Friday, September 19, 2008

The "Twilight" Saga (No spoilers)

Thanks to you, my dear readers, I was clued in to the Twilight phenomenon in July after writing this post about the first novel's EW cover and movie trailer. I then started reading Twilight at the beginning of August, and not even one-third of the way through its 500+ pages, I ordered the remaining three books in the series AND Stephenie Meyer's other unrelated novel, The Host (which I just started). I finished the four Twilight saga installments in about 6 weeks. Knowing the controversy over the series' end (don't worry, I will write no details in this post), I felt like I should offer my thoughts to those who are still debating reading these books.

First and foremost, it gives nothing away to say that the crux of the saga is the forbidden love between a human teenager, Bella, and a vampire, Edward, and how a lot of people -- including themselves, sometimes -- don't want them to be together. If you get queasy easily, fear not! Amazingly, there is hardly any blood in these books, until the final installment (and even then it's not that bad). However, if you can't deal with mushiness, then just take this series off of your To Read list right now. Because Stephanie Meyer is nothing if not a gushy romantic.

Although I normally do not like to read about goo-goo ga-ga relationships, one compliment I will pay the first book is that I was totally shocked at how it transported me back to the way I used to feel about various boyfriends in high school. You know, when every single guy you liked must definitely be The One. When every glance from someone you had a crush on would be replayed over and over and over in your mind, searching for clues and hidden signals, and then you would discuss it all again in agonizing detail with your friends. When you got butterflies in your stomach just thinking about somebody. When you honestly thought you might die if so-and-so broke up with you. You get the picture. Teenage girls know how to bring the drama -- and I was the Drama Queen of them all -- so I couldn't help but be impressed that Twilight had the power to stir up those memories from almost two decades ago.

Um, so is it really, really wrong that I made my husband read this book? If you couldn't guess from the paragraph above, the vast majority of Twilight fans just so happen to be female. But they're not solely teenagers, there's a whole legion of thirty and fortysomething "Twilight moms" who are just as crazy about the books. I can only assume that these are some of the same readers of the cheesy romance novels with Fabio on the cover. Who else would keep those things in print?

Anyway, so while my husband was a good sport and read the book, he refused to read the rest of the series. And I couldn't honestly tell him that he would like them... the gushiness only gets worse, and the feelings that Bella has are repeated again and again ten bazillion times. It gets really old, really quickly. Though I fully admit that Meyer can weave a fantastic yarn, the woman is not a skilled writer. As one of my friends put it, "Bella is probably the most annoying protagonist of all time." I certainly wasn't reading these books because I liked the main character, let's just put it that way.

All that being said, I enjoyed the series and I'm glad I read all four books. They are nowhere near as good as the Harry Potter stories (and immediately distrust anyone who tells you they are), but there's something about them that I just couldn't shake. I HAD to know how everything ended up. The second book, New Moon, was the worst of the four -- painfully slow and repetitive, but still necessary to read in the whole scheme of things. The third installment, Eclipse, finally picked up the pace in its second half. And as for the love-it-or-hate-it end game, Breaking Dawn... I'm happy to say it was my favorite of the books overall. I stayed up until 2 am to finish it last Saturday night.

From what I've gathered on message boards, it seems that the readers who worshiped the first three novels were the same ones who despised the end of the series. Since I was fairly annoyed with the other three books, I applauded the abrupt change of tone and pace in Breaking Dawn. It was action-packed and all of the repetitive descriptions and plodding subplots disappeared. I personally felt that Meyer grew drastically as a novelist over the course of the series.

And so, if you are a female and you dig mythical creatures and you think you are patient enough to suffer through some really annoying dialogue and repetitive descriptions and scene-setting in order to be sucked into a story that is pretty darn fascinating, addictive and thought-provoking, I encourage you to at least give Twilight a try. When I was done with Breaking Dawn, I certainly felt that the precious time I put into the series was worth it.

The sad thing is that now that the books have grown on me, I'm even more disappointed with Twilight's trailer. I just fear that the movie will be awful. Did you guys catch the kid playing Jacob on the MTV VMA Awards? His face fit the part, but when he opened his mouth, my heart sank. He sounded like a squeaky punk. Plus, Edward was cut off?!? If you missed it, watch it here.

Since I know that many of you have completed the series, I will post a few more detailed thoughts on each book in the comment section, going in order, so that if you've only read a few of the installments so far, you can stop at the appropriate place and not be spoiled.

For those of you who have no intention of reading the books, will you still check out the movie, now that it's in HP 6's previous premiere date of November 21? You know I'll be first in line, as always...

- e

6 comments:

e said...

OK, here are some SLIGHTLY more detailed thoughts. I’m still going to be a tad vague to protect those of you who can’t help yourselves when around spoilers… but seriously, try and stop yourself from reading past whatever book you’re on! Trust me, it’s worth the wait!

TWILIGHT

As mentioned in the main post, I loved how I felt like I was 16 or 17 again at the beginning when Bella and Edward first met.

However, by the end of the book, I was totally over her “heart pounding out of her chest” and all of the various descriptions of his gorgeousness, her clumsiness, her plainness, and her unworthiness. Yes, Bella, you ARE unworthy!

It was a real letdown to me that there was no big scene between Bella and Edward when she finally realizes that he’s a vampire. She just kind of came to that conclusion and there was no big drama or specific discussion about it. Like she didn’t even hesitate once about wanting to be with him after she confirmed her suspicions. And to add to it…

I thought it was very lame that there was absolutely no thought behind Bella’s desire to become a vampire. Maybe that was just Meyer sticking to how teenagers are truly that drastic about all of their decisions, but as a reader it felt too unbelievable that she would just want to become undead within DAYS of meeting this guy (which I know makes no sense, considering that I was able to believe in vampires in the first place). But seriously, if she loves her parents so much, how could she just be so willing to throw her life as she knows it away?

