book report: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

What would drive me, strong, brave, intelligent, to read the superficial, thick, vapid teen novel, Twilight by Stephanie Meyer? Was it because I happen to enjoy romance novels? Is it because I

Cover of Cover of Twilight (Twilight, Book 1)

can't resist a loquacious, materialistic, vapid author who never met a noun with multiple adjectives she didn't like? Did I long to re-live the emotional quagmire of adolescence from a dysfunctional, emotionally unstable, female viewpoint?

No. No.

Rather, I happen to parent a young adolescent daughter who has a voracious appetite for novels after cutting her teeth on Rowling's Harry Potter series over and over again. She is perpetually in search of something equal to Rowling's opus in the adolescent market. A popular 500 page novel based on the occult life of a teen girl in high school has come onto her radar, mostly due to the cinema success and a few breathless recommendations by her fellow readers.

Therefore, I decided to preview the book to see what repercussions I might face after she reads it. I have been able to parlay this carrot into a couple prerequisites. Although she was too young to be forced to read Dickens before reading Rowling, now she is old enough to read proper romantic literature before getting her hands on this potboiler. Before I even opened this book, I had her read Shakespeare's famous play of impossible adolescent love, Romeo and Juliet. She actually had great fun with that by enlisting her younger sister to read out lines with her. Sadly, she finished R and J in an evening. Meanwhile, I was starting to swing my machete through the adjectival thicket blocking the thinness of storyline in Meyer's book. The main human character, Bella Swan, mentions losing herself in Austen and Bronte novels, a form of simultaneous homage and penance by the author. Since Meyer is trying to stand on their shoulders, I have also required my dear daughter to also read Sense and Sensibility and Wuthering Heights. Not only did I have to bide time, but I realized I needed to inoculate her from a possible case of enthrallment with poor writing. I may be able to get her to read Count Dracula after the fact. She is commendable, because she will read these. For someone not so eager to read, I'd recommend Superman comic books. Maybe, if Twilight were a graphic novel, it would be more interesting as Clark Kent and Lois Lane recast with Kent in anger management classes. Or maybe if Lane started dating the Incredible Hulk, and the threat of domestic violence hangs by a thread over the story line.

In case you missed it, I'm concerned with Meyer's abuse of adjectives. I hold her editor as an accomplice, equally guilty. I sincerely believe, the book would be 150 pages shorter if every mention of vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen did not require a minimum of 3 adjectives ranging from gorgeous and Adonis-like to radiant and unnaturally strong. It is only by the ad nauseum

Mr Edward CullenImage by Ezyan Y. via Flickr

repetition that I know for sure his breath is so good he should do ads for Tic-Tac and his pecs are so massive that no shirt can hide his hot-ness. I feel awful for the actor portraying Eddy in the films. What a disappointment he must be to all those who imagined the lithe and powerful stud in the book. For awhile, I could excuse this because a vampire's victim is supposed to be irresistibly attracted to the blood sucker, but this wasn't the case when she met a "bad" vampire. This leads me to conclude the author has a bad crush on a character of her own creation. That grosses me out. What concerns me as a father of a future reader of this book is the infatuation with the superficiality of the star struck. Unlike the classic romantic stories, the lust leads to love. In the classics, the lust-er learns, often the hard way, that a cover is never enough to judge the contents. Rarely do covers and contents align among humankind, neither in vampire-kind either. However, in Meyer's vampire world, the gorgeous creature is perfect. Everything he does, makes her heart flutter. She even faints when he kisses her. It was one of many times when I spoke out loud to the book, "STOP THAT." They have electricity. I know this because I'm told it several times.

But I don't want my daughters to fall in love with men who acknowledge they might kill them in a moment of weakness. That is a serious character flaw which no amount of physical perfection can compensate for. Bella is a fool for lust, not a fool for love. In fact, she wants him to poison her blood so she can be like him. I want a story about him laying down his immortality to be with her. Wait. I think that has been done before.

Let me slip in the gospel for a second.
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:21
and"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit," 1 Peter 3:18
I want my daughters to marry men who live to die for them, like their Savior did.

To be honest, I hated Austen and the Bronte sisters as well. Romantic literature bores me. Nothing happens. At least Meyer does well in emulating this feature of the genre. Finally, by page 400, something interesting happened. Some bad vampires, gorgeous but bad, showed up. For 50 pages, I enjoyed turning the pages. My son wants to know if he can read the book as well. I told him there were 50 pages he might like. For the first time in my life, I would be content with my kids simply seeing the movie instead of reading the book. Usually, after seeing movies of books they have read, they complain that so much was left out in the silver screen version. I remind them that they needed more than two hours to read the book, they can only have two hours of movie. I suspect, Twilight, the movie, boils down Twilight, the novel, to what it should be. I can hope anyway.

I might have to read the rest of the books in the series, so I can discuss them with my dear children with informed opinions, but my hope is they will realize the dullness of the writing and instead long for well-written classics. However, if they don't realize it, then I will have to keep reading and groaning. Hopefully, they will think, "He sounds just like Mr. Rochester's first wife, going insane in the attic." If you don't understand that reference, then you better read Jane Eyre and inoculate yourself from the effluvium from adjectival thickets falsely praised as award winning writing titled Twilight.

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Comments

Anonymous said…
Dear John,

I happened on to your blog while scrolling through "next blog" options at the top of my screen.

Thanks for the book report on Stephenie Meyer's book. I have not touched any of them. And am determined not to waste my time. And not watch any of the movies, either.

I appreciate your candid opinion. Our poor youth who lack better offerings than vampire books!

I, too am a member of the LDS church, by the way.
John Umland said…
Thanks for coming by anonymous. I find the LDS background the most fascinating part of this series. I want to do a series on it, but after looking around, i don't think I could do better than the series by an atheist ex-Mormon who knows more than I ever will at http://stoney321.livejournal.com/317176.html
The only thing I could improve on is the foul language, so be warned. However, the author is very funny.
God is good
jpu
April said…
Hey John, your daughter might like Stephanis Meyers other book "The Host" it's sci fi and I actually read that one first before I ever read the Twilight books. I really liked it and have reread it several times. Also she (and you) might like the Starlight books by Bryan Davis my nephew (a senior in high school) and I have been reading them and he is loving them.
John Umland said…
Hi April
thanks for the comment. I couldn't recommend Meyer until she found a much better editor to correct her adjectival abuse tendencies.
God is good

jpu

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