we were filled with youthful optimism and heartache was never something you had experienced so you didn't think much over the fact that this first love could end. In fact you spend a lot of your time defending it from people who continuously mummer "first loves never last" and "you never end up forever with your first" and so on and so forth. Sheesh I'm totally rambling. Back to the story.
As the parent of their mother/daughter relationship, Bella has acquired an old soul. One that feels more comfortable taking care of others. Because of this Bella has shaped into a self-sacrificing person who is fiercely protective of the ones she loves. But she's willing to sacrifice her mortality for one very odd but very beautiful boy. It's this old soul trait that makes her so compatible with Edward for he is in fact a hundred year old vampire. Each and every encounter between Bella and Edward was amazing to me. I was turning the pages so fast in an effort to reach their next scenes together that before I knew it, the story had ended.
Bella truly is the most endearing and amazing character and while there is huge fan base for Edward, I'm of team Bella. I admired her complete unselfishness, which is not a teenage trait in my experience and in hindsight could be considered a character flaw, yet with out this trait there would be no 'Twilight'. She consistently burdens herself with others guilt by always discovering the way in which the guilt had somehow been brought upon by her. She could go as far as thinking "if I'd never been born then this could have never happened" and she would precede to feel guilty. Hmm...this sounds bad but it was truly an endearing quality. Bella always viewed the good in others no matter what and while that may be naive, I think this brings a certain optimism to each and every situation whether it be good or bad.
Bella is also courageous. Even if the fear feels overwhelming and she's surely to end up dead in the end, if it's her death that saves someone she loves then so be it. I've just realized that while Bella's traits of selflessness are commendable they are also what gets Bella into a lot of trouble and can also result in a possible downfall.
With regards to Edward, while he was of course romantic and I hung on his every speaking word, I also thought he was the more juvenile of the two. I know he is simply trying his best to not inadvertently kill Bella, but I thought he was a bit of whiner and at times irrational in his fear. Yet when he decides to break all the rules he certainly doesn't waste any time securing Bella for his own and I enjoyed his take charge attitude. Plus I've always had a thing for stalker heroes. This is of course not to be confused with the creepy stalkers of real life but more along the lines of being inexplicably drawn to the one you desire above all others (found only romance novels).
This is a great time to mention 'Midnight Sun' which is Edward's version of 'Twilight'. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the "accidental" leaking of the unpublished and uncompleted manuscript around the release time of 'Breaking Dawn'. Meyer says it is someone she knows that did it but some people in blog land believe that Meyer personally leaked it to generate more sales of her newest release. I really don't care either way but with respects to the manuscript it was written to be the companion novel of 'Twilight' and is told completely from Edward's point of view. It's a great read and actually gives vital insight to Edward's perspective and why things progressed they way the did in 'Twilight'. You can find the manuscript here which has been provided directly by Stephenie Meyer plus a statement of "what happened".
Meyer's twist on the the vampire myth was also very original. I liked that her vampires could walk in daylight but this gift is balanced with the fact that they can never sleep. It made think how we as humans take for granted the fact that we can pass the time away and float through the realm of dreams. While some wish for more time in the day I think if we all really thought about it, to give up the right to dream would be hard, at least for me. I covet my time to sleep and have a respite from reality. This was not the only vampire myth that Meyer's twists but I'll leave the rest for you to discover.
In the end 'Twilight' was refreshing for the fact that Bella was denied the gift of immortality based on the simple grounds that Edward wants her to live. If given the choice, all the vampires of the Cullen clan would choose life over immortality and none wants Bella to waste hers on them. It is in this one particular area that Bella proves she's selfish, yet her inner debate is fascinating to read.
And finally in closing I feel that anyone can enjoy 'Twilight'. Some might focus solely on the teenage side of it and never grasp the transcending romance within but many will. It's a very fast read despite it's girth and it's not a love story that romance lovers should miss.
Oh, and I didn't even miss the sex. :0)