Kevin Fanning's Reviews > Twilight

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
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's review
Jan 13, 2009

it was ok

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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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 2009 – Finished Reading
January 13, 2009 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-27)

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laaaaames Oh my god you are NOT.

message 26: 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 24: by Meg (new) - added it

Meg Godspeed, KF.

message 23: 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 20: 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 19: 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 18: 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 17: 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 16: by Klara (new)

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

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

message 14: 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 12: 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 9: 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 8: 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 7: 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 Nice review. Just read it. Two stars, absolutely Meyer delivered to insecure average teens a dream of a novel. And is rich!

Rbbiefrah you write: 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.

My reply : ! Bella braves nightmares every night then composed herself gets up to face another day > when a gang of 5 guys tries to rape her she yells “let me go !” snaps a perfect groin kick and tries to run > when Edward leaves Bella feels like “ a big hole had been punched in my chest “and yet despite her pain does not turn to drugs ,drinking or guys or commit suicide but continues to go to school and stays near the top of her class, works after school in Sporting Goods store ( for her college fund) and cooks her Dad’s meals > Super tracker vampire James has his heart set on killing Bella. Bella Edward , Alice and Emit are in the Hummer speeding at 120mph away from Forks. Edward , Alice and James just want to get and stay away as fast as possible . It is courageous heroic Bella who has the loving intelligence to get her guardians to stop and go back into harms way (Bella’s House ) because if they don’t : 1) Bella just goes missing he FBI will be called and will investigate the Cullens exposing them as vampires 2)Vampire Tracker James will track her scent to her Father’s house and finding her absent will kill her Father . She ,a model of selfless love in action , thinks of the Cullens and Her father’s safety over her own . Therefore She goes back and pretends to have a quarrel with her father and tells him she is leaving and with James (and her Dad) watching she storms to her 1952 Chevy and drives off thus putting herself in peril but luring James away from her Father and making it unnecessary for the FBI to be called in one fell swoop . That’s a lot of PLUCK ( courage ) and brilliant strategy (not weakness and stupidity.) > Bella is told by James on the phone that he has her mother and will kill her unless Bella comes alone Bella sneaks off from her guardians and goes to meet James on the way there she thinks “ I never thought my own death before this but dying to save the life of someone I love seems like a pretty good way to die” (“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” –Jesus quoted in John 15:13) > Bella rides motorcycles ( in the book any way ) , jumps off a 100 ft cliff ( I’ve jumped off 60 ft and I can tell you it hurts if you don’t cut the water just right and it takes no small amount of courage) > Bella stomps up to the werewolf gang and demands “ what have you done to[my friend] Jacob !” Big muscular Paul laughs Bella slaps him in the face > Bella charges off to Italy without a second thought to try to save Edward even though she knew the Italian vampires would likely kill her >Bella seeing that Edward is about to have his head ripped off by two vampires has the strength and presence of mind to QUICKLY reach down garb a sharp rock and in one stroke with all her might slash opened her fore arm and offer the blood to the two vampire to distract them from killing Edward. Cutting your self with a knife is easy and painless but with a rock it takes UMPH ! and is very painful but strong brave Bella does it a fast and deftly as Jason Borne . Bella is someone you want one you side > Bella refuses an abortion even though her pregnancy is extremely painful and the Indian lady and the doctor both predict “DEATH unless it’s cut out Bella jut says “I wont die ! I’m strong enough to do this! “> Bella Braves the excruciating pain of being transformed without moving and crying out because she knows her friends would be hurt by her pain . All other newborns writhe and scream from the pain but Bella remains calm and still counts her breathes and suffers that excruciating agony in silence . “

Rbbiefrah Bella is modest and humble . All accounts if Bella being insipid looking and clumsy are her OWN thoughts . NO WHERE in the book does anyone besides Bella describe her as ordinary or pathetic . Jessica cant believe Bella never dated in Phoenix . Edward’s, Jacob’s , Mike’s, Eric’s , Tyler’s etc. opinion of her is that she is very attractive and special . “Bella you really don’t know how special you are ? ” Yet it does not go to Bella’s head. Bella gets to the point ( In NEW MOON ) that she can jump on a motor cycle kick up a rooster tail ( that she hopes hits Jacob) and speeds off into the woods. (yet she calls herself a klutz ) A perceptive person would see that Bella is very attractive and not abnormally klutzy but is TRULY HUMBLE about it . Would you prefer a heroine that is stuck on herself? I hope the readers are not so morally in the dark to think humility is weakness rather it is a very great strength . Egotistic athletes can’t focus on the task at hand and make mistakes. The humble ones that can get their ego out of the way can perform in the moment with no egoistic distractions . We DON’T want an egotistic heroine. Humility is strength . Bella is humble –ergo- Bella is strong and likeable.

