Monday, October 27, 2008

Stephanie Meyers, Twilight Series Review.

I haven’t read the Stephanie Meyers books. YA just isn’t my thing, but I’m feeling like I ought to read it just to review here. Which, really, is just backwards. So in lieu of my own actual thoughts, I’m posting the transcription of a forum conversation (with permission from the participants).

OK, I know I'm way behind the zeitgeist on this one, but I borrowed Twilight (Stephenie Meyer) last week from a co-worker. Three women that I work with have read all of the books and they couldn't talk about anything else last week. I've always liked YA, and I don't mind a little over-the-top wish fulfillment. And if it's the girly Harry Potter, I really should dip in a toe just for the sake of gender equity, right?

OK, so that's the setup. I came to the book with some doubts based on the Salon and Smart Bitches reviews, but I've always had a weak spot for an Alpha Male myself. I figured I'd find a guilty pleasure. And I can lower my standards pretty readily for a guilty pleasure . . .

But, no. I can hardly believe how much I hate this book. Hate the protagonist, who seems distinguished mostly by her disdain for every single person around her (she also hates snow the first time she sees it? What the fuck.) Hate the cardboard "hero." I find myself reading a couple of pages and putting the book down.

And that's another thing. The book is supposed to be page-turning, right? Maybe not great writing, I didn't expect that, but fun and fast-paced like candy. But no. NOTHING HAPPENS. I'm 200 pages into it and 90% of the action is in the heroine's head. It's like reading the diary of an extremely self-absorbed ten year old. But, the fake diary where she makes up interesting stuff because in reality she never leaves the house.

Ack! I'm offended on behalf of readers everywhere, and as a former girl, that this dreck, which I don't think even really qualifies as YA, gets compared to Harry Potter.

I can't believe my co-workers told me that after reading this I would never be satisfied with my husband again. I know, to each his own and no accounting for taste, but I just can't imagine how a grown-up women with children could find anything appealing here.

I'm just hoping if I continue a plot may appear . . .

Wow. I haven't read it yet; I'm not that big on YA but sooo many people love it. Weird.

It's like reading the diary of an extremely self-absorbed ten year old.

Yes! That kind of puts the finger right on it. It reminded me of the really overwrought, angst filled, "star crossed lovers" themed, passionate (yet chaste) fanfics written by middle school girls sighing and fantasizing over their first mad love.

However, even with that said, I found the books strangely compelling. When I was done with the first one I immediately wanted to read the next and the next. I found that if I gave it a little time, the urge dropped off sharply, and turned into a "WTF was I thinking" feeling. So there must be some sort of literary, brainwave crack in these books that speaks directly to my inner 10 year old. The same 10 year old that devoured the V.C. Andrews Flowers in the Attic series when they first came out. (I am equally horrified to discover that they are still being published in some sort of macabre posthumous trail of dreck.)

passionate (yet chaste) fanfics written by middle school girls sighing and fantasizing over their first mad love.

Oh, completely! Maybe that's why I react so strongly in the opposite direction - I remember being in that stage well enough to cringe over it. (But not well enough to channel and reproduce it - I have to give Meyer credit for that.)

If I make it to the end of the book, I'll report back on whether I want to read more. I keep thinking the compelling part has to be around the corner, and no. I can get past the cringe, I think, if something would just happen other than meaningful looks and out-of-place outrage (these characters are constantly infuriated with each other over nothing.)

Fiona (Chris’ daughter, age 11 ) just finished the second in the series, New Moon, and says "It is possibly the worst book I've ever read, and horribly boring, but somehow, I really liked it."


Ask Fi if there's a point in the first book where something actually happens :-) I don't know how much further I can slog without hope of plot ignition, and DH has a stack of shiny new books calling to be poached (he celebrated a birthday today.)

I remember loving Flowers in the Attic. The delicious fun of reading the shocking details and sharing them with friends in the know. I guess it's kind of cool that girls can have community around a book - but why do the books have to be so bad?

{A few days pass….}

In case anyone was curious, I did finally finish Twilight. At about the 3/4 mark, when the writer apparently decided that some plot would be needed to finish things off, a throwaway bad guy was inserted and some suspense ensued. At least at that point there was a reason to keep turning pages.

I don't need to read any more of the books. There were a couple of spots where I could see how her take on the dangerous love, vampire thing would appeal. But - so little plot! So much sitting around talking about the luv!

It's the only book I can remember reading where I wonder how they stretched it to fill two hours of movie.

