Book Review: Stephanie Meyer, “Twilight” (2005)

Last year, a bunch of the women at my job started passing around Stephenie Meyer’s vampire books, the Twilight series (there are four books in total).  One of my coworkers raved about them so much to me that I finally gave in, and borrowed her copy of the first book in the series, Twilight.

Twilight tells the story of Bella Swan, a typical seventeen year old girl, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her mother, Renee.  The book begins with Bella deciding to move to a small city near Seattle, Washington called Forks, to live with her father (and town sheriff) Charlie Swan.  Bella enrolls in Forks High and on her very first day of school,  notices a group of kids in the cafeteria who are a little bit…different…than everyone else.

These students are the Cullen family- a group of five incredibly attractive siblings, who have all been adopted by the town doctor, Carlisle Cullen.  The most attractive of the group is Edward Cullen, and Bella befriends him after a series of misunderstandings and misadventures (including him saving her from nearly being crushed by a van in the school parking lot).  Bella quickly discovers that Edward, whom is never at school on sunny days, never eats, and has an incredibly pale complexion and strangely colored amber-eyes, is a vampire.  His whole family is, in fact, and Edward isn’t a seventeen year old boy as Bella thought, but instead, a 107 year old immortal being.

This complicates things a bit, especially as Bella and Edward begin to fall for each other and start dating.  The Cullen family are trying to hide their true identity as vampires, meanwhile, Bella realizes the risk of dating a vampire- particularly as a rival vampire coven discovers Bella’s association with the Cullens and decide to hunt her down as an attack against Edward, leaving him and the rest of the Cullen family to save Bella from harm.

The plot of the story is good enough, and kept my interest during the night that I finished the book.  The most original thing about the story is that Meyer’s vampires aren’t the “traditional” vampires we’re all accustomed to.  Edward does not sleep in a coffin- he doesn’t sleep at all, and lives in a fancy mansion.  He’s not allergic to garlic, or silver, and won’t burn if left in the sun- though his skin will “sparkle” if underneath direct sunlight.  The Cullen family are “vegetarian” vampires, meaning they choose to live peaceably among humans and don’t feed on their blood; instead, choosing to drink from animals.

The rest of the plot is fairly typical, however.  The love story between Edward and Bella is sweet, and there are a few quotable lines that I still love (“And so, the lion fell in love with the lamb…” is pretty much the fan favorite), but for the most part, it’s nothing incredibly unique.  The plot surrounding the coven’s attack on Bella is sort of tacked on to the end of the story, I suppose, to add an adventure element, and I think it’s the worst part of the story;  the end of the novel is rushed, and I think the book would’ve been just fine as a simple love story without the “action-packed” ending.

The disappointments don’t end there, however.  Though Meyer has created this world of vampires and this story of Edward and Bella, she didn’t really seem to put much thought or detail into the actual characters themselves.

The character of Edward is described in the book as being nearly God-like.  He has statuesque looks, and impeccable manners, and is a romantic, and that’s about all we know, really.  Like I mentioned, Meyeris good at writing incredibly romantic lines (“For almost ninety years I’ve walked among my kind, and yours… all the time thinking I was complete in myself, not realizing what I was seeking. And not finding anything, because you weren’t alive yet.”), and a lot of them come straight from Edward’s mouth, making his character easy to fall in love with, at least, on the surface.  As the series goes on, Edward’s character reveals a lot more flaws and less admirable traits (at least in my eyes), but in Twilight, he’s a fairly one-dimensional character, that just serves as a poster-board object of affection.  He’s charming, yes, but it’s only surface-level.

The character of Bella is even worse.  She’s my least favorite character in the entire series, for several reasons.  First of all, Bella is described over and over in Twilight as being an ordinary, typical girl, and this is proven throughout the book.  Bella never does anything interesting in and of herself- the book only becomes exciting once the romance with Edward is introduced.  She has no admirable personality traits- she’s not funny, or smart, or even endearing, really.  However, Edward, who has been single for his entire life, finds something special about Bella, of all people, after all this time, and chooses her as a partner.  We  are told in the book that Edward was first drawn to Bella by the scent of her blood, and then was even more intrigued when, as a telepath, he realized that Bella’s mind was the only one he could not read.

So the scent of Bella’s blood and the fact that he can’t read her mind are the only reasons we’re ever given in the book as to why Edward is fascinated with Bella.  Bella is, throughout the entire book, whiny, annoying, and weak, making her the worst “heroine” I’ve ever encountered.   Once she and Edward develop their relationship, she becomes instantly obsessed with him and cannot function without him.  Her character is incredibly unlikeable to me, and I think, were Twilight a real story, Edward might be slightly intrigued by Bella at first, but would find her just as uninteresting as any other human once they became involved.

Furthermore, the entire union of Edward and Bella is weak and unexplainable.  They meet and are really bonded more by their differences being human and vampire than anything else, and then they are suddenly “in love”.  Things escalate quickly in the book- soon Edward and Bella are completely inseparable and Bella is Edward’s entire “life”.  But the book never shows us any reason why; there are very few bonding moments between them and very few reasons why they would be so enamored with each other, other than the fact that Meyer keeps writing that they are.  Bella and Edward seem to have nothing in common, and the first half of the book is spent exploring the tension between them as they develop things, while the latter half is spent with Edward saving Bella, but by the end of the book, we’re supposed to believe that Edward and Bella are eternal soul mates.

Some of the side characters, though given very little depth, are a bit more likeable, at least.  The rest of the Cullen family, in particular, kept my interest more than Bella’s character ever did- particularly Edward’s quirky and cute psychic “sister”, Alice.  Likewise, Edward’s “brother”, Emmett,  provides a bit of comic relief with a few funny lines.

Perhaps Meyer’s weak writing was the cause of the lack of character and plot development.  While the books are an easy read with a good enough story, Meyer is by no means a great writer.  Halfway through the book, it seems as though she’s ran out of adjectives to describe things (particularly Edward, whom she describes over and over again as simply being “perfect”), and the writing, as a whole, is very juvenile.

Which I guess just leads me back to the book’s overall target and level- the teenage girl crowd.  I suppose if I had read Twilight when I was fifteen or sixteen, it wouldn’t bother me that the story was slow at parts, and then rushed and uneven at others.  I probably wouldn’t notice the lack of development in Bella and Edward’s relationship, nor would I notice how one-dimensional Edward’s character is.  I’m sure I’d still realize Meyer’s subpar writing, and how annoying Bella’s character was, but I wouldn’t mind, because the books really aren’t about either of those things, and more about the character of Edward Cullen and how he’s supposedly the most romantic, ideal boyfriend- even if he is an immortal vampire.

All this aside, believe it or not, I did enjoy reading Twilight.  Flaws and all, the book is a light, easy read, and I found the romantic scenes sweet; then again, I am a self-proclaimed sucker for romance. Stephenie Meyer’s strength is in creating an engaging story, and Twilight is, at the least, an engaging story.  I wouldn’t recommend it to many adults, due to its simplistic writing and flawed characters/story, but teenage girls, and (I hate to say it, but this stereotype is probably true) women may enjoy this story if they’re looking for an escape or a read that doesn’t require much thinking.

Rating: 3_stars.svg


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s