Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book review: "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer

As a 50-year-old man, I know I'm hardly the intended demographic for "Twilight." But my daughter had absolutely inhaled all four books in this series, so I decided I should at least read one of them to see what the attraction was. And who knows? maybe I might even enjoy it.

I'd often heard "Twilight" described as a "vampire book," but that is really misleading. Sure, it does have vampires, which help add mystery and occasional flurries of action, but in its heart and soul "Twilight" is simply a teenage romance. The two lovers, human Bella and vampire Edward, fall in love against all odds just like Romeo and Juliet, just like Maria and Tony in "Westside Story," just like many a star-crossed pair throughout the history of literature.

The attraction of this book to girls can be summed up in one word: Edward. He is, in Bella's word, "godlike." He is impossibly handsome, intelligent, mysterious, caring, and good at EVERYTHING. He comes to Bella's rescue multiple times. Edward also does something rarely seen at that age (teenage boys, pay attention!) he shows a genuine interest in Bella, asking all about her and actually listening to the answers.

I'm sure many girls who like the book also identify with Bella's feeling of being an outsider, of being different than the crowd. (Sometimes I wonder: If everyone feels like an outsider, who are the insiders?)

While it's obvious why Bella adores Edward, it's not so clear why he is interested in her (besides the fact that her smell is alluring to a vampire). She is a disappointingly shallow character with virtually no interests outside her infatuation with Edward. Sometimes it's hard to take her immature hand-wringing (He looked at me! He didn't look at me! Why isn't he looking at me?)

Author Stephenie Meyer writes smoothly and clearly, but the book needs some trimming. "Twilight" bogs down about halfway through, after Edward's secret become clear and he and Bella settle in to overlong conversations fed by an undercurrent of teen and vampire hormones. A burst of action near the end of the book gets things moving again, although it's disappointing that after a long buildup to a confrontation between Edward and another vampire, Meyer skips past that crucial scene.

I'm not going to read the rest of the series, but at least I have a better understanding of what so enthralled my daughter.

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