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Friday, July 25, 2008

Snuffing Out the Twilight

Well I'm sorry to say that my verdict is in on Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and it is not positive. I didn't care for this book at all.

As I mentioned previously on this blog, I found Meyer's prose to be bland and simply serviceable. The choice to write in first person narrative seemed to be one of ease rather than driven by the story itself. Nothing was revealed or informed by the first person narrative. Instead it tortured me with the narrator's incessant glowing admiration of her love interest and pages and pages of rumination on her feelings.

In fact, I was inspired to create the Twilight drinking game: If you ever have the opportunity to attend a reading, bring the alcohol of your choice with you. Every time the narrator describes something as "beautiful" take a swig. I suggest you arrange a sober ride home. You'll need it.

I accept that this book is geared towards, and is clearly successful with, girls half my age. However, I don't accept that the prose or storytelling in YA books has to be mind-numbingly mundane. In fact, Meyer really shines when the plot is actually ticking forward. Unfortunately the ratio is approximately 100 pages of plot to 300 pages of feelings. And yet, the narrator's feelings rarely change. At all.

A friend told me recently that Meyer is planning on rewriting Twilight from the point of view of the love interest/vampire. No real shock to me. When I finally finished the book, it immediately occurred to me that his journey was infinitely more interesting than the narrator's.

I strongly believe that YA prose can be simple and clear for young readers, but still possess the nuance that makes stories compelling and memorable. My favorite example is The Rain Catchers by Jean Thesman, and in the supernatural category, I'm delighted to recommend anything from The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper.

Needless to say, I will not be reading any more books of this series.

6 comments:

Andi said...

I agree with you, but for some reason (that I can't entirely figure out) I still love these books. I can only conclude that they appeal to my junior high self that found vampires and werewolves and tortured love "dreamy." I still think LJ Smith did it better overall in The Vampire Diaries.

stu said...

They certainly overdo the feelings aspect of things, but I'm not so sure about the language. Sometimes I feel that other books are impeded by a need to use overly poetic language. The 1st person thing might also be simply because it's more or less standard in the sub-genre.

Sven said...

Well, I'm glad I decided not pick you up any of the Twilight trading cards at Comic-Con.

Stephanie said...

Andi, you know it's funny I could totally feel that tug of romance appealing to me now and again, and in that sense, I really wanted to like it. I mean, right off the bat the car crash scene was very romantic in an old fashioned "rescue me" sort of way. But it wasn't enough to keep me engaged.

Stu, I don't really mean that I was looking for overly poetic language so much as I was looking for writing that went beyond the surfaces of emotions. When you write YA in first person narrative you run the risk of sounding like a bad teenage diary, which is I think what happened with this one and Bella. Most teenagers are only partially aware of themselves, and first person can be a great opportunity to explore a person in flux. Bella is not in flux though. About a hundred pages in she boldly declares herself to be in love. From that point on, she's almost completely one-note with occasional moments of fear mixed in for excitement. Were she ever to experience uncertainty of her feelings, or to have any sort of inner life, I think this would have been a very different book for me. I hope that clarifies my position, and I certainly hope you weren't offended by my strong feelings. I had really hoped that I'd like it more than I did. Sometimes we all just have to agree to disagree. :)

Meital said...

Hi steph- its Meital! Galit told me about the blog you wrote.

It's been a while since I fell in love with the book, and the obsession has really died down dramatcially because of articles like this one.

I see all the flaws in the book, and I couldn't agree more with what you said, especially about the ratio of 300 pages of no plot, just feelings, and the last 100 pages of plot, which is a shame. Though I still am interested to see what book 4 will bring (coming out this Saturday), I am now aware of the books' flaws, unlike before when I first read it (thinking it was the most amazing book in the world). But I have got to give Meyer a lot of credit for getting readers hooked, because she picked a great audience for that purpose.

Stephanie said...

Meital! Welcome to the site, I hope you like it. You bring up an excellent point - there's no question that Meyer found her readers which is not an easy feat. And I agree with you, that there is a definite hook to her books, something that keeps you wanting more, that I'm not quite sure how to explain. When I finished reading it, as much as I didn't like it, I still wanted to know what was going to happen next. So you're quite right, Meyer deserves loads of credit for tapping into the right audience and creating that curiosity of reading that keeps her readers wanting more. Plus, she does it without a hanging ending which is something I hate, and was one of my first topics on this blog. So kudos to her for that, and thank you for rightly pointing it out!