I bet some of you were getting sick of all these 3-plus reviews. Here’s a spork, generic to help. In order to review this book, though, I’ll probably have to give away some plot points. However, some of them are like me telling you Harry Potter is a wizard. You may not know this if you’ve read only the first chapter, but if you read the back of the book . . .
Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer (am I shallow because it bothers me that she spells her name ‘wrong’?) is apparently breaking all sort of publishing records and has hit the Amazon bestseller list pretty hard. I’m not writing a bad review because of this; I’m writing it because I think this book is shoddily done.
The main character is named Isabella Swan. (It’s actually Mary Sue Swan, you know. What is it with this trend of naming characters things that show their path in the book? Remus Lupin, I blame this all on you!) At the beginning of the book she moves from Phoenix to Forks, Washington, which apparently has the least amount of sunshine of any city ever. Immediately every single boy in the school falls in love with her, despite the fact that she has ‘ivory’ skin, has never particularly attracted boys in the past, and is almost terminally clumsy. (That’s the pseudo-flaw of the Mary Sue, put in there to humanize her.) The girls either want to be exactly like her or are jealous of her. One boy doesn’t seem to like her much – he’s the single most beautiful human being in the school, and he’s one of those weird outsiders that no one’s quite sure about (this being a Small Town, of course). Naturally, that’s just hiding the fact that Edward (that’s his name) is completely, totally, head-over-heels, forever-type in love with her. As a matter of fact, she smells so good and tempting to him that he doesn’t trust himself around her at all. Because, you know, he’s a vampire.
Oh, but wait. It gets less realistic. He’s a ‘good’ vampire, you see. He only eats animals. And vampires in Meyer’s mythos can go out during daytime – they just shouldn’t, because they become even MORE unbelievably attractive in sunlight. Like, causing-traffic-accidents beautiful.
Then we get the infodump section of the book. Prior to this, barely anything is described. We don’t know why Bella moved in with her father in Forks, rather than staying with her mother in Phoenix until then. We don’t really know about the vampires until then. We don’t know about Edward’s personal history until then. Also, apparently Meyer did some research on vampires on the internet, because she then dumped it all on us. I don’t think we needed to know nearly what she threw at us in Bella’s supposed internet research on vampires.
Now, I’m all for a lack of infodumps at the beginning and gradual revelations, but first – we needed to know what Bella looks like. We get that she has long hair, pale skin, and a slender frame at the beginning, and that she has brown, straight hair later on, but then we’re just told she’s beautiful through the eyes of the boys in the book. (The girls don’t seem to care – they just think she’s cool because she’s popular and is the New Kid.) Second, if you’re just going to push the infodumps to the second part of the book, using them as the ‘get to know each other’ phase, then you’re not doing a gradual revelation, are you? You’re just moving your infodump.
Two other things plot-wise bothered the crap out of me: first, that Bella spent the second half of the book whining, “You can’t leave me!” I understand that scary things were happening to her, and that the Love of her Life (TM) was indicating that he should leave her alone and the scary things would stop. Still, she gained a level of pathetic that Anita Blake can’t even touch. Second, they used the oldest and stupidest trick in the book to, um, trick Bella. I won’t describe it, but it was a huge disappointment, that Bella was really that credulous.
The writing style – oy vey. I’ll stop at only two complaints. First, the author was horrible at tagging. Stephen King is right – you don’t need to say, ‘she complained’ or ‘he asked’ or ‘he said softly’ for every single piece of dialogue. ‘He said’ and ‘she said’ are just fine. People don’t actually read them, and if you put ‘he averred’ or something like that, often it just interrupts the flow.
Second, the narrator, Bella herself, didn’t think in any sort of language appropriate to even an outcast female from the early 21st century. The author made some offhand comment about how Bella’s mom remarked that Bella was born 35 and just kept getting more middle-aged. I still didn’t think that was a good excuse for not knowing how to write in the voice of a seventeen-year-old. Other people have learned how to do it, despite being in their thirties. The other option is to write in third-person, either limited or omniscient, so the narrator can speak like a narrator and not a seventeen-year-old girl. As an example, I do not know a single female post 1950 who would describe her skin as ‘ivory’. Even the Goths. They might as a joke, but not in a serious bit of internal dialogue. A girl from Phoenix, another center of the sun-worshiping cult, would probably refer to her skin as ‘pasty white’. I know quite a few Midwestern girls who refer to their skin as ‘pasty white’, even though it’s a much more common skin tone here.
Did I mention that Bella herself is wallpaper paste? There’s nothing interesting about her. Of course, because she’s a Mary Sue, she’s smarter than anyone else in the school (because her Phoenix school was so advanced). She doesn’t have any interests whatsoever other than being able to cook and, of course, Edward. She reads Jane Austen, which is of course a placeholder for ‘she’s smart, romantic, and a little nerdy, but not enough to make a guy not want her’. Edward apparently just fell in love with her because she smells really good. I don’t think that’s going to make for a terribly interesting relationship later on. You know, five hundred years from now. Love (or a hormonally-induced need) isn’t enough. You’d think he’d be old enough to know that.
I also found Bella falling in love with Edward to be completely unrealistic. Lust, probably. Some sort of hormonal state that approximates love, perhaps. But Twoo Wuv (TM)? Right away? At seventeen, never having experienced anything before, and with little knowledge of what true love might be? And ready to live with him eternally despite not knowing which side of the bed he prefers to sleep on, or whether or not he leaves his socks strewn around the living room? Come on. Very teenager-ish, very Romeo-and-Juliet, but it doesn’t fit with the rest of her ‘smart’, ‘middle-aged’ character.
This isn’t a book. It’s a teen-aged Goth girl’s fantasy diary, published. I suppose that explains its popularity. At least Harry Potter was better written, clever, humorous, English, and possessed of much more solid world-building and much, much, MUCH more interesting characters.
I did finish the book, and it is kind of compellingly readable, but no. It wasn’t good at all. I guess I’d recommend it IF you are under 18 and have never read any other vampire novels, IF you are/were Goth/pseudo-Goth, and IF you need brain candy rather than something that will make you think. 1.5/5 stars.