Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

My Rating: <3 <3 

Twilight. Love it or hate it, I'm sure that you've heard of it. It's one of the books that is most heavily praised for being a strong backing for YA. It's equally loathed by many for creating a saturation within the YA Paranormal Romance market. But we're not here to talk about any of that today. No. Today, I'm going to tell you what I thought of Twilight as a first time reader who just finished the book yesterday. It's not love. It's not hate. But hopefully, it is interesting.

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)

Isabella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Bella's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn.

Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Bella, the person Edward holds most dear. The lovers find themselves balanced precariously on the point of a knife—between desire and danger.

Deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight captures the struggle between defying our instincts and satisfying our desires. This is a love story with bite.

This book dragged. A lot. I had a very hard time staying focused in the story because Meyer uses a lot of descriptions, and I felt that a lot of them weren't of any real importance. That's never good; it lead to a lot of cases where I wanted to skim the page and move on to the next thing that was actually happening.

Which actually leads to the next problem. For a large portion of the book, Twilight really didn't feel like it actually had a plot. The key events of the story were too strung out, surrounded by what, to me, seemed like the characters wandering around and doing whatever they pleased. Some of the things they did and conversations they had could be interesting, but overall this lack of drive and direction hurt the book's momentum. Which was already struggling because of description overload. 

I will say that I really love how Meyer designed her vampires. Laugh at them if you wish, but they are different and original. When's the last time you read about vampires that "sparkle" prior to this book? I realize that it does not draw back on heavily researched vampiric traditions, but within the realm of a romantic story, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. (Another great example of a very different vampire race, which I love, is Lyndsay Sands Argeneau books.) I also liked how Stephenie carefully added details about the characters who inhabited her story's world so that there were many people in the book who were worth caring about.

Unfortunately, the bottom line still ends up being that there just wasn't enough "bite" to the plot to keep me genuinely interested. It does get better as the book progresses, but when I have to read over 100 pages before I am starting to care what is going on, a book is in serious trouble. 

The Characters: 

I don't feel that I ever really, truly got to know Bella. I got glimpses -- she loves her mom, she likes to read Jane Austen, she is willing to manipulate people if she wants information (*cough* Jacob. *cough*) But she never fully solidified in my mind as a character. This goes further then a laundry list of her interests not being jogged in my memory as I sit here and write, though. Bella is possibly the most passive heroine I have ever written a review about. I acknowledge and applaud her capacity to love, even though that does tend to get her into trouble. But I ultimately could not cheer for her, because I did not feel this was really her story. She always has to be rescued in some fashion or another, which makes me question how she can be viewed as a "heroine". 

And I don't think I would want to date Edward. I don't have the issue that his possessiveness is inappropriate that I have seen some people cite when talking about Twilight. Rather, I just didn't find that there was a lot that I really clicked with about him. He enabled Bella's passiveness as a character. In all reality, in my opinion, Twilight is actually his story. That would not be a bad thing in and of itself if that were what the book was about, but it isn't. Therefore, it's a problem. 

I did like some of the characters from Edward's family, especially Alice and Jasper. I think that Stephenie Meyer actually did a better job at defining and fleshing out her supporting characters then she did on her leads. Ah yes, and Carlisle was also good. And I liked Bella's dad, Charlie. He wasn't perfect, but he was certainly trying his best despite his faults. 

The Romance:

Hella and Edward's relationship is a paradox to me. On one hand, I feel that they deserve each other. The driving forces of their characters -- her passiveness and his possessiveness (Hello? He watches her sleep while she's living with her dad...) -- ensures that they are not going to seriously butt heads and have trouble -- at the very least, it ensures that if they do fight it will not have real consequences. Bella would irritate a guy who wants a girl who has her own thoughts. And Edward would be totally lost with a modern woman who actually has an opinion. I am not saying this out of malice -- it's simply what I see from reading these two.

From a writer's perspective, I have a much larger problem with these two. I don't see why they want to be together. And no, the above doesn't really cover that. What do Bella and Edward truly have in common? What, aside from his obsession with her blood, binds them and makes them want to be near each other? I saw a lot of chemistry but there was no reason for it. This is another paradox... The message that there does not need to be a "why" for love to exist is a pretty idea. In real life it even applies -- you can't always look at two people and instantly "get" what they see in each other, because in order to do that you need to apply your own ideals to their relationship.

But in a book, it's vital. It's not only that Stephenie does not give us a concrete reason -- that wouldn't necessarily work. It's that there isn't even the slightest inkling of a hint about this. It just is. They just are. And in a story, that just doesn't cut it. (Spoiler: Especially when you consider that this book leads into books where there is a love triangle, etc. Which is even more difficult to buy. Sorry, you can tune that out it's from watching the movies..)

So what saves it? Why am I not giving it one heart? Because despite everything that I have said, it still manages to accomplish what it should. It allows the reader to witness the birth of love between the two characters. Some have even said that it allows the reader to become Bella if they so desire. (I'll pass, thanks.) I came to this book hoping to watch two people fall in love and it all comes back to the paradox I just talked about. While the way that Stephenie chronicles Bella and Edward doesn't work from a writing perspective for me, it is true to a human one. How can we truly, honestly, tell why we love the people we love? We can guess. We can attempt to quantify it. But the true nature and essence of love is not that easily labelled. That's why.

In General:

Twilight left me feeling very indifferent. Don't take the things I have said as "I hate this book!". That's really not how I feel. But I know a lot of people love this book, so I feel the need to make it clear why it did not work for me. Stephenie Meyer had a great idea -- and clearly it worked for a lot of people. Also, the book didn't disappoint me because I already knew there was a chance I might have trouble reading it. The message behind Twilight -- that love can and should happen to anyone -- is beautiful. I just wish that the actual story had felt that way for me, too. 

As always, this is 100% my own opinion. If you have thought of trying out Twilight, go for it. But my suggestion would be to borrow it from the library or a Twilight loving friend. I'm glad I got to see what all the fuss was about. But I'm also glad this book is over, because it wasn't for me.


  1. Really interesting review! It's cool to hear a newbies view of Twilight. I agree with you that the supporting characters are the most interesting and likeable. When I think about what I enjoy about the Twilight saga, it always tends to be stuff with Alice or Charlie.

  2. Very thorough and interesting review! Seriously, I admire you for doing that. I read the books right before movie one came out, because of all the hype. I did not care for them. I can't review them though, because 1)It might turn into a rant 2)What can I say that hasn't been said 100 times, and 3)Most of what I would say would upset fans, and I try not to be intentionally controversial.

    Like you, this first book left me with a "meh" feeling. I wasn't angry or disappointed, just unimpressed. I got angry with the later books, but that's another topic.

  3. This is a really well thought out review. I loved Twilight when I first read it, but I was also sixteen. By the time I was eighteen I was pretty much over it and thought the last book was sheer insanity. And now I don't even reread the series anymore because I'd like to have a good memory of it.

  4. I agree with this. I understand some epic fangirling over characters . . . I do. However, I really did not see it in Twilight. I wasn't blown away and sucked in like I expected to be. You summed it up perfectly with Edward and Bella. They deserve each other.

    Such a spot on review.

  5. Great review! Twilight is on my re-read list, as it's been so long since I've read it, and I just bought New Moon. It'll be interesting to remember what about the book I did or didn't like, since it's the movie that springs more readily to mind (since I've watched it more times than I've read the actual book).

  6. I think this is one of the best reviews of Twilight I've ever read - mainly because it really is very subjective. I read the books around the time the movies released, and I agree, they're really nothing special.

    Unfortunately, if I were to review myself, it would undoubtedly turn into a rant. But thank you for this!


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