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was sold to gypsies as a small child for half a tank of gas and a kitten. She was quickly, if not easily, retrieved by her mother after the kitten was revealed to be an Eldrich horror looking for a ride into the nearest metropolitan area to begin wreaking havoc. It's been a bone of contention between Maria and her family ever since, whether the Horror-kitten would've been more or less trouble than she grew up to be.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Twilight Saga

The Twilight Saga (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn) is the world wide, best selling series of books written by Stephenie Meyer. The series chronicle the life and death of teenager Bella Swan as she falls in love with a local vampire, Edward Cullen. Seventeen year-old Bella Swan has moved to the rainy town of Forks, Washington to live with her father, a self-sacrificing act meant to allow her mother private time to be with her new husband. On her first day at her new school, she observes five ridiculously beautiful students who seem to exist separate from the rest of the student body. These are the Cullens, adopted children of the handsome and talented Dr. Carlisle Cullen and his wife. The bizarre behavior of these students, Edward in particular, holds Bella's attention and leads her to seek out answers in the small town.

Sounds interesting? Well.... Personally, I don't really like The Twilight Saga. To me, it embodies the fears of all writers: having a story you wish to tell, told badly by a lack of skill. I see in Stephenie Meyer's tale a wasted potential, a story that could have been excellent but wasn't. It makes me sad, for her readers who are unaware of what they're missing, for other authors with better stories but less luck, and for her. Mostly for her. I doubt she's unaware of her short comings. But then again, she's laughing all th way to the bank, so I'll probably be rethinking that sentiment.

The Twilight Saga is a romance before anything else. Once you accept that, it's a bit easier to take. But don't expect a series like Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy or Holly Black's Modern Faerie Tales, where the romance plays second fiddle to the plot. the plots of those books focus on mysteries and magic, and girls who find that they ARE the magic they stumble into, not hapless bystanders. With that said, I despair of Bella Swan. Reading all the books, I was confused. What is Stephenie Meyer demanding of her protagonist? Is she special or isn't she? We are meant to believe that Bella is different from other human girls. That difference is supposedly part of the lure that attracts so many of the male characters to her. Yet her thoughts are so ordinary and commonplace as to be boring.

This isn't even touching on the Cinderella complex prevalent throughout her relationships with Edward and later with her best friend Jacob. Are readers meant to believe that being an especially weak and danger-prone woman will attract loving, perfect men? I suppose she's right..., if those men also follow you and worry over every step you take, watch you in your sleep, dictate that you can and cannot see people depending on how dangerous he deems them to be, and then kidnaps you and disables your car when you disobey. Yes, the perfect boyfriend indeed. There were moments in all four books which forced me to put them down for fear that I'd hurl them at something.

However, there were also moments that were genuinely entertaining and interesting. And the crazier actions of the characters can often seem to be halfway justified. I often found myself smiling at scenes, regardless of my attitude towards the characters in them. While the first book, Twilight, was a boring read, the other books of the series managed to keep my interest more easily. In New Moon and Eclipse, the emotional turmoil Bella feels about vampire Edward and her werewolf best friend Jacob kept me intrigued and somewhat sympathetic. In Breaking Dawn, curiosity about Bella's adjustments to being a vampire, and sympathy for Jacob this time,kept me reading. Moments, however, are not enough to make a good book, and for the good moments that kept the pace of the novels moving, there were just as many, if not more, that left me annoyed and ultimately bored.

The most annoying part of The Twilight Saga, in my opinion, and the main cause for my taking so long to cave and read them, is not the books themselves. For starters, The Twilight Saga is not just a series of books; it is quickly becoming a subculture, an "Empire." No, the most annoying part is the fan girls. A very vocal minority of Twilight fan girls, dubbed "Twihards," are often rabid and ignorant in their defense of the series. Questioning or criticizing the books for any reason online often results in instantaneous attacks of "I hate U!" "Ur EVIL!!!" and "NO WAY! Twilight is the best book eva!!!!!1!1" When prodded, some of the fans who proclaim the latter will admit that Twilight is the only book they've read on their own since childhood. This is not to say that all fans of The Twilight Saga are like this. In fact, I know two very reasonable fans of the series who know my opinion of the books and still have refrained from flooding my Facebook and deviantart accounts with Twilight spam. Thanks girls. But the "Twihards" ave been a negative influence on the my opinion of the books and have kept many other people from reading the series out of fear that such lunacy is contagious.

To Stephenie Meyer's credit, she has created something, well, "novel" in her novel. She has created a world of characters who are likable but empty. Readers can impose their own likes and dislikes on characters, making it easier to think of Bella's friends as their own. Bella, also, is open to interpretation. In spite of the books being first person narratives, Bella doesn't offer much information about herself that makes her an individual. Edward Cullen is even more vacant. to quote John Green, another author of young adult books, "Edward Cullen is a very beautiful but very empty vessel into which we stuff all our hopes and aspirations." I agree with him. Yet, while this may be unappealing to some readers, like myself, others have found it's exactly what they want from their characters

The "empty vessel" aspect of these characters makes the books perfect for their audience: teenagers. It appeals to the narcissism that is almost a prerequisite for teenage girls, myself included. The ease with which girls can fall into the character of Bella is a major selling point of the books. It definitely has it's perks, as does the ability to customize the more mundane aspects of the characters of Edward and his family. Stephenie Meyer started as a fan fiction author, and The Twilight Saga bears some of the marks of fan-fic writing, namely self-insertion. It's very easy to become Bella.

In the end, it seems impossible to predict who will and who won't like The Twilight Saga. Some friends who normally share my taste in books love the series, while others I know, who read books I loathe, think these books are juvenile trash. If you like Dracula, Interview with a Vampire, Hellsing, or The Southern Vampire Mysteries series, the odds appear 50/50 on whether you'd like or dislike Twilight. Of one thing I'm sure, though. The Twilight Saga, in spite of its size, is easy and quick to read through, and they are the variety of book which you can pick up midway through and start reading without much difficulty. Twilight might be too young for college readers, but if you want something to read that is not school related and doesn't require the use of too many brain cells, you could do worse.

The Twilight movie is coming out November 21, and I will be braving the lines with my two Twilight-liking friends to go see it. Who knows, I might like the movie.

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