Monday, February 9, 2009

I have a serious problem with books...

It's one of the reasons why I don't read that often, or really I should say that I don't read new books that often... I can't stop reading. I don't think I read books so much as devour them. I'm a fast reader but I completely involve myself to the point that I cannot hear what else is going on in the room around me (drives the husband INSANE) and I literally can't put it down. I can be reading a book, look up and see that it's 5 am with no problems at all.

Anyway, after my aunt passed away I needed something to take my mind off of everything, so I decided to start a new series -- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I'm a HUGE (understatement) fan of the Harry Potter series, so I figured that Twilight would be able to hold my attention. Then again, I wasn't really planning on reading the series until I stood in Target and saw the book was $8 on sale.


So, four days later I'm done with all four books (yes, even Breaking Dawn ... I told you I was fast) and I have some thoughts on them.

First, I love the series. Yes, yes, I know... it's very teeny-bopper-ish, but it was captivating and fun. I can absolutely understand where people (ahem... Stephen King) are coming from when they say she's not a great writer. Rowling, who wrote Harry Potter), started off a little weak but (in the course of her writing) developed into a fascinating writer with a very involved storyline (quite a few extra characters). She managed to weave in mythology, theology and science without batting an eyelash and she made it work.

Stephenie Meyer did not (cannot?) do that with her series. They are very simply written -- told exclusively from the protaganist's point-of-view -- and cover only a few essential characters. The rest aren't really woven into the tapestry of the book and they seem like place holders or a means-to-an-end instead of flesh-and-blood characters (kind of like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet, as Meyer likes to draw on Shakespearean references, except she treats all characters this way except the main Cullen clan, Bella and Jacob... even Bella's father doesn't necessarily seem as fleshed out as he could be).

NOW, that being said, that woman can sure as heck write a captivating story. It's a story that literally had my teeth clenched together during the final scenes of Breaking Dawn. Her straightforward, teen-finding-herself-while-falling-in-love-with-a-vampire story is truly addictive and I found I simply couldn't put it down. Yes, it's definitely written for a younger audience and yes, it is written for women (my husband is a huge Potter fan but he wouldn't be interested in this), but it's romantic and fun.

I'll also say that I simply don't see what certain people are saying about this book -- by that I mean that it's a negative influence on girls. I can see *certain* points... but most are simply ludicrous. I consider myself a feminist and if you can find fault here, you'll find fault with every Disney movie ever made. Yes, Bella isn't a strong female protagonist (neither are Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Jasmine... etc... etc...). Many times she made me want to bang my head into the wall, but she's a teenage girl filled with doubt and coddling a low self-esteem. *Most* teenage girls are like that. I can see how many teenagers envision themselves in the character of Bella Swan (definitely more so than I can, as with age comes wisdom). Yes, she does rely on people saving her a bit too much in the first three books, but I feel she redeems herself in Breaking Dawn -- the final book was truly about Bella coming into her own, so to say... gaining wisdom, intelligence and self-esteem in the process.

I can't see, however, how people can interpret Bella and Edward's relationship as 'abusive.' Yes, Edward is overprotective... he's a vampire, folks, and doesn't want to see Bella hurt. He will do anything, including leave her, to make sure she's never hurt again. Overly romanticized portrayal of men? Of *course*, it's a fairy tale (like Meyer aludes to quite a bit throughout the series). It's the same kind of portrayal as the classic "knight in shining armor" or "prince charming." Should girls take this to mean that their future mate be a KiSA? They might for a while, but reality will set it. If girls start setting higher goals, though, for their future mates... is that a bad thing? We may not expect them to write piano concertos for us, but we can still expect them to open doors and show chivalry (it is *not* anti-feminist to expect a man to open a door... it's simple manners, folks). It's not male chauvinist, it's chivalry.

Can you see which one (Edward vs. Jacob) I like better?

I think that many critics need to realize the audience this was written for. They need to think back to their teenage years, without the veil of older wisdom, and see the girls there. They need to look at the series as a whole -- Bella, starting off weak, impotent, fearful, powerless, who gains strength, power, wisdom and pride. Does it set a bad precedent -- that a girl will be devastated without a man? Think back -- we are all devastated when romantic relationships end and it's especially potent in high school. Nobody should think they they have to live without "a man" (as in, someone), but there's nothing wrong with feeling grief, sadness and overpowering anguish when the 'love of your life' is gone.

I also disagree with one of my favorite authors, Stephen King, calling her out publically. If he doesn't like the writing, that's fine, but don't broadcast it to the masses. I understand he has a point, but it's still rude. I can even understand if he was writing a review of something, but he was at a random press event. Plus, there's something about writers criticizing other writers (like a lawyer talking smack about the lawyer down the road... seems... unprofessional) that bothers me. Meyer didn't read vampire stuff, but I like the way she recrafted vampires instead of sticking to the tried-and-true, formulaic vampires from older books. I love Ann Rice, but we don't need "Interview of a Vampire" to be the be-all, end-all depiction of vampires.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. I give the series 4.5 stars and a thumbs up. It's easy reading (as it's not too involved, neither the storyline nor the writing) but a fascinating and entertaining story. If you're a woman, you should pick it up. I think you'll like it ;).


PS: As far as how readers should be... well, that all depends on the 'adultness' of the child. There are strong sexual overtones, but they are all done off camera, and the sensual scenes are well written without being graphic. I couldn't have read it if it talked like a normal romance (read: brain garbage) novel. If your child is younger, say eight or so, I'd recommend talking with them about the book -- asking them their opinions on the characters, the events, and so on. It's a good way to open a dialogue into the things they think Bella could have done better in the first few books.

PPS: Hey, Stephenie Meyer... if you're reading this, please hurry Midnight Sun. ;)

PPPS: WHAT? You've stopped writing Midnight Sun, indefinitely??? NNOOoOOoOOOoOOOooOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's ridiculously unfair. Yes, yes, I know what happened is wrong and ridiculously unfair to you, Meyer, and I feel horrible that it happened.... it sucks and I hope you get some sort of reprisal... but your fans love you -- they didn't mean for the first part of the rough draft to be released. I'll admit, I read it on your website and it was AWESOME. It's killing me inside knowing that I'll never be able to read the rest.

Please try to write it for your fans. Please?


missbreezysbox said...

I think I'll look for Meyer's books. I love books that are hard to put down & you just can't wait to get back to them. Thanks for the great post.

Made By Moms said...

I've always been a fan of the fantasy genre -- I'd sooner pick up Eddings, Jordan or Goodkind than a drama or comedy.

If you like 'fantasy,' I definitely think it's a must read. I must say, maybe I am a bit too harsh on Meyer when I say she isn't a good writer... Whenever I look objectively at myself while reading her books, my teeth are clenched... She definitely can involve you in the story.

Definitely let me know if you like Twilight :) :).