I’ve been bitten! I read Twilight, the bestseller teen vampire romance by Stephenie Meyer — and liked it! And it’s as if I’ve taken the first step toward being initiated into a new cult or something! Ladies, young and old, are welcoming me into their ranks of Twilight fans. I get knowing nods and smiles in public places. Some people are friendlier than usual.
As both a bookseller and an anthropologist, I’ve been fascinated by this Twilight phenomenon for about a year and a half. People don’t just ‘enjoy’ these books, they LOVE them! Many customers have rushed in to the shop, just before closing time, appearing disheveled and frantic, hoping beyond hope that I have the next book in the series on the shelf. They seem sort of addicted. And then, after they’ve run through the four books of the series, they’re usually jonesing for ‘what’s next’.
Being the risk-taker that I am, I thought I’d take the plunge and finally read Twilight, just to see what all the fuss was about, of course. I like to think of myself as a somewhat educated and book-savvy person, with not too restrictive literary tastes. I’ve always enjoyed good sci-fi and fantasy, and I’ve even read my share of both bodice ripper romances and pulp-fiction westerns. I figured Twilight, which is written for the Young Adult audience, would be along those lines, but probably not great literature. Yes, I know, a snobby attitude, for sure.
So last week, mid week, I picked up a little movie-tie-in paperback copy of Twilight and began to read it on my lunch break. It was a slow day, and about an hour and a half later, I realized I was almost 100 pages in, and wanting more! Today, a week and a day later, I’m now nearly finished reading New Moon, with no intention of stopping until I finish both Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.
So what’s the big deal? you uninitiated may ask.
Here’s my take.
The beginning of Twilight was, admittedly, a little rough. The writing was rather sophomoric — not terrible, mind you, but not great. The high school situation was a bit much for me. But Stephenie Meyer kept me turning the pages as fast as I could read, by stringing out the possible explanations until the middle of the book, by which time I was completely hooked! About a third of the way through, she’d hit a much better writing style, and although it remains a bit expository for my taste, the girl can definitely spin a yarn!
But I think the real magic in these stories is that the suspense and the romance in Twilight are just plain fun! Bella and Edward falling in love reminded me of how much fun it was to fall in love — those first few breathless weeks, the trembling first contact, even the angst and doubt. All that good stuff that tends to get forgotten in the din of the everyday married life of a middle-aged couple. And if you’re fourteen, and you’ve not yet had the pleasure, this is a great primer on how it should be done – falling in love, I mean.
Eclipse, the second act, is (probably by both definition and necessity) a little slower, but Jake is such an endearing character, and Bella’s pain is so palpable, and Edward’s continued absence so inexplicable, that I’m still with them, waiting for another fabulous romance, or at least some great battle scene between the vampires and the werewolves. You know I love a good battle scene.
I’ll keep you posted on how I feel as I work my way through the next two books, but for now I think the big deal is this, to revise Hobbes, that the life of woman is overcrowded, broke, terribly busy, and sometimes brutish, and that whenever we find ourselves so deliciously bitten by unbelievably beautiful fantasy vampires, we need to savor the kind of breathless escapism the experience offers.
In the meantime, I’ll bask in the welcome I’m getting from other Twilight fans, and I’ll get to work on ferreting out the best of the ‘What to read next’ titles.