Sunday, November 23, 2008

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer's had a lot going against it. It's a romance and I am not especially fond of romances and can only list a very few exceptions to my position (Jane Austen writing most of them). And on top of that it is very popular. Hugely popular. This is typically the sign of a book I am very likely to loathe (Harry Potter being another example of an exception).

What it had going for it? It's young adult and I do love to read a well written young adult novel. And it has vampires. I love vampires. In a way, however, these can also be a strike against a book because I have exposed myself to both more than the average woman my age.

 It's always best to start with what you like in a review so here goes. One, the writing is good. Not brilliant but above par. Two, Meyer manages to add some details to her vampires without stomping on the tradition. (Her explanation of sunlight is interesting and the description offered about halfway through the book is lovely.) 

There. I got that out of the way.

First and easiest to explain, what I disliked is the cliche of the genre. Romance novels are tedious and this one does not rise above the rest at all. Right down to Edward Cullen's smoldering eyes and crooked smile, not to mention his devestatingly handsome good looks. And of course Isabella Swan, aside from having a name that is annoyingly overwrought, is completely oblivious to her own innate charms even after not one, not two, but three boys ask her out. The only other redeeming quality I could find in the novel is that the narrator is sixteen years old, otherwise this would have had overtones of pedophilia. At least I think she was sixteen. I was tempted to go back and confirm this but resisted because I honestly didn't need another reason to dislike this book.  \

I dislike this book so very much that I will avoid the movie. I suspect that the film removes many of the elements I find the most alarming but it boils down to this: If my adolescent daughter brought this book into my home and ooh'd and ahh'd over it, after reading it myself I would sit her down and strongly explain to her everything that I find so outrageously alarming. Because the scariest damn thing about this novel is not the vampires; it's that Meyers has taken a character who is showing many of the signs of being an abusive boyfriend and she's romanticizing them!

 Here is a list of questions/warning signs to look for, which I copied from this site, the early stages of potential abuse:

1. Does your partner tease you in a hurtful way in private or in public? Edward teases her constantly about her clumsiness.

2. Does your partner call you names such as "stupid" or "bitch"? When Bella first meets him, he looks at her with pure hatred. Naturally, she falls in love with him. WTF???

3. Does your partner act jealous of your friends, family, or co-workers? He confesses to being jealous of one of the many boys who want to take her to some school dance.

4. Does your partner get angry about clothes you wear or how you style your hair? Truth is, no he doesn't. Edward does however get angry with her for wanting to be around him and not being more afraid of him.

5. Does your partner check-up on you by calling, driving by, or getting someone else to? He doesn't have to. He actually comes into her bedroom and watches her while she sleeps. This is not romantic. It's creepy!

6. Has your partner gone places with you or sent someone just to "keep an eye on you"? He follows her when she goes shopping with some friends.

7. Does your partner insist on knowing who you talk with on the phone? They didn't give him the opportunity but so far that's only two points he hasn't gotten.

8. Does your partner blame you for his problems or his bad mood? Hello! "You smell so good." "You tempt me." It's all your fault is implied every step of the way.

9. Does your partner get angry so easily that you feel like you're "walking on eggshells"? See the chapter "Confessions" for the display of his strength and power because this is so fucked up it isn't even remotely charming. This is the sexiest chapter in the book and before the romantic part of it begins he shows Bella just how dangerous he is. Rather like the man who says he doesn't want to hit you punching a hole in the wall. This is an implied threat, the kind threat that emotionally and physically abused women know too damn well!

10. Does your partner hit walls, drive dangerously, or do other things to scare you? He constantly drives dangerously even though it scares Bella. See #9 above for the walls.

11. Does your partner often drink or use drugs? Ironically, he drinks blood but I'll give this one a pass because that is not a bad thing in his case.

12. Does your partner insist that you drink or use drugs with him? Again, no he doesn't. So far four out of twelve are no's.

13. Have you lost friends or no longer see some of your family because of your partner? I'm guessing that a character that is fairly minor in this novel is going to become more important and will probably end up being forced from her life even though he is far less dangerous to Bella as far as I can tell. If anything, he's dangerous to Edward so naturally this other guy is going to have to leave her life.

14. Does your partner accuse you of being interested in someone else? There's a scene early on where he is reading the minds of those around her to find out if she is interested in the long list of boys who find her adorable.

15. Does your partner read your mail, go through your purse, or other personal papers? He knows where she keeps the keys to her truck, her house, and watches her while she's asleep. So far as I know, she doesn't keep a diary but I see no reason to believe he woudn't read it if he had a chance.

16. Does your partner keep money from you, keep you in debt, or have "money secrets?" I am removing this from the list. It is not relevant because they do not live together.

17. Has your partner kept you from getting a job, or caused you to lose a job? Again. Not relevant to the context of the story. Perhaps this happens later but for now the answer is a tentative "no" although technically she does end up missing some days of school.

18. Has your partner sold your car, made you give up your license, or not repaired your car? Not relevant. 

19. Does your partner threaten to hurt you, your children, family, friends, or pets? Yes, he does. Frequently. Says he wants to kill some strangers early, expresses a potentially violent jealousy towards one of the many boys, and of course says that she is so tempting it's hard for him to resist killing her to quench his thirst.

 20. Does your partner force you to have sex when you do not want to? No. He does not. In fact, he's afraid to have sex with her lest his strength cause him to break her delicate loveliness.

21. Does your partner force you to have sex in ways that you do not want to? Again, a no.

22. Does your partner threaten to kill you or himself if you leave? He actually encourages her to leave but abusive men will do this during the "honeymoon stage" proclaiming they don't know why you are staying, you should leave but please don't because I love you so.

23. Is your partner like "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," acting one way in front of other people and another way when you are alone? Absolutely. Apparently this is a part of Edward's charm. And that's the problem. Abusive men are charming as hell. And unfortunately (apparently) so is this book which makes everything I hate most about romance novels pretty and popular and not the least bit tasteful or acceptable. Thank goodness my daughter never brought this book into my home. I would never have forbidden her to read it but I would not have condoned its presence.


  1. 18. Has your partner sold your car, made you give up your license, or not repaired your car?

    Actually in a later book, he does just that. He was jealous about her keeping up a friendship with Jacob, so he messed with her car to keep her home.

    isn't he a charmer?

  2. L,

    Thanks and . . . wow . . . yeah, a charmer . . . ugh. I'm so glad I didn't read further because it is simply too disgusting to me. I keep thinking I can't hate the idea of these books more but the someone points out yet another thing Edward does that reinforces why I feel these books are emotionally dangerous for young women to read and I am back to wishing I had never read the first one.

    Sometimes it feels like ignorance is truly bliss. *sigh*