Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I hate this book. Let me preface this by saying that I'm clearly not the audience for it. I've never read a romance novel (but they can't all be this bad), and I'm not a girl and I prefer to read books that leave me feeling overwhelmed by the sheer level of detail in them and reminded of the infinite possibilities in life.

But I read all the Harry Potter books and mostly enjoyed them (the last 2 were pretty weak). I love The Hunger Games. Obviously, not being the target audience does not preclude me from enjoying something.

Most of the problems in Twilight stem from its protagonist. Bella just doesn't have anything going for her. She sees herself as a perfectly average, uninteresting person (which she is). So it remains a mystery to us why everybody she meets seems to fall in love with her. Strangers go out of their way to befriend her. Boys start fighting over her BEFORE she even starts hanging out with the vampires. Of course, all this attention does nothing but embarrass her, because she is a hateful person and probably incapable of relating to anyone else. The only person she shows any interest in is the one guy in school who openly acts hostile toward her. But then, oops, turns out that guy is just another lovestruck suitor who was immediately smitten with her all along. Why? We'll never know. Oh yeah, her blood smells good and he can't read her thoughts.

This last reason actually makes sense. If he could read Bella's thoughts, he'd realize that she's never had a remotely interesting thought in her entire life. Unfortunately, we as readers are not so lucky. The first-person narrative choice does nothing but underline how little happens in the story. Bella doesn't even find out that Edward is a vampire until roughly 100 pages in, after he's saved her life twice (TWICE). They both fall in love with each other on the spot, so there's no push-pull or romantic tension or anything. The only conflict seems to be that Bella wants to become a vampire right away and Edward basically gives no reason for why she can't except "Oh, silly Bella." Basically all their conversations are like this:

EDWARD: I can't be with you because it makes me want to bite you and drink all your blood.

BELLA: Maybe you should bite me, then I'll get to be with you and this story will mercifully be over.

EDWARD: But I won't be able to stop until you're dead, stupid.

BELLA: Fine then, don't be with me! I'll just be standing over there in case you ever get the urge to bite something.

Ugh. She's so passive-aggressive and lacking in personality that I'm just dying for the viewpoint to switch to somebody else for a spell. When she's not complaining about everything that happens to her, she's fawning over Edward, whether it's his perfect looks, his voice, or his his mannerisms, every one of which sends her into a tizzy. This isn't so bad, really (I like any confirmation that women are just as shallow as men when it comes to looks), but I wish Stephenie Meyer were better at writing descriptions. Pretty much all she does pile on the adjectives and cliches. I can only read about how "beautiful" and "perfect" someone is and how they resemble a "Greek God" or an "angel" so much until I start mentally skipping over those sections. When I know what you're going to write before I read it, there is no reason to continue.

I want to complain about another thing here: Bella spends way too much time narrating her dreams here. Why should we care about them? They're dreams, and unless it's revealed in later installments that her dreams can predict the future, there's no reason to include them because they have no bearing on anything that happens anywhere in the story. This is Creative Writing 101 stuff that Meyer sees fit to just blatantly violate over and over again. Oh, but it's consistent with the protagonist she's created, whose depths of self-absorption inspire her to narrate the mundane details of her banal daily routine, right down to what she cooked for dinner and what CD she is listening to. Isn't this book supposed to be about vampires? Why all the minutia about the boring life of a boring person?

Anyway, about 380-odd pages into the book, some semblance of conflict finally introduces itself in the form of an evil vampire coven that wants to hunt humans. Edward and the other Cullens scramble to protect Bella, but she's so dumb she falls for the old "I have your mother but I don't have to prove she's actually here" trick and basically walks right into the hunter's trap. It's not satisfactorily explained how she gets rescued anyway, or maybe it is, I don't remember. There's also the Blacks, Jacob and his family that we all know are werewolves but none of that stuff happens in this book. There's barely a hint of the love triangle that supposedly dominates this series. I've heard people complain that Gale gets the short shrift in THG, but here Jacob has literally no other personality traits than "yet another guy who is attracted to Bella, except this one somehow doesn't repulse her completely despite not being the embodiment of physical perfection". Maybe his character develops a little more in the next book, but right now it's looking like Team Jacob never stood a chance.

There's other problems with the book, but to enumerate them all would take far longer than to just say that Ms. Meyer badly needed an editor. The prose is easy to read (in the same way that a little girl's diary would be) but difficult to avoid rolling your eyes at, the concept of a family of vampires hopping from place to place every few years had potential, even the idea of them hunting animals so they don't have to bite humans wasn't a bad one. This book was fixable. But since we see the story unfold through the eyes of an unbelievably boring person who damn near doesn't do anything that's not "swooning at everything Edward does", it's doomed from the word go.

Anyway I'm reading New Moon now. Downward is the only way forward.

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