It seems like a copy of this book is in every sophomore girl’s backpack. I figured that anything this prevalent has to be either truly dreadful or rather extraordinary, so when I found myself near the Stephenie Meyer display at Local Bookstore Big Box I took the opportunity to check it out.
True confession: I read three pages and put Twilight down.
Then I was invited to join a book club, and this was the first book on the list. Moreover, a friend loaned me her copy. I no longer had any excuse.
I pushed through the first chapter, then the second – and suddenly I was breathlessly reading the last chapter and bewailing the fact that I didn’t have the sequel on hand.
Twilight is not a “good book” but it is a terrific read. Written for a predominantly female YA audience, this book drops its 17-year-old main character, Bella, in a small town high school far from home. On her first day of school she has a nasty run-in with one of the school’s oddest characters, a startlingly attractive junior named Edward. Anyone familiar with the book’s premise quickly recognizes that Edward and his adopted siblings are vampires, and it isn’t too long before Edward and Bella get beyond their strained first encounter and become something along the lines of friends.
The story’s conflict stems less from the school’s nest of adolescent vampires than from the dangerous attraction between Bella and Edward. Edward likens his attraction to Bella to that between a thirst-ravaged alcoholic and a snifter of the finest brandy – she is exactly “to his taste.” Unfortunately, not only does Edward not want to suck Bella’s blood – he’s completely off the bloodsucking wagon. The attraction remains, however, and physical desire evolves to a more sophisticated relationship.
The high school drama is amusing and interesting. Meyer’s characters are drawn well enough that the reader becomes invested in their well-being (although as the narrator, Bella ends up a bit thinly-characterized for my taste). The star of the story – the romantic relationship – draws its power from the elegant tightrope walk Meyer orchestrates. Vampire fiction is almost by definition very sexual, and the passionate lust-love of two 17-year-olds (one, mind you, with over a century of life experience) is at times achingly steamy. Meyer, however, is LDS in addition to being focused on a young audience, and she keeps her characters out of one another’s pants with a surprisingly elegant plot point: Edward is so physically overwhelmed by Bella’s mere touch, and so concerned for her safety, that even a kiss presents extraordinary and unwanted danger.
Like any good first book in a series of four, Twilight ends on a dramatic upswing. After finishing it, I found myself hungry for answers. Would Edward’s family hold together in their support for Bella’s involvement with their lives? Will the town finally turn on the vampires? Will the “werewolves” (a gratuitously silly addition to the story, IMHO, but perhaps it will pan out in later books) engage with the vampires?
More importantly: will Bella remain human or become vampire? And if she becomes vampire, will her chief appeal for Edward disappear?
Reading this book gave me a great deal of insight into the psyche of a 16-year-old girl (or rather, reminded me of things I’d forgotten in my years since high school). I haven’t gained any great wisdom from having read it, but I was mightily entertained for a weekend and am excited for the next installation (which came out in paperback a few days ago, hurrah!) Definitely a worthwhile light read for those who enjoy fantasy.