Edited to include this note to point the reader to an update on my thoughts of the Twilight series.
I was curious about Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series after reading all of the positive reviews both in blogland and in various review sources. I don't think I read a single negative review. So, since I think I have something a little different to say about these books, I thought I'd actually write up a review.
Let me begin by saying that I enjoyed reading all three books. They were fast reads considering the length of the books (Eclipse was over 600 pages). I do think all three books could have been much shorter. That said, I do have a few not so flattering things to say.
Teen Angst and Harlequin Romance Cliches
Let me start with the teenage angst. Way. Too. Much. I do realize that Ms. Meyer is writing to the young adult crowd and that they will relate to the terrible angst. I still think there was too much of it though. Mix the massive overdose of teen angst with Harlequin Romance cliches (like constant misunderstandings) and ... well ... I did find myself rolling my eyes a bit too often as I read.
Vampires and Werewolves
I do not have a problem with authors including mythical creatures in stories. In fact, I love vampire, ghost and monster stories; but I generally look for something underlying the use of such mythical and dangerous creatures. For instance, the use of vampires to point out the human condition. Ms. Meyer doesn't really use her creatures in this way. In fact, I felt that she brought them in simply to sell books. Vampires and werewolves make the story sexy (as in "appealing") to young people. To be fair, the author did TRY to make some bigger statements about the not-quite-human, but I think she failed terribly.
The BIG Issues and Narcissism
What about Edward's soul? What about Bella's soul? That whole topic could have been big, big, big but Ms. Meyer brought it up as a rather trivial side issue that often got brushed off in order to refocus on the narcissistic teen heroine's angst. In fact, Bella is more concerned with how she feels about things and with what she wants than about what is right or wrong. Bella appears to be concerned about the feelings of others, but in every case it boils down to what Bella feels and what Bella wants ... even at the expense of others. This narcissism remains (pretty much unchallenged) right up to the very end of Eclipse. (I am especially surprised at this unchecked character attribute considering the authors background.) Yes, this narcissism is very, very adolescent and, yes, Ms. Meyer is writing to the YA audience, but is this where we want to leave our teen readers?? I'm all in favor of showing a little character maturation in order to encourage young readers to look beyond their little teen worlds and to get past the narcissism that is natural at that age.
Hmmm. All I have to say about that is ... Bella is pretty much left to raise herself and make her own decisions. Renee (Bella's mother) is still an emotional child and Charlie (Bella's father) seems to parent by throwing a few parental fits and grounding Bella, but in reality neither parent has the guts to truly parent a child and Bella does what she wants when she wants. Unfortunately, this is reflective of the parenting that many kids receive, but to present it as a benign influence in Bella's life was not what I wanted to see. I will concede that Bella does seem to gain some maturity at the end of Eclipse when she realizes that it is not all about what she wants and that she should consider the feelings of those she plans to leave behind in her quest for eternity with Edward; but it is really a very short side note to the story. Again, the BIG issues get trivialized in order to focus on the hand wringing.
I did enjoy reading these books myself and found them reflective of a variety of teen feelings (at least as I remember them from long ago). As a librarian, I would definitely add these to the young adult collection. They are popular and I really don't have issues with these books appearing in library collections and being read by teens. As a grandmother, I will not be purchasing and sending these books to my granddaughter. I really don't want to encourage any "drama queen" behavior and would prefer to send her books that capture the teen experience without glorifying the angst angle. We've already got enough of that!
Also reviewed at:
Passion for the Page
Everyday Reading Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse