I wanted to like this book. For one thing, it came highly recommended by reputable reader-friends (sorry guys, nothing personal). It took me a good 20I wanted to like this book. For one thing, it came highly recommended by reputable reader-friends (sorry guys, nothing personal). It took me a good 200 pages to even realize that I didn't like it, but as the pages slipped by, so did this book's potential to tell a convincing, complex and emotionally-gripping story.
I didn't mind the slow start. Bella Swan's teenage over-reaction that "the world is going to end, or at least suck for a while" when she moves from Phoenix to Forks, WA was a familiar yet believable theme for a young adult book. I forgave her silly name and her paralyzing (literally) clumsiness. For a while.
Then Bella discovers the attractive, standoffish, teenage vampire clique. Don't get me wrong, I knew there would be vampires. I had hoped they would bring some intrigue, interesting character interaction, and a few creative supernatural twists to the mix. I was wrong: Edward, the main vampire/love interest must be the most blatant example of author-male fantasy insertion in a story I have ever read--the way his beauty is praised ad-nauseum, as is his ability to out-play/perform/karate/run etc. every mortal/immortal on the planet in any game/sport/musical instrument/hand-to-hand combat/race etc. certainly attests to that. Edward and his (almost) equally Hollywood Hot family are less creatures of the night, and more a blend of Greek god and barbie doll whose baseball games are confused for thunderstorms by us mortals. They are also apparently perpetual high school students, moving to schools every few years to keep anyone from catching on. Is this consistent with Meyer's view of noble "vegetarian" vampires who only want to alleviate the mortal misery of their weak human neighbors? With Dr. Carlisle the one notable exception, I can't quite suspend my disbelief that a hundred years would NOT be enough time to fake your age, get into law school, med school, the foreign service branch of the state department...(or at least use certain inherent skills to become pool boys or tennis instructors).
All this was mildly irritating, but what really brought the star-count down for me was that this book had so much potential to challenge my perception of the world, to make me think. I kept reading because I expected there to be a twist...not a "gotcha" moment, but one where the characters grow too big for the box they've been placed in, where they become bold and try to deal with their issues. I wanted to Bella to challenge the emotionally manipulative hold Edward has on her. I wanted Edward to fail at something and discover humility, and even have to rely on Bella for a change. I wanted Bella and Edward to discover that there are consequences for misinterpreting an attraction based scent/beauty for one based on communication, compromise, and time. I kept reading, sure that something complex and meaningful would happen...
I hope I don't spoil anything when I say that the characters start off in the shallow end, and end up in the pool parking lot. When the action finally started at around pg 400, all I could think of was what one of the robots on Mystery Science Theater 3000 sarcastically remarked during a B-movie that was being thoroughly panned: "And the reason this part works so well is that we care about the characters!" If a random "bad guy" is suddenly going to appear at the end of a book and try to kill one of the main characters for no apparent reason, I want to at least care about them!
Finally, a brief note on the writing itself. I thought some of the mood-setting description was pretty well done, and honestly didn't notice anything truly jarring until after the appearance of Edward. Suddenly, cliches like "a carved statue", "an Adonis", "his angel face" surface at least every page or so, as do numerous purple descriptions of eye color meant to substitute for character depth. Over-dramatic facial expressions abound, especially in the more intimate moments: grimaced, shuddered, gaped, glared. And finally, the awkward dialog tags. Characters "demand", "chuckle", "mutter bleakly", but never "say" anything unless they say it "harshly", "quietly" or "tenderly". The line '"Yes", she agreed' made me laugh out loud. All these "little" things, once I started noticing them, made the character's actions seem even more inconsequential and ridiculous.
Bottom line: obviously this isn't literature, but neither is it a thought-provoking or even "fun" frivolous read. There just isn't any substance there to care about, no challenge, just a pretty boy and a "good-smelling" girl who needs to be rescued half a dozen times. Some other reviews have compared this book to fan-fiction, and I think that's a fair assessment. I've written overwrought fan-fiction in my time, complete with the "seagreen eyes" and "nymphlike shoulders" but that doesn't mean everyone's wish-fullfillment fantasy needs to blow into a doorstop of a book.
