**spoiler alert** I thought Twilight was great fun--read fast enough so I rarely stopped to say "say wha?", full of silly teen-angst (I live with real...more**spoiler alert** I thought Twilight was great fun--read fast enough so I rarely stopped to say "say wha?", full of silly teen-angst (I live with real, authentic teen angst on a day-to-day basis, and it is both more anguished and more inchoate than anything served up in Twilight). Meyer sets up a Mary Sue: the classic girl-who-is-prettier-than-she-thinks, a little spunky, good enough in school without being a Brain. While living with her mother in the sunbelt, she's always been this pale, gawky, clumsy kid, not popular, not hated, just negligible. Then she moves to Forks, Washington, a town beset 350 days of the year with clouds and rain (this is a plot point, honest). Suddenly pale is cool, and she's kinda a babe. And the best looking boy in school is interested in her. Of course, he's a vampire. And of course, once Bella (the girl) finds out Edward's secret she becomes 1) privy to all the vampire secrets (cause Edward is one of a coven of peaceful vampires who eat deer and woodchucks and stuff, rather than human blood) and 2) in fear for her life because she knows the vampire secrets.
One big secret, which is not a secret to most readers of vampire fiction, is that vampires are inhumanly gorgeous, inhumanly strong, graceful, and fast. Because they live forever, give or take, they're inhumanly clever and Machiavellian. They have plenty of money because they've had forever to invest and make money. They glitter in direct sunlight! (which is why the clouds help--the overcast allows the vamps to go outside during the day without blinding the locals). And many vampires have extra cool powers, as if living forever wasn't enough: Edward can read minds, except for Bella's (which is useful to the plot, because if he could read her mind it would put paid to any number of plot contrivances).
Sarcasm Girl (my daughter) says to mention that Alice occasionally rocks. And Alice (one of Edward's coven) does rock--in a sort of serviceable way. Alice is the one who dresses Bella (so that Bella doesn't have to do anything so unheroic as obsess over clothes, and yet permits Meyer to get in lots of clothing description). Alice arranges birthday parties and weddings, she loves to shop and would make a perfect best-friend-cheerleader if she weren't, like, immortal. Oh, and Alice can see the future too. Sometimes.
At the end of Twilight, Edward and Bella are a couple. At the beginning of New Moon they break up, because Bella gets a papercut (srsly!) and all the vamps in the house come close to attacking her, and Edward (who looks 17 but combines the stodgy I-know-what's-best-for-you conservatism of the 80-odd year old he is experientially with an annoyingly teenage emo shtick) realizes that hanging out with vampires is dangerous for her. Parted from Edward, Bella goes into a decline, but while she's contemplating death, she makes friends with Jacob, a nice Native American boy (and the most realistic - personality wise - character in the books) whose tribe are werewolves (the mortal enemies of vampires, of course). Over the next couple of books (the rest of New Moon and Eclipse) Edward and Bella are reunited, have to face down the Volturi (a sort of Watchers' Council of ancient vampires in Rome who administer vampire-dom); Bella goes to the prom; Jacob, now a full-on werewolf--falls in love with Bella, who realizes that she's a little in love with him too; and Bella keeps nagging at Edward to bite her already and make her a vampire. Jacob pulls a "him or me" scene with Bella (oh, Jacob! We could have told you that wouldn't end well) and at the end of book three she's won her true love, but lost her best buddy.
So the first book, enjoyable. Books two and three, overlong, but entertaining. But the fourth book rolls lavishly into Mary Sue territory, in a mind-boggling way. Book four is all about Having It Both Ways, Auctorially. For instance, Alice and Esme (another of Edward's coven) organize a lavish wedding (which again gets Bella out of being interested in the wedding itself, while permitting lots of wedding porn). Edward and Bella go off to South America for a lavish honeymoon, and have human/vampire sex--a risk, because Edward's a little, um, stronger and more indestructible than Bella is. She survives the sex. Hell, she likes the sex. Edward, however, is traumatized and emo, cause he bruises her a lot. But wait! There's more! Bella becomes pregnant--well, no one has ever heard of a human becoming pregnant by a vampire, because most vampires are still snacking on humans, and the humans don't last long enough to get to the sex part. As with Rosemary and her baby, the creature inside Bella makes for a rough pregnancy. By the time they get back to Forks and Jacob is on the scene (self-righteously horrified at the fact that Edward has knocked up his bride, despite the fact that no one could have predicted that it would happen) it's time for her to have the baby. Which kills her. Except that Edward injects vamp venom directly into her heart and saves her--or at least makes her a vamp.
