Monday, November 24, 2008

Twilight Reflections

[WARNING: This review of Stephanie Myer's Twilight contains SPOILERS. I personally don't think that these spoilers can spoil your enjoyment of the book or movie, but if you're averse to all SPOILERS of any kind. BEWARE]

I've only read Stephanie Myer's Twilight in the past week, but I've been hearing about the book for a long time. And if you haven't heard, the movie will be coming out soon. People on my message boards have been waiting in eager anticipation. I have friends who are fans or have become reluctant fans. Entertainment Weekly did a cover story on it. Stephanie Myers is the hot author of the moment. Can you blame me for being a little wary of all this hype? I rarely touch the novels on the bestsellers lists, partly because they are usual suspense thrillers and mysteries which are not my cup of tea, but also because I find that I am not always in sync with the rest of the world when it comes to my reading material. However I can't resist this type of book. A supernatural young adult novel? Count me in. So I started reading Twilight in the bookstore then, getting impatient, I bought the book which everyone is talking about. My verdict is: it's not bad.

(Read more about the Twilight Series on Wikipedia – Watch out for spoilers! Won't hold myself responsible for anything you find on other websites.)

Sorry. No, I have not joined the ranks of the Twilight obsessed. However, I also cannot have the snobby satisfaction of disliking the book which is adored by the rank and file. Twilight has good things going for it, but it just hasn't touched me at that uber level so many have experienced.

Most people may know by now that the story revolves around seventeen year old Bella who reluctantly moves to live with her father. She is not at all happy with the move to the cold, snowy, gloomy town of Forks in Washington. But almost at once she notices and is drawn to a stunningly handsome fellow student, Edward Cullen and finds that she is drawn to him. Some dramatic events are entwined in the plot as they get to know each other, but these events are not the main focus of the story. This works to an extent for this book: it is after all a romance. The characters need time to see each other and experience the various feelings associated with love. The author also needs to take the time to develop the vampires in this universe she has created. The suspenseful turn the story takes later on is interesting, but is resolved fairly quickly. The very dramatic point in the plot is not even shown directly – an interesting move which I am not convinced works that well.

So the main draw of Twilight is its characters specifically Bella and Edward. Bella is typical, or she describes herself as typical. In her words, she is average looking, but evidence speaks otherwise as several boys from her school fall for her almost immediately. Bella speculates that this is because she is the new kid in school, but this theory doesn't quite gel with me. As far as personality goes, Bella doesn't exactly dazzle. She's definitely not a butt kicking, super fierce heroine. (Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with these types of heroines per se, but they are getting cliched and overdone.) She is timid, klutzy (this is a bit overdone) and aloof from her classmates. While, I am glad she does not belong in the super heroine mould, she did not generate strong feeling in me. She seems to care little about anyone else around her except Edward, and somehow I could not care about her as much as I would have liked.

This brings us to Edward: the object of fan girl obsessions; the imaginary boyfriend of thousands; the vampire du jour. There's no doubt about Edward's looks. He is gorgeous. Bella is deeply attracted to him, so much so it becomes a little tedious as almost every mention of him has to include a mention of angelic, Adonis-like looks. He also has an attractive voice; he plays and writes his own music. He's strong as an ox, and astonishingly fast. He doesn't need to sleep, and he can appear and disappear silently. Even his breath smells like heaven. As one character notes, these vampires have a "glut of weapons" in their physical arsenal "much, much more than really necessary."

Myers is to be commended though because despite all this, Edward is not insufferable. I can see why some readers have fallen in love with him. He is sensual. When he falls in love, he is devoted; he is passionate. He is fascinated. His whole attention is riveted. I love that aspect of his personality, but I am not blown away by him. I don't blame Mrs. Myers. She did the best she could. My problem is I've been spoiled: I've known better heroes. I'm familiar with the likes of Edward Rochester*, Sorensen Carlisle**, the evil Wizard Howl***. Edward is definitely a 10 in the book, but in my mind he's a 6. Not bad at all. As I said, I can see why so many love him, and I cannot safely say that he doesn't deserve the devotion.

Overall I'm glad I read it. Myers is quite a good writer. Her narrative flows and is not grating or annoying. As usual I am a little saddened that some writers who are better do not receive as much recognition, but I am always glad when so many people are interested in a series of books. It's a little like Harry Potter fever: you have a much better chance of finding someone who has read the same books and who are willing to discuss them, and I love book discussions. So in that sense, I am glad to be a part of another book phenomenon.

*Hero of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Wonderful, deeply emotional book.

**Hero of Margaret Mahy's The Changeover: A supernatural romance. My favourite book by my favourite author with my favourite hero. Watch out for my future Margaret Mahy write-up.

***Hero of Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle. This character just suddenly popped into my head. He's not usually on my list of favourite heroes, but he's a very good one and fits the mould I'm describing.

(Make sure and leave a comment about my review, this book or the movie, even if you don't agree with me. As I said, I love civilized discussions.)