At the end, I almost jumped into the air when James answered the phone instead of Bella’s mom. I really didn’t see that coming.

NEW MOON

At the beginning of this book, I predicted a “Romeo and Juliet” ending to the SERIES, where Edward kills himself. Little did I know at that point that that would be what he attempted at the end of this book, not the series.

I thought the “huge bear” that kept being spotted in the woods was another vampire. Then I thought it was some sort of other creature that was a vampire-hunter. I know I am totally dense, but I didn’t see the werewolf thing coming for a while.

HOWEVER, as soon as Jacob got a fever, I knew something was up, and when wolves surrounded Laurent in the woods, then it all fell into place. I was very surprised that Jacob was also supernatural… I was positive that he would end up being her “human option.”

At this point, I thought that Bella would end up with neither Edward nor Jacob.
I think the book suffered from Lack Of Edward. I started skimming a lot of the descriptions of the “hole in her chest” and her “crippling pain” and all of that crap. Yeah, Bella, we get it, you miss him. Trust me, we missed him more than you did in this book because of your freakin’ annoyingness.

And wait, let me get this straight… you’re OK with becoming a vampire, but you can’t deal with getting married? Good God, you are an idiot. Why am I reading these books? Oh, yeah, because I like the vampires and werewolves.


ECLIPSE

MORE of the aversion to marriage. Enough already!

I liked getting Rosalie’s backstory.

After the campfire story, I figured that Bella was somehow a descendent of the “third wife” and that was why she seemed to have special protection against some of the vampires’ powers.

I kept scanning descriptions and basically just looked for dialogue until the book picked up halfway through. The action at the end totally saved this book.

Things got infinitely more interesting once she finally admitted that she had a thing for Jacob as well.

Though I was not that into Jacob in the second book, I was really digging him in this one.

I thought that Edward was hiding something MAJOR that would be revealed in the final book.

At the end of “Eclipse,” I had absolutely no idea how the series would end. All I knew was that if Bella ended up becoming a vampire, I would be really mad if we didn’t get to see some of her life as a vampire. I also hated to think of either Jacob or Edward getting all upset at losing her, even though she didn’t deserve either of them because she is so whiny and needy.


BREAKING DAWN – I’m going to be especially vague on this one!

What the last two books lacked in action was completely and utterly made up for in this one. It was like go, go, go! from the very beginning.

I basically could not have guessed ahead of time anything that happened in this book, and I was happy about all of the surprises, as I felt the other three stories were fairly predictable.

I do feel silly for not expecting the biggest twist of the story, though (think Loch Ness Monster)! Apparently every other reader saw it coming from a mile away.

I figured that the boy that Bella was seeing in her dream would be Jacob’s son.

I felt that how Charlie was handled was a cop-out, and was stunned that Renee was essentially dropped from the story altogether. Nor were any of Bella’s high school friends ever mentioned again. That was weak.

I loved how the repetitive, mushy, whiny tone was obliterated from this book. I read on the message boards that people were disturbed by some of the more violent scenes, but I liked how they heightened the tension and really kept me guessing about everyone’s fate.

Although I felt that Meyer took the easy way out with almost all of the characters, I can’t lie and say I wasn’t pleased at how things turned out.

Now I’m really mad that “Midnight Sun” (“Twilight” from Edward’s point of view) was leaked and she’s refusing to continue writing it!

- e

Lydia said...

I've read the first two and I agree with you. Bella is so completely annoying. Yet, I cannot put the books down. Right now, I am liking Jacob a lot more than Edward, though. I really can't remember why she loves Edward? Because he's so incredibly good-looking? Is it because he loves her? And one huge pet peeve, Meyer over used the word "murmur". Apparently, all Bella does is murmur everything she says. COME UP WITH A NEW WORD!

I am relieved to hear that Meyer gets better as a writer as the series moves along. I really do like the plot and although I don't have much sympathy for Bella, I guess I'm rooting for her to turn into a Vampire at the end, although I don't think she's put that much tought into it, either.

maikib said...

agree, agree, agree! book 2 was the worst-- so, so annoying! i enjoyed them, but no way should they be in the same breath as HP. I did get my dad to read them... haha.

Minderelly said...

You're not alone. I TOTALLY did not see the huge surprise in Breaking Dawn coming either. Shock and awe. I loved all four books, and took them for what they were; mindless summer reading from a beginner. I also forced Twilight on my boyfriend, and he chose to read the rest of the series. He doesn't like Bella's whiny-ness either and he HATED New Moon. Please post your thoughts on The Host, because I really enjoyed her writing in that book, and despite a tad of gushiness, I loved the emotion from the main character. Keep up the good work!

Margaret said...

Erika - great blog and I couldn't agree more! Bella was a bit whiny throughout the series, definitely the perfect portrayal of a teenage girl! I was kind of shocked at how sucked in I was to the series - nothing like Harry Potter of course - but still, I kept going back for more. I did have a soft spot for Edward's character. I hadn't heard that Meyer was going to publish Edward's side until it got leaked...very frusturating indeed!

M.R said...

OMG i'm soooo glad to find out i'm not the only non-teen to love these books. I really cannot stand bella, but really like the two guys though i do agree that by the time i got to the third book i couldn't remember why she loved edward so much in the first place. This is pretty sad since it only took me a week to read all 4 books so how did i forget that so fast?? I loved breaking dawn much more than the other three, i saw the big twist coming, and i'm glad neither of the guys is left out at lthe end, but i did actually secretly wish bella would get dumped by both guys but oh well! Gosh i already loved all of your lost reviews and now i'm sooo going to read all of your twilight reviews!