Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer

The Twilight Saga CollectionWhen the vampire life makes a boring person special. Oh boo-hoo.

I admit it, the hype always gets to me. And I gave in and read every single one of these books. And that's no mean feat since the holds on this book at the library are always mile-long. I'm embarrassed to say that I actually enjoyed the books, in a way that I enjoy some chick lit, and maybe because I knew not to expect some earth shattering piece of literature. So don't knock this huge franchise. 

My thoughts: These are extremely thick books. But once you get to the meat, there really isn't much there. To prove it, I'll summarize each book in a few sentences each: 

Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1)Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1): Teenager Bella Swan moves to rainy Forks and falls in love ... with Edward, a vampire! Her relationship with Edward puts her in danger with some vengeful vampires. Edward and family pull all stops to save Bella (of course she is saved!)  

New Moon (The Twilight Saga, Book 2)New Moon (The Twilight Saga, Book 2): Realizing that keeping the vampire secret endangers Bella, Edward breaks up with Bella. Bella gets depressed and turns to best friend (and incidentally werewolf) Jacob for solace. Jacob and Bella become quasi-boyfriend/girfriend-bestfriends. In some weird turn of events, Edward believes that Bella has killed herself; he decides he cannot live without her and turns to the Volturi - vampire royalty and police of their ranks - who have the power to kill vampires. Bella rushes to save Edward from committing suicide (of course she is just in the nick of time!)  

Eclipse (The Twilight Saga)Eclipse (The Twilight Saga, Book 3): The recent killings are because of the vengeful vampires (in Book 1) and Bella is the main target. The vampires and werewolves join forces to protect Bella and Forks from the impending vampire army (they win, of course!) Bella and boyfriend Edward realize that they cannot spend eternity without each other, Edward proposes marriage, and Bella decides to become a vampire to poor Edward's angst. Poor bestfriend Jacob is brokenhearted at Bella's decision.  

Breaking Dawn (The Twilight Saga, Book 4)Breaking Dawn (The Twilight Saga, Book 4): Bella and Edward marry, make love and bear a vampire-human hybrid, Renesmee, at the cost of Bella becoming a vampire just to save her life (finally!). Renesmee and Jacob are destined to become a couple. Bella lives happily ever (literally) after as a vampire, with her now vampire family, her human family, and extended werewolf family.
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    Up side: The vampire genre isn't new. I had my first taste with Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire. The genre has its own draws: the darkness, the sexiness, the vampire magnetism, the angst, the blood lust. Stephanie Meyer puts a new spin on it by making all this much more accessible to the younger generation: her vampires don't have fangs (at least obvious ones), they're sexy and mysterious, they don't sleep in caskets, they show up on camera and mirrors, they have superhuman strength, they sparkle in the sunlight, and they are young, hip and rich.

    This is a fantasy series but it is nicely mixed in with teenage angst which is probably why it has such a  cult following. I have to hand it to Meyer: where else can you find a love triangle of human, vampire and werewolf?

    Granted, there are some interesting takes on vampire and werewolf life and lore:
    • I found the high-speed vampire baseball game an interesting concept (and it came across quite well on-screen) which vaguely reminded me of the adrenaline rush of Quidditch in Harry Potter
    • While the back stories of the various vampires attempted to humanize the bloodsuckers, it sadly has little semblance to the depth and angsty backstory of Lestat in Interview with the Vampire.
    • The Volturi, of vampire royalty and of keeping order within the vampire ranks is a concept which lends a bigger picture to the Cullen's little coven.
    • The Quileute and werewolf legends have some truth in them and are drawn upon for the side story of Jacob, his werewolf pack, and the truce between the Quileutes and the "Cold Ones"
    At the least, the series gets kids reading. I have come across teenagers who normally wouldn't read even Harry Potter (why read when you can watch the movies?) but have read and even collected all these books.

