Posted by Heidi in

I enjoyed reading the Twilight books by Stephenie (this is the correct spelling of her first name. Yes, it is! If you don’t believe me, check your book jacket) Meyers. They are fun escapist fiction and I love vampires, especially the kind who work hard to overcome their true ghoulish nature. Having said that, if I were to be banished to a desert island with the works of only one author who lived in the past 1,000 years to keep me company, Stephenie would not be the author I chose. (Don’t ask me who it would be—I check in with myself on this subject at least once a month and I still don’t have a definitive answer. Let’s just say that Georgette Heyer is definitely in the running.)

However, why I like or do not like these books is not really of interest to anyone, even me. Especially me. Since I came late to the party, reading all three books between February and May 2008, and was perfectly aware just how popular these books are long before I cracked the binding on Twilight, what fascinated me most about these books was (were?) their phenomenal appeal. As a writer of romantic fiction, I was very interested in what this author did “right” in order to create such a manic response to her creation. For those who are still with me, these were the conclusions I came to:

First, she gave us a larger than life hero. In fact, she gave us two, Edward and Jacob. With the advent of TV, movies and special effects, we are no longer interested in the typical good guy cowboy/gunslinger who is a really great shot. It’s just not enough anymore. We need a guy who was bit (bitten? And I call myself a professional writer?) by a radioactive spider or who blew in from an alien planet and can do things no ordinary human being can do. Even our vampires have to be super-heroic; take Angel and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer—neither “eat” humans anymore, the ultimate badge of super hero status amongst blood suckers everywhere. In addition, we like our heroes flawed and vulnerable, such as the difference between the 1960’s TV Superman who smiled indulgently through thick and thin and today’s Clark Kent of Smallville who is filled with all the angst of any red-blooded teenager of our day. And then there is the Phantom of the Opera, the typical anti-hero but romantic in the extreme. He is a human with supernatural properties. When his story was written, he was an evil villain, but in his latest incarnation, his audience is rooting for him all the way. My daughter would have vastly preferred Christine ended up with the phantom rather than the merely rich and handsome Raoul in spite of the phantom’s murderous petulance. I imagine a majority of people who saw the Andrew Lloyd Webber play and movie entertained similar feelings as did my daughter. In other words, the term “perfect hero” has become about as archaic as the typewriter.

Second, she jacked up the whole “sex is a no-no” concept by dramatically increasing the stakes. Not only is it dangerous, even potentially fatal for Bella and Edward to be together (their love could literally die, and who but a black widow looks forward to that?) but the author has supercharged the desire, at least on Edward’s part, by making Bella someone he finds the perfect stave to hunger, both in a romantic/physical love way as well as an “all you can eat banquet” kind of way. I have to say, that was pure genius. Why? When you consider her books are so wildly popular amongst young teens who are still invested in preserving their virginity yet dream of being irresistible to the opposite sex (and who is a more irresistible heroine than Bella?--at least to Edward) as well as LDS women who grew up in a culture that so highly regards sexual purity, you have your answer. For people who resist pre-marital or extra-marital sex, the conflict between Bella and Edward is truly relatable and as old as Adam and Eve. Hence the apple on the cover of Twilight.

Third, the “Bella—Edward—Bella--Jake” mess is a tangle with which most of us are familiar. Who hasn’t spent at least a few months out of his/her life feeling utterly confused as to which gal/guy you truly loved? This indecisiveness about lifelong partners is one that has intensified in recent years with the decline of marriage, the upswing in divorce and a lack of confidence in a rosy future. The agonizing feelings that go along with all of that are classic and, let’s face it, it gave Meyers' a reason to write three books instead of one. Jackpot!

