Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Twilight, Twilight, Burning Bright: On the Bookshelves for the Teens . . .

Meyer, Stephanie. Twilight. London: Atom, 2009 (2005).

I'm a bit hesitant to post that I've read this novel, and, perhaps, even more hesitant to post a review of a book that has been contested so hotly for the past five years.Twilight certainly isn't the next Great American Novel, and Meyer certainly isn't Shakespeare--but, then, who is, these days?

Twilight is simply written and well edited. And where two books I recently began and set aside due to frustration with their recurring grammatical errors have been critically acclaimed (and nominated for awards) on the basis of their high literary merit, Meyer's mere teen fiction has been proofread and is composed of grammatically precise English. The story is laboured in spots, and Meyer's teenage narrator is occasionally frustrating and unrealistic, but the story moves quickly. Certainly, although Twilight is neither as classy nor as deeply researched and plotted as The Historian, Meyer does draw upon many of the elements that made Kostova's novel almost immediately popular. Meyer's vampires are compared to and based upon not the literary elements of Dracula but upon the results of an internet search, but they are inventive and (I found) more compelling than her humans.

Truly, my greatest frustration with Twilight is a flaw that I find irksome in Romeo and Juliet as well. The love that protagonist Bella has for the dramatic vampire Edward--and, to some degree, his love in return--is based completely on external appearances and to no degree on personality or spirit. Where Bella adores the perfection of his body--and Meyer lets us know that he's quite good in school--and he appreciates her scent, their love is based on few of the elements that matter to us mere mortals. Maybe in Twilight, where Edward will remain Seventeen Forever (and I'm surprised that isn't a hit pop song by now), a love based on physical attraction will last because the physical attraction itself can never diminish. But I digress.

Where the first two-thirds of the novel are a slightly sappy love story based on looks and smell, the final third of the novel turns into a spy thriller with perks. Although Meyer avoids the slippery slope of time travel, she does offer visions of the future and a cross-continental chase scene that manages to be predictable enough that readers will be frustrated with Bella's decisions and complicated enough by the ever-shifting visions of the future that Meyer very nearly touches on an interesting discussion of fate and destiny. If you can endure the flimsy romance that begins the book, the excitement and hints of intrigue in the final pages will get you neatly to the conclusion. However, that said, I'm very content to leave the series at the end of this book, and doubt I'll be looking out for its sequels.

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