Kevin Fanning's Reviews > Twilight

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
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's review
Jan 17, 2009

it was ok
Read in January, 2009

We're going to try this, and we're going to try to be open-minded about it. We're going to try not to gawk terribly at some of the sentences that have rumpled our eyebrows so far. We're going to just forget that on p 12 the modern teenage narrator is said to have donned her jacket. We're going to just read the book, that's all.


--OK here's my review. --

If you come to this book looking for things to like, you will find things to like. Star-cross'd lovers, vampires, the universal awkwardness of high school: hay has been previously made from these topics, and that isn't likely to change in the future. In Twilight, I thought the new-kid-at-school stuff was handled well, and some of the back-and-forth of teenagers sussing each other out was great. The author also has a very dry sense of humor which popped up, but too seldom.

If, on the other hand, you come to this book looking for things to hate, you will find things to hate. The author makes a habit of using phrases that yank the reader out of character and out of world, and there are a number of instances where the information the reader is given contradicts or ignores what the author previously told us. This doesn't make Twilight a bad book, but it makes it a bit amateurish. The book felt like a NaNoWriMo project that was delivered to Barnes & Noble on December 1st. And if that sounds like sour grapes, it is.

My main problem with the book was that language and behavior the author uses to characterize the relationship between Edward and Bella is the language and behavior of abuse. He's kind to her one minute, cruel the next. When he's mean to her, he blames his behavior on her, and she accepts the fault as her own. He stalks her, eavesdropping on her conversations and watching her while she sleeps every night. He gets angry and jealous, even threatening, whenever she speaks to any other boy, and she must keep reminding him that he's the only one she cares about. He slowly takes control over her life, convincing her to not drive anymore (for her own safety), deciding when and how her father should learn about him and meet him, and stating that he doesn't want her to be away from his side, ever. Yes, he's a vampire, and we can explain some of this away within the context of the story. But I wonder what it's like for someone who's ever filed a restraining order to read this book.

And I guess that's why my heart breaks for all the teenage girls who read this book and love it. If someone can make a feminist argument for Bella I'd love to hear it, but in my opinion she's a depressing excuse for a protagonist, filled with self-loathing and seemingly incapable of doing anything for herself. (Except cook!) Any girl who identifies with Bella (and there is plenty to identify with), or wishes she could be Bella, deserves to set her sights so much higher.

That said: I think adults have a tendency to overemphasize the effect any one particular piece of art can have on younger minds. When I was a teenager I owned the G N' R Lies album, and although the music appealed to me then, I managed to grow up into a person who recognizes the misogyny of "Used to Love Her" and the homophobia and xenophobia of "One in a Million." But I didn't become that way because adults told me I shouldn't listen to that album, and who knows how that would have turned out, if it'd become something I felt I needed to dig my heels in over.

There's something beyond value, something universally humanizing, in the act of getting lost in the world of a book or a movie or an album, especially when you're a teenager. If millions of people are experiencing that with Twilight, than I want them to have that. It's good for humans, it's good for books, and it's good for the universe. I'll just hope that later on they'll also give themselves to chance to get lost in the worlds of girls like Willow Rosenberg, Listen Taylor, Frankie Landau-Banks, and Tally Youngblood.
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02/17 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-23)

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laaaaames Oh my god you are NOT.

message 22: by Pierce (new)

Pierce It's been really amusing reading everyone's opinions on this phenomenon I will never read. I appreciate the research.

But I'm also pretty sure that I would on occasion use words like donned and phrases like by dint of elbow grease. You know I would.

Kevin Fanning That we can all agree you would use those words is proof they don't belong in this book.

message 20: by Meg (new) - added it

Meg Godspeed, KF.

message 19: by Kathy (new) - added it

Kathy My thoughts are with you.

Kevin Fanning And I didn't even get a chance in my review to talk about the vampire baseball game. YOU GUYS: this book has a vampire baseball game. It's been over 1000 years since movable type printing was invented, and in all the books printed in all that history, this is the first time there's been a scene involving vampires playing baseball. It seems worth acknowledging.

laaaaames Kevin, I'm not sure I ever expected to be so touched by a review of Twilight but this really did it.

message 16: by Meg (new) - added it

Meg I find that vampire baseball game to be so frustrating, because it demonstrates to me that actually the author here has a good idea in her, or at least an amusing one, except probably she thinks vampire baseball is VERY SERIOUS TIMES and not at all hilarious.

