February 12, 2007
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Young Adult Fiction
Finished on 2/1/07
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)
*Starred Review* Gr. 9-12. In the tradition of Anne Rice and YA titles such as Annette Curtis Klause's The Silver Kiss (1999) comes this heady romance that intertwines Bella Swan's life with that of Edward, an alluring and tormented vampire. Bella's life changes when she moves to perpetually rain-soaked Forks, Washington. She is instantly drawn to a fellow student, Edward Cullen, beautiful beyond belief and angrily aloof. Bella senses there is more behind Edward's hostility, and in a plot that slowly and frighteningly unfolds, she learns that Edward and his family are vampires--though they do not hunt humans. Yet Edward cannot promise that his powerful attraction to Bella won't put in her in danger, or worse. Recklessly in love, Bella wants only to be with Edward, but when a vicious, blood-lusting predator complicates her world, Bella's peril is brutally revealed. This is a book of the senses: Edward is first attracted by Bella's scent; ironically, Bella is repelled when she sees blood. Their love is palpable, heightened by their touches, and teens will respond viscerally. There are some flaws here--a plot that could have been tightened, an overreliance [sic] on adjectives and adverbs to bolster dialogue--but this dark romance seeps into the soul.
In the past few years or so, I’ve come across some exceptional books written for young adults: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, and, of course, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. All of these novels are thought-provoking, imaginative, and filled with beautiful and memorable prose. Their endearing characters, smooth dialogue and suspenseful plots lead to an enjoyable reading experience for all readers, young and old alike.
While I don’t generally read a lot of Young Adult fiction, it’s not a genre I’m adverse to, either. That said, I can’t think of the last time I perused the shelves in the teen section of a bookstore or library. Now that I no longer work in a bookstore, I’ve come to rely on my fellow booklovers to pique my interest and lead me to the gems of the genre. Twilight probably would have slipped under my radar had it not been for the glowing reviews by Heather, Andi, Sassymonkey, Stephanie, and Sheri. (Forgive me if I’ve forgotten someone.) I was a little worried about all the hype, especially after my disappointment in The Thirteenth Tale, but The Book Thief had considerable hype and it wound up being my number one read for 2006.
In spite of its 498 pages (albeit in a large font, resulting in fewer lines of text per page than a similar-sized adult book), I zipped through Twilight fairly quickly. I suspect it can be read over a weekend, if not a single day, but I wanted to savor the story and forced myself to make it last a bit longer. This was quite an entertaining debut novel and I was spellbound from the get-go. However, I do have a couple of quibbles. Typical of many teen novels, Meyer utilizes the “new kid in school” device to set the stage and present a conflict between the various characters. I didn’t mind this so much, but I did feel as if she allowed the initial build-up between Edward and Bella to go on a bit longer than necessary. Perhaps the long drawn-out tension works well with a young audience, but I found it a bit tiresome (almost to the point of annoyance) and felt it hindered the momentum of the action. Not necessarily plodding, but just enough to make me mutter, “Alright, already. Get on with it!” Once a declaration of true feelings was expressed by the main characters, my interest resumed, most notably with a fascination for the imaginative details described within the narrative. I ceased to suspend disbelief and quite honestly began to believe (in a remote manner, if that makes any sense at all) that vampires can exist, living in the overcast, rainy environment of northern Washington state, attending high school, practicing medicine and enjoying the all-American favorite pastime of baseball. Hey, why not? Ok, so I really don’t believe in vampires (or invisibility cloaks, for that matter), but Meyer draws her reader in to a world where it’s easy to believe in the unbelievable. Surprisingly, I had more trouble believing a high school student could be such a klutz than I did in buying into the likelihood of vampires. The constant reminder of Bella’s clumsiness was another distraction to my reading pleasure. Petty? Perhaps. But when I start to notice this sort of thing and it disrupts the flow of the narrative, I latch on to it like a dog with a bone and just can’t let it go. It just bugs me, and it makes that "willing suspension of disbelief" more difficult.
While not a work of great literature (and not one in which I found a single passage to quote!), Twilight is an entertaining read and I look forward to more in the series (New Moon is currently available and Eclipse won’t be far behind). Movie rights have been optioned and the author has a great list of her favorite actors for the various roles (not that she gets to choose, of course, but it’s fun to look at the possibilities). While trolling the Internet for information on the book, I was astounded by the plethora of fan sites and merchandise related to the series. It appears to have quite a following and I suspect the word-of-mouth endorsements (in both secondary schools and colleges) isn’t hurting any, either.