Sunday, March 18, 2012

53. The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

Meyer, Stephenie. Twilight. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2005.
- - -. New Moon. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2006.
- - -. Eclipse. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2009.
- - -. Breaking Dawn. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2010.

2,560 pages total.

I read Twilight several years ago when it first was published and my little sister and her friends couldn't stop gushing to me about how good it was. At the time that I read it, I didn't enjoy it enough to read the rest of the series. I distinctly remember telling my mother that "If I were thirteen years old, I would have loved it."

Fast forward approximately 5 years later and Twilight is now a huge pop culture fad. Swarms of people await the release of the films and it took me almost a month to get the last of the books from library because their 5 (!) copies were constantly checked out to someone else.

I had to know what all the fuss was about. I had to try and understand why a set of books that where less than wonderfully written could grab and hold such a large audience. I have some sneaking suspicions about what pulled in so many readers.

In Twilight, readers meet the main characters--Bella Swan, Edward Cullen and his family of vampires. The Cullens satisfy nearly every psychological desire in Western culture--money, beauty, intelligence, and immortality. This is why we are instantly pulled in. The majority of us are taught to want those things, so though we may value other things more, these novels feed into our guilty pleasures like an intravenous drip.

To top it off, Bella is a flat character. There is little about her that sets her apart from other characters or makes her special. She is special to Edward because he can't read her thoughts like he can everyone. She's a blank slate. In doing this, Stephenie Meyer has made it so that readers become Bella. We fill in her blank slate with our own thoughts, personalities and desires. We become her and can have all those things we secretly desire in the Cullens' world. This sets the stage for the rest of the series, making it easy to sustain a readership.

Meyer's ability to tap into our guilty pleasures and make the reader the protagonist is what I believe simultaneously draws readers in and makes the writing less than wonderful. It's a brilliant move, but in doing it, the series lacks the literary hutzpah needed for many people to take it seriously.

One particular aspect of the prose that drove me nutty in reading the series was the use of fragments to imply a dramatic pause. There were so many of these dramatic pauses (especially in Breaking Dawn) that I was frequently tempted to toss the book across the room in frustration. It is jarring to read fragment after fragment with no relief of fully structured sentences in sight.

There were some things that I liked about the series. I thought her portrayal of vampires was creative and she did a good job of constructing the Twilight fantasy world regarding details about how the Quiletes came to exist and the science behind vampire procreation. 

Long story short, Meyer has a secret formula in this series to score her a large number of readers, but her writing is just terrible. I liked the story but I hated the writing.

3 darts out of 5
Bookshelf Project Status: None (books were from the library)

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