Of course, new vampires are dangerous: it takes them several years to change from the vamp equivalent of crazed toddlers to more self-controlled creatures. Which would mean that, by the time Bella recovers from her vampirization her child would be ready for preschool. Iinstead, Bella turns out to be unusual--maybe because she has been preparing to become a vampire for three books, more likely because she's the heroine and special that way--and shows preternatural control of her vampiric powers. So she gets to hang out with her baby, who is (revoltingly) named Renesme (for Rene, Bella's mom, and Esme, Edward's kinda vamp mom), and who is unlike any child ever born before. Renesme has a heartbeat, but she matures at an unbelievably rapid rate, can communicate her thoughts via touch, and --oh, right! Jacob the werewolf imprints on her, like with ducklings? So he's going to wait until she's old enough, but not in any icky way.
The Volturi, craving the powers of some of the talented Forks vampires, come to town in full strength, intending to use the fact of Renesme's birth as a way to destroy most of the coven and just keep the vampires with interesting powers (like collecting stamps, I guess). Instead, it turns out that Bella--what a surprise!--has a special power unlike any ever seen before, which, after a long negotiation, resolves the situation. Bella and Edward and their daughter get to live happily forever after; Jacob is waiting in the wings as babysitter and future lover. Oh, and in the last chapter or two we learn that werewolves aren't werewolves, they're shapeshifters. Why this was important enough to be mentioned at all, we will never know.
How do we have it both ways?
* All through the series someone else takes over--insists on taking over--all the things Bella either doesn't want to do or can't do--clothes shopping, caring for her baby, communicating clearly. Esme is only too delighted to be permitted to build a house for Bella and Edward to live in. Alice--well, there's a song about Alice. Rosalie wanted a child so much when she was human that now she's a vamp she's damned near the perfect nanny. Bella gets to reap the benefits without having to be too girly about clothes or house or baby.
* Bella's father, who never liked Edward much, copes too easily with Bella's transformation into vamp. She loses nothing by her transformation, despite a books-long fretting over all the things she will sacrifice in order to be with Edward.
* Although Edward has been promising Bella since book 1 that eventually he will turn her into a vamp, he doesn't actually do so until she is at death's door, ravaged by the process of birthing a demi-vamp. Even then, he doesn't bite her, he uses a syringe. So he's not being an Evil Vampire, he's saving her.
* Once Bella becomes a vampire, the Mary-Sueism kicks up several notches. She's stronger and more graceful than everyone else (that does improve her sex life, as Edward doesn't have to worry about bruising her any more). She's got a special power that she had even when she was mortal: she's a shield, which is why Edward can't read her thoughts. And of course this girl who was always good looking but didn't realize it, is now flawless, not through any work of her own like remembering to wash her hair or put on lipstick. As with Alice and the clothes, Bella gets to be prom queen without having to want to be a prom queen.
* It turns out that Bella doesn't break Jacob's heart, because what he was in love with, even before Renesme was a twinkle in her father's eye, was the potential Renesme he was going to imprint on. Does that make sense? It certainly means Bella doesn't have to feel guilty about him. Win win!
* And despite the impending doom Meyer sets up over the birth of a vampire baby (a taboo in this verse), the event comes with very little payoff. In the final "battle" no one dies, except for red shirt character. No one important gets hurt, and Bella saves the day. And everyone afterward remarks, swooningly, on how special Bella and her powers are.
* Do I need to mention the deus ex machinae in the big climax?
I think that Meyer should have stopped with Eclipse, and left the interesting revelations of the bedroom (and birthing chamber) to her readers imagination. The resulting fan fiction would likely have been of a hgher quality.(less)
Reads fast, is fun, and fitfully inventive. I have real issues with the lead characters--Bella Swan is far too given to assuring the readers that she'...moreReads fast, is fun, and fitfully inventive. I have real issues with the lead characters--Bella Swan is far too given to assuring the readers that she's very competent and very plain, when the evidence of the book is pretty much the opposite. And Edward Cullen is an 80 year old fogey trapped in the unearthly beauty of a 17-year-old vampire. He's controlling and she's got hero-worship issues.
Still, the giddy delight of having the most gorgeous guy in school interested in you is well drawn, and the book moves fast enough that by the time I thought "Huh" I was already twenty pages further on. (less)
I love this book and reread it every year. It is credited as everything from a feminist tract to the foremother of the gothic romance. It's a very hum...moreI love this book and reread it every year. It is credited as everything from a feminist tract to the foremother of the gothic romance. It's a very human story about a "poor, plain" woman in Victorian England who demands to be treated as a thoughtful, moral adult. Every time I reread it I learn new things.(less)
It's hard to know what to say about this book. Despite its sensational material, it is a quiet, leisurely and utterly evocative look at childhood, at...moreIt's hard to know what to say about this book. Despite its sensational material, it is a quiet, leisurely and utterly evocative look at childhood, at the culture of the South in the 1930s, of race relations, of responsibility and grace. If you know the story only by the wonderful film that was made of the book, you should still read this; there are subplots and stories that were necessarily pruned.