Monday, July 19, 2010

Struggling Through "Twilight"

I'm over halfway through Twilight and struggling to finish the novel. I've had the book for some time and bought it because I want to write and publish young adult novels, not because I was interested in the story. Like they say, read the genre you want to write.

A friend's concern about the message the books and movies are giving young girls made me pick up the book to read it. My friend was appalled that girls of 12 and 13 are eager to begin dating and feared that Stephanie Meyer was contributing to this frightening trend. So I figured it was a good time to see what the fuss was about and find out what my friend meant.

First of all, I'm not a fan of romance novels. I have read a few. I generally find them corny. Romance just isn't my genre of choice.

Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. I like Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and Oscar Wilde. But any more I reach for mysteries and science fiction/fantasy. When reading my genre(s) of choice, I'll make allowances for less than stellar writing if the suspense keeps me turning pages or I'm fascinated with the protagonist.

So I began reading Twilight and immediately had problems getting into the story. On page 67 I wrote: "Who is Bella? What are her interests? Hobbies? What are her goals for the future? What are her strengths? Her weaknesses (other than being a klutz)? Why should I care about her?"

I've read enough fiction, and books about writing fiction, to know that the reader should care about the protagonist way before page 67. Bella is 17. Presumably she had a life before moving to Forks. What were her interests and hobbies in Arizona? Is this girl like Titian's Venus? She emerged from a shell fully formed as a blank canvas? Edward quizzes Bella about her likes and dislikes on their drive into the forest. This occurs over halfway through the book. Did Meyer share Bella's answers with the reader? No. So here I am on page 276, and I still can't find a reason to care about Bella.

The story thus far has emerged as the sweet, virginal girl who falls in love with the sexy, dangerous guy. Will she be the one who makes him mend his ways? An archetypal romance story line.

But as I read Twilight I'm picking up on red flags that signal the potential for an abusive relationship. Edward has anger management issues. He is a controller. He stalks Bella.

"I wondered if it should bother me that he was following me; instead I felt a strange surge of pleasure." How many women were flattered by the obsessive attentions of a man only to later realize that he held her prisoner in their relationship?

"...since I'd come to Forks, it really seemed like my life was about him." How sad. And frightening. Bella has nothing going on in her life except Edward. No career goals. No hobbies or activities. Nothing!

Bella lies to her father in order to spend time with Edward. She takes drugs (cold medicine when she isn't ill). Not a good start to a relationship.

Edward's sudden mood changes might indicate that he is manic depressive. A 17-year-old girl is not equipped to deal with this condition.

"I knew at any moment it could be too much, and my life could end -- so quickly that I might not even notice. And I couldn't make myself be afraid. I couldn't think of anything, except that he was touching me." Edward is the ultimate sexy, dangerous man of romance novels. Bella feels compassion for his suffering. He suffers because of his love for her.

Thus far, the novel makes me cringe. How often have counselors heard this kind of stuff from physically and/or emotionally abused women? He has anger issues, but he always apologizes after he hits me. He loves me so much that he has to control my every move and friendship. I'm so in love with him that I will lie and give up my own personality so I can be with him. I will risk death (drugs, prostitution, vampire bites) to be with him.

I'm sorry, but this is frigging scary!

Spunky Hermione has been replaced by milquetoast Bella.

Women died so we could get the vote. Women fought so we could get equal pay for equal work. We have women on the Supreme Court. We had a viable female candidate for president.

Now along comes Bella with no life goals, interests, or hobbies. A girl ignoring all the red flags of a potential abusive relationship. Young girls and their mothers are soaking it up like sponges!

Frankly, what I've read thus far of Twilight scares me. And I don't mean in a suspenseful story line way.


gowestferalwoman said...

I knew I raised my 20 somethings daughters right when they told me that " Twilight" was a bunch of BS...

Please write something about decent and noble and strong young women who make good choices, pretty please?

The literary world needs you!

Cheryl Ann said...

I watched Twilight on TV, then checked out the next book, New Moon, from the library. I returned it after reading only half of it. I mean, who wants to read a book about a girl who is so fed up with her human life that her main goal is to become a vampire? I HATED Bella. She is a self-centered BRAT who doesn't really care about Jacob or her father. I didn't enjoy Meyers' writing and I could NOT find any sympathy for Bella. TRASH! And, yes, it disturbs me that young girls are reading these books. I worked hard to make sure our own daughter was independent and a critical-thinking individual! I mean, don't we want strong young women who can THINK for themselves? These books do NOTHING to help achieve that goal! GARBAGE, GARBAGE, GARBAGE! Ugh! Thank you for speaking up about these books and Ms. Meyers. What a letdown.

AareneX said...

I read Twilight in an advanced reader copy, before all the hoorah about the book began. My review of the book (posted here: ) was more focussed on the plausibility of the local weather in Forks--WE NATIVES know that it's really cloudy there all the time, but would outlanders believe it?

Looking back at the book now (I refuse to re-read it), I think the character emphasis is NOT on Bella, but rather on Edward. Readers are drawn to him, because he is dark and mysterious and forbidden. We know he's bad news. A huge part of literature is experiencing bad decisions without having to live with the actual consequences.

Truthfully, it was just another dumb vampire book to me when I reviewed it in October 2005. I guess that's how you can tell that I'm a librarian and not a teen.

Oregon Equestrian said...

I hesitated to make this posting because "Twilight" is so popular.

My goal is to write stories about young women who, over the course of the story, learn of and embrace their inner strength and value as an individual.

We'll see if I can pull it off.