I made minor changes to this post and split it in two because it was just too long before.
I am going to try to do this without giving too much away for those of you who are interested in reading this series. So, here goes!
I read the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer late last fall. It was admittedly during a time in my life when I really did not have the desire to utilize very many brain cells. I wanted to be entertained without having to think, and the Twilight series fit that bill. However, now that millions of teen girls (and their mothers) are infatuated with the series, I decided that a closer look into these books and their themes is warranted.
Stephanie Meyer created a world in which vampires exist (in small numbers), and they even have a ruling vampire coven that enforces the vampire rules. It was funny to me that this particular group of ruling vampires (the Volturi) resides in Italy, which is also home of the Vatican. :) One of the only rules is to keep the existance of vampires secret from the humans.
These books are told from the perspective of Bella Swan, a 17-year-old high school junior. She is clumsy and shy, preferring to read Jane Austen books than to socialize. The books open with her moving to Forks, Washington to live with her father. Her mother is married to a baseball player and Bella decides to get out of the way of thier travels and spend quality time with her dad. Forks is the cloudiest place in the US, making it an ideal place for Meyer’s sparkling vampires.
Bella’s first day of school is strange for the introvert. Having moved from Phoenix, AZ and being another face in the large crowd, she finds herself suddenly thrust into the spotlight in this small town. To make matters worse, her new lab partner in biology is Edward Cullen, one of the seven vampires of the Cullen coven who have a permanent residence in Forks. What sets the Cullens apart is that they have found that living on animal blood sustains them. The seven of them have chosen not to feed from humans. This is not always easy as Edward discovers on Bella’s first day of school. He experiences the rare phenomenon of her blood “singing” to him and finds it nearly impossible not to kill her. He makes it through the class and battles the monster within constantly when he is around her.
Edward and Bella wind up falling in love (go figure!). I found most of their courtship in the first book to be touching, especially considering Edward’s age and the fact that this falling in love business is entirely new to him. Their love is tested, broken, reunited, and consummated throughout the four books. Bella’s life is threatened at least five times, three of which nearly do kill her. Each book contains action, romance, and further development of the characters. And we see action from the vampire police in Italy.
Looking at this from a character standpoint, Bella is not the most appealing heroine. She is swooning, at times weak, and lacks a sense of self-identity. Her inability to accept gifts and attention is meant to make her seem selfless, but it comes across as immature and annoying. Bella is quick to want to give her entire life to another person. By that, I mean her entire mortal life. She is willing to permanently give up her parents and ability to have children without seeming to have much of a sense of who she is. She also unfortunately becomes more manipulative as the books unfold. I found myself very disturbed in the third book as she and Edward were using sex, marriage, and the end of her mortal life to strike deals with one another so that they could each have what they wanted. It was supposed to come across as a compromise, but it looked pretty manipulative to me. She also has trouble letting go of her “best friend” Jacob throughout two of the books, using and hurting him repeatedly by not letting him go.
Edward’s character is the typical tortured soul. He has a great deal of self-hatred because of what he is, and really tries early on to stay away from Bella. Edward does not believe that he has a soul because he is a vampire, which is the main reason that he does not want to turn Bella. Edward grew up in the early 1900′s and still possess old-fashioned ideas about protecting his girl. His greatest character flaws are his flair for the dramatic which leads him on a suicide mission at one point, and his knack for trying to play God. Edward is a mind-reader, and this powerful ability drives him to make a lot of decisions for others. Unfortunately, he thinks that it is okay to make huge decisions for him and Bella without consulting her. I will admit that he redeems himself later in the third book as he learns to let Bella make decisions, and truly reaches the place where he is willing to let her go.
Bella’s parents are unfortunately not great models. Her mother is flighty and absent-minded, and Bella admits to having parented her mother more than she herself was parented. Charlie, her police-chief father, is really cool in the movie. He actually was my favorite character in the movie. Unfortunately, he is just someone else for Bella to take care of in the books. He can’t cook or run his household, so Bella does it all. He clearly loves Bella, but he can’t handle the truth of what is going on in her life so he buries his head in the sand. I found that to be very unrealistic and disappointing. I wanted to respect Charlie in the books, but ended up respecting him only slightly more than Bella. No police chief father would be quite as unobservant in his only daughter’s life.
I enjoyed the secondary characters in these books much more than the main characters. The rest of the Cullens were entertaining and endearing. Emmett was a hoot, and my favorite Cullen. Their dynamics were fun, and they really live as a loving family. One thing that Stephanie Meyer is good at is character sketches. I felt like I really knew the characters even if I didn’t like them.
In the next post I will discuss general themes of this series.