Emma Rosloff's Reviews > Twilight

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
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Apr 23, 12

bookshelves: ya-romance
Read in April, 2012

(Minor Spoilers throughout)

I never intended to read this book. I only did when I realized how silly it was for me to have given into the general outcry and resentment around it, having never read a page myself. I may be one of the few to have come out of it with a better opinion of it than I when I started. I went into it with only one expectation: I would like absolutely nothing about it.

This could explain why, when there were things I liked, I was pleasantly surprised. Tickled, even, that I found myself devouring it, in spite of its evident failures. I agree with what many others have said -- the plot revolves solely around the romance for far too long, taking a sudden turn late in the book… so late that I was almost unnerved by it. (view spoiler) Somehow, I still enjoyed reading it, all the way through. My writing teacher likes to say: 'Tell the story you'd want someone to tell you.' Clearly, the romance was what intrigued Meyer. I was willing to go along, because it actually echoed my own experience enough to conjure my own memories of falling in love.

I know what it's like to fall so hard for someone that they're all you can think about. I know what it's like to feel physical pain when you're separated from them, to the point where all you truly want is to be in their presence. Some of the early scenes with Edward and Bella felt right out of my own life (except for the whole crazy vampire part). When my boyfriend and I were first becoming friends, we would spend hours, alone at a cafe, finding subtle ways to ask each other questions about our lives and each other. It was the greatest thrill in the world. He was with another girl at the time, a very long relationship that had gone sour, that he needed to get out of. Our unrequited love was story book intense. We spent a lot of time aching for each other. I knew very early on, deep in my gut, that I could probably spend the rest of my life with him. When he did finally break up with her, he spent a month away from me, in Europe. It was for the best; I didn't want to be his rebound. But the pain and longing were unreal. That month felt like a year.

So I give Meyer props for getting those bits right. Nowadays, I'm in a healthy, happy relationship (with the guy I mentioned), and I'm working toward my own aspiration of becoming a writer. I'm not Bella Swan. And thank goodness. Meyer certainly sets the tone -- it's dreary from the beginning, and Bella appears to have nothing worth caring about until Edward enters her life. And once he does, she literally cannot resist him, even though he's as terrifying as he is intoxicating. They are so clearly predator and prey. That power dynamic carries into everything -- Edward is domineering, which is only amplified by how quickly his mood shifts; he can be tender, outraged, mischievous and indifferent, all the in span of seconds. Bella is submissive, which is amplified in turn by how little there is in her life; how she genuinely seems to prefer alienating herself from other people. Well, humans. Because Edward is a vampire, his wiles are literally overpowering.

Bella is in his thrall. The interesting part is that she's happy about it. I know that this is precisely what enrages people so, and I can see why. She lives for absolutely nothing else. She even willingly puts herself in danger. Not a great example to set for impressionable young girls. When it comes to heroines, Bella is exceptionally pathetic. Her chronic clumsiness bored me to tears, and her tendency to end up in dangerous situations made her worse than useless. She's a liability, and she knows it. (view spoiler)

What I found both strangely compelling and absurdly comical was that Meyer seems to have written the beginnings of a BDSM relationship without meaning to. The best correlate I can find is the movie 'The Secretary', wherein James Spader's character asserts control over every aspect of Maggie Gyllenhall's character's life (down to the number of peas and size of her mashed potato portion when she sits down to dinner, a fact that she literally gets off on, later). Not only does she enjoy it; it gives her purpose, turning her away from thoughts of suicide and a nasty cutting habit. My point, is that while 'The Secretary' may have been a movie, these type of people do exist -- people who are turned on by that power dynamic, who are titillated by near death (asphyxiation, etc.), who enjoy pain as much as they do pleasure, and are willing to to tread that line. Obviously, these desires are never in Bella's thoughts, and somehow, I doubt that Meyer intended to explore them. This is YA after all, which is a big part of why Bella's behavior feels so… wrong. Had she been a full-blown adult, the impact would have been less severe, I think. I kept forgetting she was a teenage girl.

And yet… I got a kick out of entertaining the notion that she was exploring some secret fetish, that these were her emerging preferences. I decided it would be more fun (now that people have exhausted themselves being angry at this series) to ignore the glaring red flags that her obsession was unhealthy, and just accept that she was into Edward because he was so creepy. (view spoiler)

I know that sounds terrible! But, honest to god, it's how the book read to me. I really don't endorse her choices, or the message they send. If anything, her story is something of a cautionary tale. There are men out there who are true predators -- it would be really misleading to hope for a warm-hearted protector, waiting to emerge from underneath the creep. It seemed almost like dumb luck that Bella fell for one who wasn't looking to abuse her. Although I guess I shouldn't speak too soon -- I've got three books to go. We'll see if I get through them all, or if the peculiar novelty of Bella and Edward's relationship wears off, and I'm just as aggravated with it as everyone else.
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