For a more convincing and complex approach to the violence and passion inflicted by one man's uncanny sense of smell, try Patrick Suskind's book Perfume....more
Even though I knew this was supposed to be one of those "must be read in your lifetime" kind of books, I was always hesitant to pick it up due to theEven though I knew this was supposed to be one of those "must be read in your lifetime" kind of books, I was always hesitant to pick it up due to the violence I knew lurked between the covers. Not because I feared it, but because I could never quite find the right "mood" to tolerate it (especially with the newspaper, Kiterunner and such one picks up these days!) However, the book came highly recommended (mostly by men, including the 30-something librarian who I checked it out from: "oh, you're going to love it!" I don't know how he knew, but he was right). I finally cracked the cover.
Lo and behold, what indiscernible argo did I discover on the first page! For such a short book, I told myself, this would be a long read. After two or three pages of the futuristic, Russian-based slang I found that, like reading Shakespeare, the reader adjusts to the rhythm of the language. It did not prevent the story from absorbing me, and I didn't need to know the definition of every word to grasp the meaning.
Alex, the charming teenage sociopath narrator, spends the first third of the book inciting nightly acts of "ultraviolence" with his hooligan friends. In the second part, he is caught, punished, and rehabilitated. In the third, he must deal with the consequences of his violent past, and his present as a man who can no longer defend himself from them. Although written in the 60's, it's hard not picture a 1980's London backdrop complete with the punks and hooligans bringing anarchy in an alternate socialist dystopia.
A quick word on the violence. Although the narrator gleefully partakes in some terrible actions, his use of slang to describe it actually keeps it rather slapstick and prevents it from becoming overly graphic (like Fightclub, for instance). What I didn't expect at all was the humor. Some of Alex's observations are riotously funny. I even got a few strange looks while reading in public, either because I laughed too loudly, or reacted to Alex's deepening predicament with an "aah!"--a pretty good sign that I'm captivated. This says something about the skill of the writer, that he had me empathizing with (if not exactly rooting for) a depraved character who I had no business liking under normal circumstances.
The only thing that didn't quite sit with me was the inconsistent (yet original) 21st chapter. Some say this ends the novel on a lighter, more hopeful note. I don't think it needed to. Without giving too much away, what Alex hints at maturing into was, to me, far more terrifying than his old hooligan self. Especially seeing how the other adults in this book, including his parents, have turned out in this fictional future. Give me the other, albeit more sinister, end. ...more
First, let me just say that this was the first Jodi Picoult book I've read, so I didn't know what to expect. I thought the idea of a story featuring aFirst, let me just say that this was the first Jodi Picoult book I've read, so I didn't know what to expect. I thought the idea of a story featuring a parallel comic-book illustration every chapter sounded like an intriguing idea, and the fact that it would mirror Dante's descent into hell a la the Inferno seemed especially interesting. Sadly, neither the parallel comic-book story nor the Dante-mirror were carried out in a way that worked for me. Mainly, this was because of the fact that one character is a comic-book artist is only incidental to the plot, sort of "gee whiz, isn't this quirky!" This fact does not otherwise shape or influence the plot in any way.
Thirteen year old Trixie is dumped by her high school hockey player boyfriend and mopes for days. When they meet up later at a house-party (which involves alcohol, drugs and sexual games) she ends up in a situation that may or may not be considered rape. Like many similar situations most of us hear about in the paper, this is by no means a clear-cut case--Trixie lies about many details, and substances may have been involved which could further skew the facts. Trixie's parents, of course, refuse to believe that there may be a dark, disobedient side to their dear daughter. There isn't much in these obsessive, paranoid characters to like, but I think the author handled the "he said, she said" aspect of the assault case well.
I found the climax in the Alaskan wilderness to be very far-fetched, borderline ridiculous, and if certain elements were supposed to suggest Trixie's maturation, I for one have my doubts. Frustrating at times, this book will pull you through it in search of answers, but may leave you with a bad taste on your mouth....more