Before I begin this book review, I need to tell you a few things about my Uncle Stephen. When I was a little girl, Uncle Stevie was a hippie with long hair and a long beard. He and his friends lived off the land on a “farm” that sounded like a sort of commune to me. As a single man, he would buy the oddest presents for his little nieces: Sci-fi books and lapel pins and Guatemalan belts. Completely different from the Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake dolls that other people gave me; they became enduring favorites. I still have some today. On a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota, Uncle Stevie chased a mother bear and her two cubs through woods because she stole a backpack full of food. And he got it back… Despite two busted knees, he looks like poetry in motion on a pair of downhill skis. He cried on his wedding day and still does when he watches a romantic or touching movie. And when I saw a Science Channel show about string theory physics, I thought…I bet Uncle Stevie knows about this. I asked him if he had any books to recommend to me. “Oh, of course,” he said, peering out of his office a minute later with a stack of books about complicated advanced physics. You get the picture here. Uncle Stevie is cool and smart and so totally not the person I would imagine would tell me the “Twilight Saga” books by Stephenie Meyer are “pretty good.”
So now you know who encouraged me to read a series of books I would never have picked up on my own… Here are the reasons why I wouldn’t have given them a chance: The Twilight books are normally labeled “Horror,” “Teen,” and/or “Romance.” All three are categories I would never choose on my own. I’m not at all interested in horror books. With two little kids at home, I read a ton of kid books, but have not ventured into “teen” books since I was a teen, which was a pretty long time ago. Plus I don’t read strictly “romance” novels for two reasons: 1. I can be a book snob and most books labeled as such aren’t at the character, plot and literary level that I prefer. 2. From a purely practical standpoint, romance novels are really designed as porn for women. And just like porn for men, they are so far removed from reality that it’s disturbing. If you read a whole bunch of romantic scenes and a whole bunch of steamy hot bedroom scenes, pretty soon you’re escaping reality and then it’s hard for reality to measure up…No matter how fabulous your reality is. It’s not fair to my husband if I’m disappointed he doesn’t act like HottieA from Steamy Romance Novel B, especially if I don’t want him to expect me to be PinUpXXX from NastyMagZ. (Sidenote—when/if I ever finish my post on the HTAF rating factor—I will talk about this a little bit more.)
After reading the first two books in the series, Twilight and New Moon, I would have to say that I wouldn’t categorize them as either horror or romance. I found them neither scary nor romantic, although they are about vampires and there is a love story at the heart of them. I’m not going to summarize the plot of these books. Unless you have lived in the Patagonian Steppe for the last 5 years without contact from the outside world, chances are you know what the stories are about, and if you don’t, you can find a great little summary of all the books right here on Wikipedia. In once quick sentence, it’s a love triangle between a vampire, a werewolf, and a human, with a little mystery and danger and mayhem thrown in.
Despite my permission to read teen/romance novels from one of the coolest and smartest men I know, I still had a hard time admitting I liked these books. I must really be a book snob. But here—let me say it again---just to convince myself--I really did like them. Once you set aside obvious pandering to the teenage girl audience, the story is actually pretty good. A mystery unfolds as Bella, our protagonist, tries to figure out why her boyfriend Edward’s behavior is so strange… The mystery continues in the second book as she discovers her best friend Jacob’s secret life as well. Both books also have a good vs. evil struggle in the plot, which strengthens the story. What I like most about the series, however, was getting peeks into this new world of vampires and werewolves. I love it when an author creates the rules and boundaries of an alternate reality.
Meyer’s vampires come in two categories, all of them are immortal, with cold, marble-hard skin that glitters in sunlight. They are attractive, inhumanly strong and fast, and many have supernatural powers as well, like mind reading, or the ability to manipulate emotions or see the future. After the vampire basics, they split into two groups. Most embrace their vampire selves and enjoy drinking human blood. But the ones Meyers focuses on are the ones who don’t particularly like being “monsters.” These vampires jokingly call themselves “vegetarian,” because they choose not to drink human blood, surviving only on the blood of animals. They are smart, sexy, kind, principled, and very protective of their adoptive families. This cultural division gives the story some depth as the vampires clash with each other, the werewolves and the human world.
CF (Crack Factor)---6. To be fair, I picked this up from the library just as I was beginning Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. I read a few bits of Twilight, but there was no way I was going to stop Dragonfly for Twilight. So even though Twilight and New Moon are pretty good page turners, they get a lower rating because they did take backseat to better books. And no, I did not get obsessed with the Twilight series, so it’s not high on the crack factor scale, even though I do like them enough to probably read the next two books.
WSF (Writing Skills Factor)---5. A solid average. It’s pretty obvious Twilight is Meyers’ first book. The only reason I’m not giving it a below average rating is because it’s in the “teen” category so I’m cutting her more slack. It was Meyers’ stunted writing skills that really gave me a hard time with the love story in the book. She “told” the readers over and over how much Edward and Bella supposedly loved each other, but she didn’t “show” it; I never really felt it. Even when friends and coworkers (and half the women in the world) were fawning over these books as passionate romances, it just felt forced to me.
PF (People Factor)—6.5. I enjoyed most of the characters. I’d have to say I like the secondary characters better than the main ones.
STF (StoryTelling Factor)-8. The plot is more than just two people falling in love-there are enough twists and turns here to make it into a good story. As mentioned above, I like the created world with these mythical creatures in it living beside us with their supernatural abilities. I have to admit being curious how the movie adaptations would portray these special powers. (I saw both movies AFTER reading the books). The books do a much better job than the movies. Even all the special effects available now couldn’t compete with the words on the page. Seeing Edward sprinting through the forest with Bella on his back in the movie was so disappointing. It just looked silly to me; whereas in the book, it didn’t seem silly, just magical.
Total Rating: 6.375
Thanks to Uncle Stevie for helping me step out of my norm and giving me permission to read some books I had dismissed. I enjoyed them, plain and simple. And now I know what the buzz is all about. J
And thanks to my sister and editor, Stephanie Leddington, who made me re-write this entire post. It’s a lot better now than version 1…