Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

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.

19 thoughts on “Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer”

  1. Your review made me laugh and laugh. I could not get through the book.

    I can see why it would appeal to a teenage girl, to think some guy finds a “girl like me” so utterly fascinating and lovable.”

    I thought it was actually a little creepy. I mean, how old is Edward? why is he so taken with a teenager?

    What I do not get are the grownups I’ve talked to who just love this book.

    I couldn’t finish it so maybe I just don’t get it.

  2. Thank you. 🙂 I’m not 100% sure how I managed to finish it, and I (hypothetically) have books 2 and 3 in my review stack. (Luckily I’m not beholden to anyone, so if I don’t read them, it’s OK.)

    Mind if I add you to my blogroll?

  3. Hello, it’s Jade, hopping over here from Sartorias’s journal. Ah-hahahahaha, this is brilliant. Your complaints seem to match mine–I didn’t even think about the “born 35” problem. I just thought the narration was blah.

    *claps and goes to see what else you’ve read*

  4. Awesome! Thanks!

    I’m still on the fence whether I want to read the other two books. I can’t decide whether the catharsis of the review is worth having to read the book . . .

  5. I’m glad I’m not the only one!
    -warning my contain some spoilers-
    Throughout the series Isabella “Bella” Marie Swan has bothered me, somehow. I couldn’t really put my finger on what about her bothered me. I’ve stumbled upon it now; it’s because of her insane Mary Sue tendencies. My cousin had my read the first one, it was a fairly easy read and I enjoyed some parts of it I just didn’t like Bella or the Bella/Edward love fest. My cousin asked how I liked it and I said that some things just bothered me. Such as every guy and their brother flocking to Bella like a fly drawn to a lighbulb. How unrealistic, if she’s so ‘Plain Jane’ then how come all these guys are so in love with her? Pretty new girls that come to my school didn’t recieve attention as quickly as Ms. Swan did in what in a matter of two days? Her and Edward’s love seems happen even more quickly than that, more so in a day. Ridiculous, that’s not love that’s extremely obsessive infatuation.
    I also read the other two, because
    A.) I love Alice and Jasper.
    B.) If I start a book, I need to finish it.
    Anyway Edward mopes about them being bad for eachother but he just can’t stay away, boohoo. Every five seconds Edward is described the most beautiful guy to ever grace the earth. This gets me to start hating Edward as well. He is so perfect it’s annoying. It’s like Edward and Bella are this super Mary Sue couple. Also Edward claims Bella is his first girlfriend. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. He’s been living for like, what over 100 years? Yet, he’s never felt any kind of ‘connection’ to any other girl or atleast a sexual relationship with another girl. Same for Bella as well. Then how do they know they’re in love? Sounds like a huge lust fest to me.
    Anyway Edward leaves and Bella gets depressed which leads her to get straight A’s in school, go figure. She talks about killing herself over some guy she barely knows that’s about 90 years older than her in reality. She begins to dependently attach herself to Jacob Black (who is one of the actually awesome characters in the novel) who you guessed it, falls in love with her! He ends up being the strongest werewolf, but he doesn’t want to take it away from Sam. Of course Mary Sue Swan gets only the best looking, strongest men. Also, she gets offered a spot in the Volturi because of her sueish powers to be immune from psychological powers from vampires. How cliche. Then one of the Volturi describes Bella and Edward’s relationship as one of the most loving and strongest he’s felt ever (he has some power to detect relationships between people) Whatever.
    From her uniquely Sueish name to her perfect man and ‘skills’ Bella Swan is the most Sueish character I’ve ever seen in professional writing.
    I have this love/hate thing for Twilight series.

  6. Gabriela, I can totally understand the love/hate thing. There were elements of the book that I thought I could like quite a bit, and I’ve heard from more than one person that Jacob is pretty awesome at times, but I still don’t know if I’ll ever read the second book.

    Definitely a Mary Sue, though. Argh.

  7. I’m really glad I stumbled upon this website. I thought I was the only one who felt that Twilight was…a horrible story.

    I just got done reading the second novel in the twilight series and the only character I adore is Jacob because he’s a well-rounded character. He’s funny but has a bad temper and he can’t exactly control himself.
    He’s not a perfect person and I believe that’s what attracts my reader’s heart to him.

    When I read the first book, I immediately hated Edward. He was too perfect–yes, he’s a vampire, but even vampires have flaws!!! Not only is he beautiful–he’s powerful too! Quick speed, strong, and able to read minds! I couldn’t picture the character at all with his bronze hair and eye-changing colors (another trait of a male Mary Sue).

    Bella irked me in the first book but not as much as Edward. I liked her sarcastic point of view and how she’s clumsy (I am klutzy myself, but I have never broken anything. *knocks on wood* I only destroy anything technology related in the process), so it was something I could relate to.

    However, as I read the second book I began wishing to pop into the series–just so I could strangle her. She’s far too dependant on the men (boys?) in her life. It’s one thing to rely on them sometimes, but to be so depressed and absolutely need them 24/7? Not realistic. And it’s not a good message to send to other girls. Girls should be more independent! I’ve lost count on how many times my girlfriends changed their boyfriends and were dumped/did the dumping. It’s a fact of life.

    Also, can someone please explain to me why Bella (and since I am Italian and speak it as my first language this name bothers the hell out of me. It means beautiful–obviously–and yet she’s supposed to be “plain”. It’s contradicting), is immune to all vampire powers? I read it was because she has “a private mind”.

    I don’t get it. Private mind? What is that supposed to mean? That other ‘simple’ people don’t have private minds??? Ha, well excuse me for being more outspoken and having a “loud” mind.

    Ugh.

    And then there’s the whole obsession with becoming a vampire. Yes, there are perks as a vampire, but what’s so wrong with being human? And really, who wants to live that long?

    I’m wondering if I should read the third book—I’m only curious as to what happens
    to Jacob. My heart really goes out to him (and the other guys she apparently enchanted). Bella just uses him as a temporary fix and drops him. What kind of friendship is that?

    The only other character I can picture is Alice. She makes sense. Having no memory, being locked away because of her visions while she was human, and then becoming powerful vampire just so she can escape death by another vampire…I can see that happening.

    Anyway, I apologize for the rant but I am relieved that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

  8. No, you seriously aren’t the only one to feel that way! 🙂 As you can see by a lot of the other comments. This is my single most popular review, apparently.

    I’m tempted every few weeks to read the other books in the series, just so I can write nasty reviews of them (and get people to comment), but I think perhaps that is a bit mean-spirited (and selfish) of me.

  9. I totally agree with all of this. Twilight just… sucks.

    I was totally irked when I read there was a character with my name in there. And that she had my hair colour.

    I don’t get why people love Twilight. But it’s most likely because people who like it are (mostly) tween girls who fall in love with the whole idea of Edward. But a perfect little goody vampire? I mean, come on!

    I have a friend who is OBSESSED with the Twilight series… But hates Bella. She wishes Bella would just go die so she could take her place and have a happily ever after with Edward. Gross.

    And the whole, ‘everyone-likes-me-after-two-days-but-I’m-so-plain’ thing gets on my nerves. Gargh.

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