Sunday, December 7, 2008

Twilight (book) by Stephenie Meyer

Bella has decided to live in Forks, Washington with her dad, a decision she's not entirely happy with, although she knows it'll be best for her mom. Forks is a small town where everyone knows everyone, and a relative newcomer like Bella (she's visited her dad, but it's been a long time since she's spent much time in Forks) catches everyone's interest. During her first day of school, Bella finds herself most interested in the five gorgeous teens who live with Dr. Cullen and his wife, especially Edward Cullen. Unfortunately, Edward seems to hate Bella on sight, an unusual reaction since she hasn't done anything to earn his hatred and all the other boys at the school like her. It isn't until much later that Bella learns that Edward (and everyone else he lives with, the doctor and his wife included) is a vampire. Bella is more intoxicating to Edward than any other human he's ever met, which is a problem, since he doesn't want to feed on humans, especially on her. Despite the danger, Edward and Bella grow closer and come to love each other more and more. Unfortunately, Bella is still a fragile human, and not all vampires are as against feeding on humans as Edward and his family are.

I enjoy vampire romances, but I read this book mainly to see what all the fuss was about. I know that some people have been wondering whether Meyer is the next J. K. Rowling, and I'd have to say no. I've only read the first book so far, but I don't think it has the wide appeal that Rowling's Harry Potter series does. There's a bit too much romance in the book for lots of boys to flock to it (which isn't saying that the books don't have male fans), and I think the teen angst might be too heavy for many adults. Also, while Rowling created a world full of witches and wizards, parallel to our mundane world, that fans of all sorts could imagine themselves in, Meyer's world seems a bit more limited.

I wasn't sure what to think of Twilight, at first. In the first pages (chapters?), Bella seemed to be looking down on all the people around her. Although, in my opinion, she gets a bit better as the book progresses, she still never really becomes part of the town, she just lives in it. She makes a few friends, but her bonds with them are really shallow - her feelings for Edward are so all-consuming that there doesn't really seem to be room for anything or anyone else, and I guess it doesn't help that she knows secrets about him that she can't ever tell anyone else.

Besides the problems I had with Bella, I also didn't entirely like Meyer's writing style. She seemed to be operating by a few annoying principles: "Never use a word with one syllable when you can use a word with many" or, to a lesser extent, "Never use one word when you can use five." If any Meyer fans ever read this post, I might get bashed for this paragraph, but that's how her writing felt to me. Meyer writes things like "I donned my jacket" instead of "I put on my jacket" - I'm sure it makes for an interesting vocabulary list, but these kinds of things seemed odd for a teenage girl to be thinking and made Bella seem like a heroine in a Victorian novel.

I did start enjoying the book after Bella found out Edward's secret - as I've already mentioned, I really enjoy vampire romances. I don't think I've ever read a romance novel, even one with vampires, where the hero had to always be afraid of killing the heroine - it was really interesting and added a nice bit of tension to all their "getting to know each other" conversations. I loved how Edward had to balance his desire to be close to Bella and protect her with his desire to drink her blood - the rational part of him wanted to get far away from her for her sake, but the emotional part of him wanted to be near her.

The only thing that really made their relationship possible, though, was Bella's sometimes shocking lack of self-preservation instincts. If there was a possibility that someone besides herself could get hurt, Bella feared for that other person to the extent that she didn't look out for her own safety. For instance, she'd go out with Edward without telling anyone who she'd gone out with, just so that none of the townspeople would know it was his fault if he lost control and killed her - all because she loved him. It's amazing she manages to survive this book. When Meyer introduced the bit about Bella finding Edward's scent intoxicating (particularly his breath), I started to wonder whether some of Bella's... stupidity in the face of the danger Edward presented was in some way due to Edward having unwittingly snared her. There were some indications that this might be the case, but Meyer mostly skims over that possibility - I doubt it'll turn up much in later books, although I suppose it could happen.

Besides the romance, I also enjoyed the vampiric elements. All of the vampires had some of the same basic abilities: super speed, strength, etc. Those were most humorously demonstrated in a family baseball game (I'm not sure even the strongest baseball bat could survive what they were doing, but it was still a fun scene). Then there were the more individual vampiric powers, like Edward's telepathy, Jasper's empathic powers, or Alice's precognition. I hope that Meyer does more with those in the future. I have to say, I found Jasper's ability to be the scariest - if he wanted to kill a human, he could do it and make the human feel happy about it.

