28 January 2009

in review

So I finished reading the Twilight series today and felt the need to write about it. Spoiler warning: if you haven't read or finished the series, continue you at your own risk.

I first heard about Twilight when the movie came out last November. I didn't even know it was a book, let alone a whole series. I must admit that I dismissed it (and disdained it as a teenage fad) immediately. To me it was just Interview with the Vampire for the next generation, kind of like Averil Lavigne is this generation's Alanis Morisette (although I think Alanis did it better).

I had done the Anne Rice and Interview with the Vampire thing many years ago. And I had moved on. I have a unique approach to reading... I obsess and then read all I can of a particular author or genre. I spent one summer reading Jeanette Oke and cannot and will not pick up another book of hers. I did the same thing with John Grisham (although I will pick up a new book of his if it looks interesting), Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Thomas Hardy, Tolkien, Lewis, Irish writers, Canadian lit, Harry Potter, etc. I went through a lot of genres and authors this way. I had probably read a lot that I shouldn't have, or perhaps shouldn't have read certain things at the age/stage I was at. Most of the time I would just wander around the local library and pick up books that sounded remotely interesting. Your reading list is not boring that way, but you do get exposed to a lot of things you might be better off not knowing...

I had the same approach with the Twilight series. I probably would not have read it at all if my 17-year-old brother-in-law hadn't given it to me for Christmas. But once I picked it up, I was hooked. And I'm still trying to figure out why exactly this is. I mean for fantasy it is average. Harry Potter it is not. It does not even reach the same level as Lewis or Tolkien.

Maybe it is pure escapist fiction at its best and I was at a point in time where I needed something frivolous, mindless, vicariously exciting to give my mind a rest from stress, my course, trying to hear and identify the many different terms describing just how many different ways the human body can suffer (the cancer ones are the hardest).

However much I was hooked on the series there are some problems.

The story follows the story of Bella, your relatively average teenage girl who has real self-esteem problems. She falls in love with a member of the local vampire family Edward, who is the most perfect, wonderful, polite, beautiful, sensitive person on the planet. She can't get over how perfect he is physically, emotionally, personally. She reacts like a spineless jellyfish everytime he gets within two feet of her (although I do have to be honest to myself about this... M does the same thing to me). But her spinelessness goes deeper than that. Any self-respecting feminist would read this book and gag (as I did at times). It gets quite nauseating, but Bella just can't help herself... sigh... She's very descriptive.

This book is geared towards young adults/teenagers, an age group that already goes through mental hoops dealing with self-image, self-consciousness, etc. Reading this book would give me an even bigger complex.

I am probably not the best judge of this, being into many different kinds of books myself in my own teenage years, but I figured I was kind of an exception. I was a reader and that already set me apart from a lot of people. I was reading adult books when I was 14 or 15 so I didn't really know what Young Adult (YA) books were like. But I don't think they were as physical and sensual as this series is. Once Edward and Bella get together, the raging hormones take over. But since Edward is afraid of hurting Bella they don't ever take it all the way. However, they do seem to do everything else.

Also, all the characters seem to be stricken by extreme self-absorption and melodrama. Edward leaves Bella because he just can't take hurting her anymore. Bella just can't understand why someone as perfect as Edward can even be with her. Neither one can live without the other, literally (as book 2, New Moon describes). Jacob the werewolf, also in love with Bella, runs around in a funk of unrequited love and self pity.

I've had many discussions about this series with others who are fairly educated and well read. They too were hooked, although perplexed about it. One friend currently in college said she and her friends talked about how they could disguise the books so they could read them in class (the boring ones, of course).

On the other hand, I am a reader, a writer and a strong proponent of the written word. Even though I don't like everything about these books, I like the fact that kids and teenagers are getting excited about them. Anything that gets them away from the TV and computer and into a book is a good thing. Anything that gets them excited about books and reading is a good thing. And if the random and sometimes awkward literary references scattered throughout the series gets them into Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice or even Romeo and Juliet it will be even better.

So, if average writing gets teenagers (and adults) excited about reading and entices them onto bigger and better things then, in review, lovesick, self-absorbed, vampire teenager melodrama just might be worth it.

1 comment:

Thelma said...

The mind is a malleable thing. I was always frustrated with those writers who could manipulate me into feeling something I didn't just through the strength of their writing.

I hope to do a review of Life of Pi by Yann Martel next week... you'd enjoy it. Go pick it up at the library.

My verification word is 'dendim'.