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    Down side: Oh, oh, oh, where do I start? While many people were worried that J.K. Rowling's children readers wouldn't be able to handle the very dark themes of death and war in Harry Potter, she replied that we shouldn't underestimate our children. There is no worry of that with Meyer, who took the easy way out and dummied down her writing with flat characters (who don't really evolve despite having four books to do so) and clunky writing (a plethora of adverbs and adjectives so be prepared for a lot of musing, staring, glaring, cringing, eye rolling, etc.)

    Just as a case in point about flat characters, I'll focus on Bella. Bella, for a heroine, is weak, wimpy, needy, shallow, the stereotypical damsel in distress, and throughout the book, totally lovelorn. She has serious self-esteem issues. (I understand that a lot of teenagers could relate to Bella's awkwardness, though I am pretty sure that many would actually scoff at her too.) From the onset, there is the very unhealthy relationship between Edward and Bella. Bella falls in love with a boy (let's consider that we don't know he's a vampire) who is breathtakingly handsome, controlling, and had violent outbursts. Doesn't this set off all those warning bells as a parent? I find this portrayal disturbing.

    Let's stretch it even further: Bella decides that she has found eternal love after several months and wants to suffer a "fate worse than death" (i.e. willingly become a vampire) so she can spend eternity with him. Meyer tries to redeem Bella in the last book, where Bella fights for her unborn child. But I felt it was contrived, preying on motherhood as the catchall saving grace. It is stereotype (think Rosemary's Baby) taken to the extreme.

    The series also dwells on serious teenage issues - relationships (boyfriend/girlfriend, parents, friends), sex, marriage and pregnancy. But what does the series really say about all this? I am hard-pressed to give you the moral of the story. Good vs. evil where good triumphs over evil in the end?  Star-crossed lovers find a way despite all odds? The strength of family ties regardless of who (or what) we are? Take your pick.

    Verdict: Best sped-read with your brain turned off. Not recommended reading for my daughter.

    P.S. I recently got told off by a teenager on Twitter: "What you need to do is shut up. The Twilight Series is the best in the world." (proper punctuation mine) Peace to all Twilight fans. And to each his own.

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    6 comments :

    1. Hear, hear on your sentiments about Twilight. I read the whole series in one weekend (with me gagging every couple pages or so) for an article I was writing and I felt the burning need for intelligent reading immediately after.

      Have you read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins? Now that is a great series!

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    2. I second Blooey on the The Hunger Games recommendation (plus the sequel Catching Fire). The third book of that trilogy will come out this year.

      Then again, I liked Battle Royale better (by Koushun Takami). It's where Suzanne Collins lifted the Hunger Games scenario and made it Americanized, I think.

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    3. Halu Blooey! Wow, and I thought I was fast! As for Hunger Games, that keeps popping up in everyone's TBR. I'll definitely look it up.


      Lightheaded, thanks for the reco. Battle Royale as the inspiration for Hunger Games? Hmmm, will look that up, never heard of Takami before.

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    4. Ooooh I loved that you reviewed the series!

      I share your sentiments. I treated the series as popcorn reading. I loved Eclipse, really. In the popcorn movie kind of way.

      And Twilight is so polarizing! Either you like it or you don't. Sadly those who don't like it get a lot of backlash. As you said, to each his own, but the younger readers who are too in love with the series don't know that. Haha!

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    5. Toni, I couldn't bear spending too much time reviewing each and every one. I like that: "popcorn movie kind of way" ... eksakto!

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    6. Great review of the saga. While I do like the books, I don't LOVE them, and I think you brought up wonderful points. I try not to overanalyze the series because it's really not meant for that and there are high points, like you mentioned. I enjoyed the legends of both creatures quite a bit, too.
      I'm glad you mentioned the whole motherhood thing, because I totally agree. I don't know that it's a series best read with our brains completely turned off, but it certainly isn't a series I can defend fervently after analyzing. I love your honesty! Thanks for stopping by one of my reviews and sharing this one!
      Megan @ Love, Literature, Art, and Reason

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