Conclusion: I'm definitely not the demographic for this book. The romance was boring and kinda creepy. And the lack of action would be a problem even if the central relationship appealed.

Oh dear. Yesterday I got an email from my sister-in-law asking if I'd read the Twilight series yet, and she was just gushing over them because they were being shared around at her office and everyone was talking about them. I didn't want to hurt her feelings, because I knew she was so enthused over them, so I told her I'd read the first two and found them "strangely compelling."

I guess I know what I'll be getting for my birthday....

You know you want a stony vampire to run through the woods at 50MPH with you on his back, admit it.

I have to give her that - some of those images are really, weirdly memorable! You wouldn't pick up one of her books and forget having read it, if only because it's so silly. (Obviously, I felt the need to share here!)

OK. I just read "Breaking Dawn" a second time to see if I liked it; I'll shyly raise my hand as a fan of the series -- although, I must qualify, in a "hmm, interesting" way, and not in a proselytizey way (which is how I am about Robin McKinley and Diana Wynn Jones, who are so far out of Stephenie Meyer's league that it's absurd).

Ahem. Thus qualified, I will simply say:

- I find Bella likeable. I enjoy her self-deprecation, and the voice appealed to a certain 15-year-old girl that I used to be. I like her pragmatism, too, and her consistent sense of being a little lost in the world, but centered in herself.

- Edward, meh. Not a hero whom I found attractive. But I am very fond of the extended Cullen family, particularly Alice, and as Nicola can tell you, I'm a sucker for well-written interesting secondary and tertiary characters.

- Upon thinking it over, yep, I think it's really just Bella's voice that carries these books, for those who like them. The first-person narrative and the sheer everygirlness of it makes it an easy half-step into fantasy.

- Also, I must say, the writing's not art, but it is actually a good bit better (in technical terms) than J.R. Ward's. (And I like J.R. Ward. I'm just sayin'.)

There. I have defended the books, which I really loved on first reading but which do NOT hold up to further scrutiny. Also, the movie posters and EW cover were horrid.

After having a couple of weeks to let the book settle: I think the structure of the first book is really flawed (the bad guys happen along out of nowhere and a plot ensues) and I don't know why an editor didn't cut that first 300 pages down to a third of that. I assume the pace picks up more quickly in the other books.

But it's a romance and a YA romance, not great literature - obviously a lot of people are able to overlook the big obvious flaws. I do think after all the hype, people should be warned "NOT a page-turner." Even though there are monsters, this is no thriller. But those types of flaws aren't worth the Big Loathing it got from me - there are worse writers making a living at it.

I think I have figured out why I hated the book so much. (I'm sure some bloggers have figured this all out - I am just late to the whole phenomenon.) It's an older man, younger woman story. It's that cool big brother of your friend who is already out of college but inexplicably wants to be go out with you, a lowly high school student. I was that girl and I've known those guys, and the reason they are drawn to young girls is that they are desperately flawed themselves. The girls will mature and leave them behind, but those loser guys are forever boys trapped in the bodies of men, looking for girls young enough to overlook their glaring flaws. I wasn't a dumb girl - I was pretty well-read and well-spoken at that age (not that much different from Bella in some ways - although not as bitchy to my friends!)

And of course Edward is the supernatural version of that guy - forever 17. Bella wants to stunt her own growth in order to stay there with him. The tragedy isn't that she will become undead, it's that she's rejecting maturity and adulthood. It shocks me that mothers of girls like this stuff - it screams "loser boyfriend who never goes away!" to me.

Strangely enough, Jen, that last bit makes me want to read it....

1 comment:

Lady of the Review said...

Ya know, it's kind of funny, but I read the first one and thought "Eh". Read the 2nd one and had the same thought. Read the 3rd and was thinking FINALLY. And then the crapfest that is Breaking Dawn came out. I didn't even read it. I asked a friend to tell me all that happened and it made me so mad I promptly gave away the first three books to a friend of mine.

What a waste of time! Especially when you consider how it was ended in book 3. I was rooting for somebody and then I find out what actually happened. *headdesk*

I'm not going to spoil it for you, Nicola, because I know you haven't read them (and if you decide you want to), but I've never read a series that was so shabbily done and yet was so compelling.

I will say that if I was going to recommend a YA vampire series, it would be The House of Night series by PC & Kristin Cast. 10,000 times better IMHO and much more compelling. *sigh* I cannot WAIT for book 5. Whee!


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