I would no more keep a Twilight book from a kid than I would keep an episode of Gossip Girl from an adult. I think both of them hold a similar appeal in that they are fairly uncomplicated; they present a world in which everyone sticks to their ascribed gender and class rolls, except when it is funny or sexy for them not to. Every preteen who is passionately invested in this now has the ability and potential to be passionately invested in debunking it, eventually.

message 15: by Kathy (last edited Feb 25, 2009 02:56AM) (new) - added it

Kathy It's a great review, Kevin. My 11 year old daughter's reading the series. And she and I both read "New Moon" for mother/daughter book club. I think the books are really dumb and badly written. I agree though, that reading is reading and Meg's point is a good one. My older daughter used to read "The Babysitter Club" books and now she's a comparative literature major, so...

message 14: by Meave (new)

Meave The abusive relationship stands out the most to me in all the Twilight reviews; I want to think it's because it's written by a Mormon lady, but certainly you can suffer from godbag-style patriarchal oppression without being (overtly?) physically threatened.

POINT: I like the way you wrote about that part, it's extra-creepy and as terrible as a lot of pre/teen fiction is, I'd much rather read about ugly vapid ducklings becoming even more superficial swans than girls becoming beaten-down women.

message 13: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Ramos O'Briant I like many vampire books and read the first two in this series for marketing reasons. The books are flying off the shelves and I wanted to know why. Like you I was repelled by the abusive nature of the lead characters relationship, but as you point out some of this is endemic to the vampire profile: he/she is always the dominant figure. Does that make the human the slave? Are teenage girls looking for a master/guardian angel? Seems to me that if you're rewriting the modern vampire into an antihero an updated human protagonist is also in order.

message 12: by Klara (new)

Klara Hello hello! Have you read this article yet about Twilight?

Kevin Fanning I had not! It's, uh, interesting!

message 10: by Klara (new)

Klara Kevin wrote: "I had not! It's, uh, interesting!"

Hah, yeah, it's the closest thing I can come up with when somebody wants some kind of defense about Twilight. It sort of helps me understand what some people like about it? Especially a person who claims to not like YA novels.

Julie I agree with a lot of things you said. I tried to not look at the book from a feminist point of view, but what you said about Edwards was spot on. I didn't touch on it in my own review, because there's just to much to bring out, I think I could have gone on for days, so I stood away from those issues, although the next book(s) will likly have the same issues. Great Review.

message 8: by Omni (new)

Omni I know! Thank God someone else noticed this! She DONNED it, she actually DONNED her jacket! Donned!! How is this possibly an actual published book? How can this be possible!?

Lindsey Greer I am a teenager and when I read this book my view on Edward was ,and still is, the same. Who would fall head over heels for a guy who is overbearing, controlling, and stalks you 24/7? Is Bella that desperate? It just ticks me off.

Sophie You wondered in your review what a woman who has had to file a restraining order would think of Edward & Bella's relationship... well, I did a lot of cursing at Bella while reading. I just couldn't see the appeal of Edward, let alone find him at al romantic.

Great review!

message 5: by 'ro (new) - added it

'ro Maina Excellent review, dude.

I promised myself I'd NEVER see the movie, and then this past weekend as a lark, I watched it on cable w/ a friend. We laughed and laughed and, of course, I then HAD to read the book (I'm masochistically (and unconditionally and irrevocably) drawn to poorly executed fiction).

Thus far, the book has NOT disappointed.

Your review was well thought-out and even-handed and made me see the book in a wee bit better light.

But just a wee bit.



message 4: by Free (new) - rated it 1 star

Free Fall I've read a book about an abusive boyfriend - I think it was called something-light. Funny enough, it made me understand the appeal of significant others who hurt you, as girls tell themselves that he really is sorry (and in the book, he really was) and that he'll never do it again (but he does and it makes him horrified at his own actions).

I don't understand why Edward was so appealing. But I can understand how a young, impressionable teenage girl can get drawn into a cycle of abuse.

By the way, don't look down on cooking. If I had that ability, I'd be able to eat dinner for once instead of microwaving packaged "meals" or eating cereal without milk.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Edward is so controlling while Bella was such a pushover. I read somewhere twilight would violate a lot of abusive relationship rules. However your review was touching and put a book I would consider less important in a new light

Akila ccccccc

Greg Z Nice review. Just read it. Two stars, absolutely Meyer delivered to insecure average teens a dream of a novel. And is rich!

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