Rbbiefrah Bella’s greatest power : LOVE
Ignorant of how love can accelerate spiritual development people criticize Bella for being so focused on Edward . There is a school of yoga mediation called bhakti yoga . The purpose of meditation is to concentrate the scattered mind at the third eye so that a practitioner can contact God at this inner portal . In bhakti yoga this focusing of the mind is done imagining God at the eye center and focusing all ones love and longing upon His presence there . To do this a feeling of love has to be generated some how and then focused one pointedly on God during the mediation
Spiritual advisors generally advise bhakti yogis get married and experience the chaste love for children and spouse then during mediation take that love and focus it on God at the eye center . A bhakti yogi would look upon Bella’s steadfast one pointed focus of love upon Edward as an asset . Bella remained focused on Edward for the 9-10 months that they were parted in NEW MOON . The ignorant critics dubbed her weak for this “obsessive behavior “. But a bhakti yogi would have known that the powerful currents of love projected by Bella so one pointedly at the form of Edward in her mind’s eye would gradually focus all her love at one point . just like a magnifying glass takes diffuse rays of sunlight and focused them into a brilliant patch at the eye center .
Swami Ji writes in Sar Bachan “ The mind does not become so much purified and focused by 1000 years of mediation as by 6 months of intense longing “
Under these conditions : intense unremitting pain of separation the mind is purified of low desires and gains an inner sort of brilliant light –
after mediation , one is able to aim this bright beam of attention on any task no matter how difficult and accomplish it quickly. Therefore the very obsessive love the ignorant critics dubbed “Bella’s pathetic weakness” was instrumental in developing Bella’s extraordinary shielding abilities . Yogis know that psychic powers come with concentration of mind and that the best way to concentrate the mind is by an intense unwavering onepointed love without which mind cannot be tamed . In Breaking Dawn Bella was able to project a force field that protected her beloved husband , family and friends from Jane’s and Alex’s onslaughts of psychic energy and thus saved the day . Its not Stephanie’s fault that her readers could not grasp that an unrelenting one pointed love sharpens the mind and will . Her only fault was she over rated her readers and did not spell all this out for the ignorant.
Bella needed strength and courage of the higest order to maintain her love while Edward was awayIn his book on Bhakti Sawan Singh Ji says “ to follow the path of devotion requires the courage, bravery and resolve of a prophet “ (Bella had resolve and courage) He continues : “ we cannot have communion with the beloved so long as our mind is spread out in worldly desires” (Bella wanted only Edward) “The madness of a lover’s ecstasy brings before a lover’s eyes a new world which is beyond this physical region . To live in focused remembrance of the beloved is the highest and sweetest elixir” ( Bella would do anything to have an “Edward vision ” ) “He feels a rare and special bliss and happiness, so great even in discomforts, that the people of the world cannot begin to imagine them . Love is a beautiful ocean of nectar . Once a person dives into it he receives eternal life But the path of love is not an easy one . It is only for one who is willing to sacrifice his ego . Hafiz says: To conquer ego is the price that love demands . One has to bargain for admittance to this path with ones ego . To renounce ego requires the greatest strength and courage . To give up ego is the death of self , It is to die to oneself and be reborn as the beloved and this will take all, ones strength courage and resourcefulness “( Bella resorted to dangerous stunts to induce “Edward visions” to keep her love focused . She was afraid she’d forget his voice or his face and the intensity of her love would decline. When she found out those dangerous stunts could bring Edward’s form and voice front and center she became fascinated with dangerous stunts . She was willing to go to any lengths to keep the intensity of her one pointed love alive . That is Bella Swan’s supreme greatness : her undying love . The clueless critic’s want to see Bella some kick ass or attain some worldly ambition to inflate her ego and prove that she is “king of the hill” but it takes MUCH more strength to trade ones ego for the crown of love . Bella did not become a killer . She became a shield . In God’s eyes shielding others is better than killing them ( “Thou shalt not kill !” )God seems pleased with Bella . She made a very good bargain . But our short sighted feminists call Bella a weak minded fool . Physical combat training can produce a brute but Love made Bella into a shield . Ultimately, if Edward and Bells became Bhaki yogis, Their prospects for successfully contacting god at the eycenter , beholding his face and falling madly in love with Him would be excellent . Giving up ego in that love would be almost automatic . Feminists want Bella be strong enough to dominate men but she became strong enough to dominate her own ego and once ego is gone all that is left is God . What then ? a female savior !
I CHOOSE to look at NEW MOON in the above Light because my goal is to be happy and the closer I get to God the happier I get . I want to get the maximum feeling of love out of the book. If you who reads this finds it frustratingly difficult to love this book please remember that hate is not the opposite of love. The opposite of love is indifference. So if you hate this book take heart at least you are obsessed with it and one day everything will fall into place and you will be able to love it . No other book has 1 star reviewers saying “ I’ve read this book 4 times and I hate it “ They are obsessed and that obsession will still focus their mind . I would just ask that in your hatred of this book you try not to hurt the feelings of others because that would produce blackness in your heart and retard your progress . Try to digest your anger

Rbbiefrah Mr Fanning ,
You wrote : “If someone can make a feminist argument for Bella I'd love to hear it” , On 6/28/17 I provided you with an exhaustive list of story events supporting that Bella is a feminist (strong , intelligent ) character
I AM WAAAAAITING for you to either concede that people that call Bella weak did not take into consideration the events I brought to your attention and tell me that you opinion of Bella ,in light of those events , is that she if strong as steel or if you are still of the opinion that she is weak put the SPECIFIC events from the book where you opinion is .
I gave you specific events clearly showing that Bella did many things that took real “guts” . If after reading my list you realize that you can’t do the daring things BELLA did in the story and YOU still call BELLA a weakling then what does that make you?
Would this describe you ?
Mr Fanning: “If someone can make a feminist argument for Bella I'd love to hear it”
Rbbiefrah: “ I’d love Mr Fanning’s reply to my feminist argument for Bella”
(If Mr Fanning never answers . Then Mr fanning has no business calling any one weak )

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