Fourth, she wrote the books in a format that is most familiar to us as avid TV watchers. As a writer, I could not help but notice the mechanisms she used and noted how similar they are to the way a story on film is composed. The action is fast-paced and self-contained with few long sections of uninterrupted introspection or narration. This is a far cry from Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, a novel that sports a single paragraph of narration that is a full page and a half long. Readers of popular fiction today won’t sit still for that after having their brains short-circuited by TV. This is why my favorite book as a young person was Little Women which I had read 7 times by age 15 while my 13 year old daughter can’t get through the first few chapters. “Nothing happens!” she wails. Amazingly, very little actually happens in Meyers' books, either, they’re just written in such a way that we feel a lot is happening all of the time, a must for a book to reach superstar status (the Harry Potter books are similar in this way). Lastly, the books are written in first person which many readers claim to dislike but which reaches out and grabs us by the throat, anyway. That’s why we take the ride even if, by the end, we find it wasn’t quite the ride we were expecting.

Fifth, I have heard from a number of people who truly dislike Bella and find her boring, dumb and uninteresting. In my mind, and perhaps for the same reasons, I find that Bella acts as a simple place-marker. In other words, she almost disappears in her own story which means we can easily replace her with ourselves. We are Bella in this story, it is our story, and we are the ones living through these experiences. (This is generally true for male readers of romantic fiction, as well, for reasons that are too technical and little-understood by this author to address in this post.) Whether this was intentional on the author’s part or not, it certainly seems to have worked for the majority of her readers.

Again, even though these aren’t my above-all be-all books, I did enjoy reading the stories while I was actually “there”. I intend to read Breaking Dawn, as well, so please don’t come to my house and egg it or leave rude comments on my blog, though it could be better than no comments at all. Hmmm, okay, go ahead and leave rude comments but please watch your language—comments with foul words will be deleted. (Psssttt! Will somebody please comment telling me how to delete comments?) Lastly, if you really want to read a great vampire book, check out Sunshine by Robin McKinley. Now, that’s a vampire that makes me swoon! Perhaps I find the hero/vampire in Sunshine more irresistible than Edward because the heroine doesn’t. Resist him, that is. In other words, you will probably have to skip a couple of pages here and there but still, a really great read!

This entry was posted on Monday, July 28, 2008 at Monday, July 28, 2008 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

14 wise, witty and wonderful comments

I liked these books - they were fun, but not by any means mentally stimulating. Well, not in the "learning" kind of way. I am looking forward to the next book coming out. Are you going to see the movie? I have thought that Bella is supposed to be so mature, but seems to be immature at every opportunity. Sorry, these thoughts seem really choppy. :)

July 28, 2008 at 4:40 PM

I have to agree with you. The author wants us to believe Bella is mature, yet she does immature things--at the same time, they are pretty typical for a girl her age. Yes, we will see the movie. Mary will have a total fit if we don't. I am interested in seeing how the movie plays out compared to the book.

July 28, 2008 at 4:45 PM

I also read these books a little late in the game. I actually listened to the first one while driving around in my car. It is the first book on tape that I took out and listened too while I was at home. I liked them because it spoke to my inner LDS 16 year old. You hit it! No sex, but wanting to be wanted in a not so "friendly way." Can you get any more angst...That said, as a mom, I am totally disturbed by the bizarre romance (can we say co-dependent?). But, I am looking forward to the movie and the 4th book, just because. Oh, and Ms. Austen would be my pick for a desert island. I can read and re-read those anytime.

July 28, 2008 at 5:22 PM

Ms Austen is most surely on the list!

July 28, 2008 at 5:26 PM

I agree with everything you wrote. When I read the books I did place myself as Bella, which is quite embarrassing being a Mom and all. I liked the books, they were great reads, but not the books I would choose if stranded on an island and could only choose one.

I love all kinds of books, but I am a romantic person at heart and so I choose to read Romance novels...all kinds, some are good, some not so good.

I am going to look into that Sunshine book! Thanks.

I found your blog from Mormon Mommy Blogs

Shelle (BlokThoughts)

July 28, 2008 at 5:49 PM

Shelle, thanks so much for your comment--and be sure to check out my romance novel, Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind, when it comes out in December. It will be in libraries by November, but you might have to request it at yours.