Despite some of my gripes, I did likethis book overall. I've already gone on to read the second book, and I'm about 100 pages into the third; plus, I've seen the movie.

  • The Awakening (book) by L. J. Smith - This is the first book in Smith's Vampire Diaries series. Elena is a beautiful, popular high school girl who is intrigued by Stefan, a brooding and mysterious newcomer who is the only one to ever resist her. Damon is Stefan's sexy and dangerous brother, who, in order to get revenge against Stefan, is willing to take Elena from him by whatever means necessary. What Elena doesn't know at first is that both Stefan and Damon are vampires - by getting closer to them, she's involving herself, her friends, and her family in their dangerous world. Those who'd like another story involving high school romance, vampires, and a vampire character the heroine can't keep her eyes off of might like this book.
  • The Initiation (book) by L. J. Smith - This is the first book in Smith's Secret Circle series, although it is no longer available on its own - the link will take you to the page for a volume combining the first book and half the second book (what were they thinking?!). Cassie isn't thrilled to move from sunny California to gloomy New England, but it isn't long before things get interesting for her. Her new school is practically ruled by a group of gorgeous teens who appear to be feared and/or respected by everyone around them. Cassie gradually discovers that, not only do these teens have special powers, so does she. As she gets involved with the group, she begins to fall for one of the girls' boyfriends. I know, I know, this is the second L. J. Smith books in this list, but I really do believe that fans of Meyer should try out Smith - the two of them have very similar books, and fans who've already devoured Meyer's books will likely enjoy the fact that Smith has written five different series. Those who'd like another story involving a teenage girl who's recently moved to a new town, dangerous fantasy elements, and romance might like this book.
  • Blood and Chocolate (book) by Annette Curtis Klause - Vivian is a werewolf, part of a small community of werewolves living in secret among humans. Vivian's father, the pack leader, was killed when the pack was driven out of its previous home, and all that remains is for a new leader to be chosen before the pack can move to a more permanent home. In the meantime, Vivian doesn't really feel at home with anyone in the pack. She begins dating a human, but how long will their relationship last if she tells him what she is? Even worse, people have been getting killed and Vivian can't be certain she wasn't responsible. Those who'd like another story with supernatural beings, high school-aged characters, romance, and a writing style similar to that found in Twilight might like this book.
  • Blue Bloods (book) by Melissa De La Cruz - This is the first book in a series. Schuyler is treated like an outcast by the clique of popular, athletic, and beautiful teens made up of Mimi Force, her twin brother, and her best friend. At the age of 15, Schuyler learns that she is a "blue blood," a very special vampire who is descended from a very old line. Unfortunately, lots of blue bloods have been dying, and Schuyler has to find out why before she, too, ends up dead. Those who'd like another story featuring high school-aged main characters, vampires, and a bit of suspense might like this book.
  • Vampire Kisses (book) by Ellen Schreiber - This is the first book in Schreiber's Vampire Kisses series. Raven, a Goth obsessed with all things dark and creepy, is in oddity in her tiny hometown. One day, a handsome teenage boy moves into town, and Raven is immediately drawn to him - like her, he's pale and dresses in dark clothing. She's sure he's a vampire, just as she's sure she wants to be his girlfriend. Those who'd like another "teen girl and her vampire boyfriend" story might like this book and series, which is aimed at a somewhat younger age group than Meyer's books (the books are much shorter, under 300 pages, and things don't get quite as dark and dangerous).
  • Vampire Knight (manga) by Matsuri Hino - Yuki's earliest memory is of being attacked by a vampire and then saved by another, the gorgeous and mysterious Kaname. Ten years later, Yuki, now the adopted daughter of the headmaster of Cross Academy, spends her time blushing over Kaname and protecting the Day Class students (all humans, unaware of the vampires around them) from the Night Class (all vampires). She is aided by Zero, a brooding teenager hiding a dark secret. Those who'd like another romance involving teens, vampires, and guys with conflicting desires (should they rip the heroine's throat out or kiss her? hmm...) might like this series. By the way, it has also been made into an anime, which has not yet been made legally available in the US (which, um, hasn't stopped me from seeing the first four episodes - it's a lot of fun).

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