We're going to try this, and we're going to try to be open-minded about it. We're going to try not to gawk terribly at some of the sentences that have rumpled our eyebrows so far. We're going to just forget that on p 12 the modern teenage narrator is said to have donned
her jacket. We're going to just read the book, that's all.
--OK here's my review. --
If you come to this book looking for things to like, you will find things to like. Star-cross'd lovers, vampires, the universal awkwardness of high school: hay has been previously made from these topics, and that isn't likely to change in the future. In Twilight, I thought the new-kid-at-school stuff was handled well, and some of the back-and-forth of teenagers sussing each other out was great. The author also has a very dry sense of humor which popped up, but too seldom.
If, on the other hand, you come to this book looking for things to hate, you will find things to hate. The author makes a habit of using phrases that yank the reader out of character and out of world, and there are a number of instances where the information the reader is given contradicts or ignores what the author previously told us. This doesn't make Twilight a bad book, but it makes it a bit amateurish. The book felt like a NaNoWriMo project that was delivered to Barnes & Noble on December 1st. And if that sounds like sour grapes, it is.
My main problem with the book was that language and behavior the author uses to characterize the relationship between Edward and Bella is the language and behavior of abuse. He's kind to her one minute, cruel the next. When he's mean to her, he blames his behavior on her, and she accepts the fault as her own. He stalks her, eavesdropping on her conversations and watching her while she sleeps every night. He gets angry and jealous, even threatening, whenever she speaks to any other boy, and she must keep reminding him that he's the only one she cares about. He slowly takes control over her life, convincing her to not drive anymore (for her own safety), deciding when and how her father should learn about him and meet him, and stating that he doesn't want her to be away from his side, ever. Yes, he's a vampire, and we can explain some of this away within the context of the story. But I wonder what it's like for someone who's ever filed a restraining order to read this book.
And I guess that's why my heart breaks for all the teenage girls who read this book and love it. If someone can make a feminist argument for Bella I'd love to hear it, but in my opinion she's a depressing excuse for a protagonist, filled with self-loathing and seemingly incapable of doing anything for herself. (Except cook!) Any girl who identifies with Bella (and there is plenty to identify with), or wishes she could be Bella, deserves to set her sights so much higher.
That said: I think adults have a tendency to overemphasize the effect any one particular piece of art can have on younger minds. When I was a teenager I owned the G N' R Lies album, and although the music appealed to me then, I managed to grow up into a person who recognizes the misogyny of "Used to Love Her" and the homophobia and xenophobia of "One in a Million." But I didn't become that way because adults told me I shouldn't listen to that album, and who knows how that would have turned out, if it'd become something I felt I needed to dig my heels in over.
There's something beyond value, something universally humanizing, in the act of getting lost in the world of a book or a movie or an album, especially when you're a teenager. If millions of people are experiencing that with Twilight, than I want them to have that. It's good for humans, it's good for books, and it's good for the universe. I'll just hope that later on they'll also give themselves to chance to get lost in the worlds of girls like Willow Rosenberg, Listen Taylor, Frankie Landau-Banks, and Tally Youngblood.