July 28, 2008 at 6:14 PM

Well Heidi, you did it.
You have hit the nail on the head as far as getting people to leave comments. I predict this will bring them in droves.
My whole take on the books come from my overall perspective of what I believe is being said in the books.
We are all given challenges, some admittedly are self-inflicted, others seemingly inbred. I believe it is our responsibility as spirit children of a perfect being to try to overcome any and all negative aspects of the 'Natural Man'. (I know that we cannot attain perfection on our own but that does not negate our responsibility to try) Now after stating that, this is what I personally got out of the books.
We CAN overcome those things that we feel are curses, or beyond our control. It is OUR choice, simply that. I think that is what the apple on the cover represents. Choices.
An LDS author wrote a book that at first glance does not promote her faith (by having the heroine be of our faith) but still teaches a very important concept of our religion. Free Agency. And people are eating it up.
If you enjoyed the Twilight series try 'The Host'. It took me a while to get into it but I ended up really enjoying it. I also feel there is a great moral message in that one too.
(sorry to get so long winded, wish I could express my thoughts in a more flowing manner. I should hire you to write my comments)

July 28, 2008 at 6:27 PM

Roxanne, I really appreciate your comment. I have absolutely nothing against the books but I think you are very insightful to get that out of them (tho I did mention that I love vampires who work at overcoming their true nature). I guess I wasn't looking deep enough (granted, I was sick unto death when I read book three). I haven't been tempted to read The Host even tho I am a big sf/fantasy fan but maybe I will give it a try. Having read a bit about it, I pretty much see where she is going with it . . .at least I think I do.

July 28, 2008 at 6:44 PM

WOW Heidi !! I just read these books for pure entertainment.....that and a great love story....if only we all felt loved the way Edward loves Bella...(sigh). I really enjoy the way you express yourself Isn't it amazing how Roxanne finds such wonderful deep meaning in Stephie's books !!
Debbie...your cousin

July 28, 2008 at 7:00 PM

Wow, Debbie, I just discovered that you have a blog! I need to check that out more fully, but I did see a bunch of pics of really super sweet cute kiddios! And you and Roxanne have birthdays the same month! How cool is that! I agree, the love Edward has for Bella--the fact that he holds her life in his hands in more ways than one and always chooses what is best for her, that is pretty darn delish!

July 28, 2008 at 8:15 PM

Hi, I too found your blog through mormonmommyblogs, and I just had to comment. I love the Twilight story. The Host, I liked a lot, but I need to re-read it to appreciate all of it. I just wanted to make sure, I'd like the end. I'm a total book-a-holic. I have 4 little ones under the age of 7, and I give up my sleep in order to read. Now, I'm re-reading the Twilight Series again to freshen up for Breaking Dawn. like someone said in another comment, reading this book made me feel like I was 16 again (I'm only 30, but sometimes I feel ancient). My best friend is 81 years-old, and her face lights up when we talk about Twilight. I love Edward, and the way he loves Bella, but I also love Jacob. If I were Bella, I don't know who I'd choose. Edward is true love, but being a mother myself, I find that would be pretty hard for me to give up, the opportunity to be a mother.
What I love about Harry Potter and Twilight is that they were written by young mothers whose lives changed overnight because of their stories. That is just wonderful! When people think women are done for good, just because they have children, that they gave up their identity, these writers showed the world that the most wonderful things could happen Even to a mother.
Well, I guess I'll go. Sorry for the rant, but it's your fault for getting me started on Twilight ;)

July 28, 2008 at 10:39 PM

Ranting is encouraged around here. Thanks for reading and commenting!

July 28, 2008 at 11:02 PM

At our last ward Halloween party, Alex came dressed as Edward. He was wearing a homemade t-shirt that said "I (heart) Bella."

It was an attempt to mock the other ward members who have gone batty for the books.

Nobody got it.

July 29, 2008 at 10:02 AM

Well, Reed, when you have an utterly bright and charming son like Alex, you just have to get used to people not getting him. And I'm not being sarcastic--I'm totally serious. I do really like the books, but what can I say?, I've read better in every way. They just don't do it for me the way they do for a lot of people (i.e, I'm not batty over them). Thanks for commenting. :D

July 29, 2008 at 12:17 PM

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