Thursday, February 4, 2010

“Twilight” Review, Part III

Hey ma! Look, I did it!

I actually finished reading “Twilight”. It wasn’t exactly a difficult read, but it still took me two months to complete. Why is that? One would think that I’d attempt to finish it as quickly as possible, like ripping off a band-aid in one swift motion to minimize the pain.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Since my last review ended at the beginning of chapter 13, this review covers from that point (Bella first seeing Edward’s glistening skin within the grove on the mountain) through the heartwarming scene where Edward and Bella go to prom together Bella DOES NOT DIE!.

I don’t have a lot to say about the story as a whole because… well, there’s just not that much story. The first 375 pages can be broken down thusly: 50% uninteresting, mundane, day-to-day experiences of a teenage girl living in a tiny pacific northwestern town, 40% obsessive doting on a boy, and 10% actual conflict.

In pages 375-379, an antagonist is finally introduced. The evil vampire (or, I suppose, just “vampire” in this instance- no sense splitting hairs) wants to kill Bella and eat her.


Because he’s a hunter.

Yeah, but why?

Because he hunts.

But why her?

Because he’s a hunter.

This is all the justification given for James’ interest in Bella. I kid you not. A three hundred year old vampire wants to take this girl for the same reason that kid with the unibrow wanted to take your lunch money in 4th grade- because he felt like it.

The antagonist, the great conflict in the book, isn’t introduced until better than 75% through the novel. When it finally is, it’s presented in a caricature form that adds nothing to the depth of the existing characters. The antagonist is less than a secondary character- it’s a two dimensional cartoon. His motivations are vague at best, he isn’t given any dialogue until page 427, and his female cohort has ZERO dialogue (and seems to simply vanish without explanation or consequence). Worse yet, when the final encounter with the antagonist occurs, the reader is forced to miss out on it entirely! Similar to the way Meyer made us suffer through hearing about how Bella cooked her dad dinner again, we are forced to follow Bella into a coma while the action happens somewhere outside of her consciousness. We only hear about the final confrontation after the fact, secondarily: “After I pulled him off you, Emmett and Jasper took care of him”. That’s it.

Without a doubt, this was the most unsatisfying conflict resolution I’ve ever encountered in a novel.

But that’s still not the worst part. The worst part of my whole Twilight experience was… there was one point in the book that I actually found myself getting into.

In one scene, Edward’s family has taken Bella to hide her from the Hunter. The three of them are in a hotel room, awaiting information from the others regarding the Hunter’s status. At this point, I had to catch myself, because I was actually in suspense. Which begs the question: if Meyer is capable of writing a decent paragraph (and with work, I believe she could!), then why is she writing junk food novels full of paper-doll characters and dangerous misogynistic lessons?

The answer is obvious: She’s intentionally writing garbage.

My girlfriend posed this question to me: Would you deny a mother the ability to feed her kids? So what if her novel isn’t very good- it sold a lot of copies and let her provide for her family. What’s wrong with that?

Of course, no decent human being would deny anyone the ability to make a buck. However, when I think about writing a novel that I know is crap just because it would sell a bunch of copies, the writer in me cringes. Why? Because when novels like that rise to the top of the bestseller list, it cheapens our craft as a whole. It’s like calling Lady Gaga a composer or someone who plans a one of those soulless housing developments an architect. On the surface, it has all the elements required, but there’s something important, something timeless, artistic and deep, missing.

My greatest fear is that Meyer and her community of readers will come to regard “Twilight” as this generation’s “Catcher in the Rye”, an epic tale of teenage angst and cynicism that captures the spirit of American adolescence in a way that will influence teenage readers and writers for generations to come. If that ever happens, I may go the way of Salinger and hide in New Hampshire for the rest of my days. May he rest in peace.

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