This is not exactly your standard review of Twilight (which is book 1 of the Twilight series). Being a male in his 30s who is not the largest fan of either romantic novels nor vampires, you can almost say that I am the exact opposite of the target audience for this book. I had friends, though, who adored it and it is popular and one of the biggest mistakes you can make while reading is to not take chances every once in awhile. This seemed like a perfect book to be outside of my "comfort zone".
My final verdict is a tad mixed. It reads like a first novel, and most of my complaints could be seen as noting that as well as noting the subject matter and intended audience. Meaning, essentially, that most of my complaints about the book are meant to be part of the book and could have been assumed from the get go. At the same time, it reads fast and focuses heavy on a simple line, eschewing tons of complex mythos and unnecessary subplots just to keep the interest straight down the middle.
Most of my commentary on the novel can be summed up in my taking of Bella. The first couple of chapters paint her as a stubborn, whiny brat with no depth. The intended effect was to be a person who felt alone and did not feel comfortable letting people in, but it never quite materialized just right. I saw what was meant, but it felt like I was being told that, not allowed to experience it. However, after the first couple of chapters, Meyer's grip over Bella increases and the tone changes enough to make her an actual character, not just the description from the back of a cereal box. She barely makes it out of cookie-cutter, and her reactions to thinkgs barely make it out of romantic cliches, but she lives enough to be a vessel to archetypes she is representing. This kind of works for the rest of the novel as well. It never surprises you. In fact, the foreshadowing and rote plot can be said to be the opposite of surprising. However, there is a passion to it that keeps it from drowning in derivativeness.
It would be only half a review if I did not take a moment to point out that Meyer has watered down the vampire myth structure to a point some vamp fans may not like. They can be exposed to sunlight. They can drink animal blood. They are faster, stronger, smarter and have psychic powers. They also can cross moving water, can apparently breathe, and numerous other removals of the classic weaknesses. Vampires and sexuality are so entwined in literature that a romance novel involving them is about as natural as you can get, but Meyer's insistence of making them perfect mars the story. At the core of vampire sexuality is an antithesis to humanity, a disease that retains the form of human. Vampires have to be outsiders because every boon the recieve comes at a price. In this novel, vampires are desirable because they are Olympic gods on Earth. The end result is perhaps more fanfic-ish and fairytale-ish than a book about blood sucking mingled with a coming of age should be.
My final score is Eh, with twinges into Meh when the novel goes too much towards utter sap (the middle is particularly bad, when the novel is all about the relationship and loses the thread of plot to build upon it). There is nothing new here, and some of plot points are too much of the overly simplified world of pulp romance physics to be convincing. Sometimes, though, simpler stores and characters can have a charm when you want an upfront novel. I can see why some care even though I don't so much. I've already recommended it to a couple of younger women (18-25 or so) I know and that target age group would seem to be the key. If you like young, smart, half-rebel females and the bad guy that isn't quite a bad guy; if you like vampires and dark fantasy elements; if you like the concept of a girl in a different world than she is used to learning to fit in and learning how to not fit in: then you might want to give this book a try. It's light, fat-free, though a little heavy on the sugar in places*. Best thing about it is, if you find yourself not liking it, it doesn't take long to finish. And, if you do like it, it's not long to reread (and there are three other books in the series).
*: I especially like to give Chapter 13 hell because of the way it reads. The "Super Lad" is played off as really fast and really dangerous and really strong and really scary and drop dead gorgeous but he is just passionate and the girl can really reel him in and give him focus. It's that sort of romantic cliche that I consider dribble of the most treacle variety. Romance fans eat it up, though.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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