Monday, October 22, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

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.

The Parents
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
Rhinoa's Ramblings
Everyday Reading Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse


  1. I will say that I really liked Twilight...and they kind of went downhill from there. I think you make excellent points. These are definitely not "good" books, in the literary sense, although I did find them entertaining, to a point.

    My big beef: the crazy, obsessiveness of their relationship. Drives. Me. Crazy!

  2. Thank you for your candor! I haven't yet read the series, but I plan to after hearing so many rave reviews. I am glad you liked them, but it is nice to hear some criticism. It helps balance things about and reminds me not to let my expectations get away from me. :-)

  3. I really enjoy honest book reviews - this was great.

  4. GREAT review. I agree that the angstyness (is that even a word) was almost intolerable at times.

    I also feel like there was no real progression from book 1 to book 3 - you'd think some maturing would take place, but it didn't seem to have at all. Alas.

  5. I just want to thank you for your review. I just found out today my daughter had been reading this book about vampires and I just didn't know what to think about it. I searched for reviews and as you said, all I found were positives and praises and no criticisms at all. I was beginning to wonder about myself! I appreciate your review!

  6. Anonymous, Glad you found this review helpful!

  7. I've read all three books and they were a fun read, but it is so refreshing to read honest criticism about them. Thank you for pointing out that Bella is truly selfish, as is Edward. Jacob is not so noble, either. As for parenting, I hope I'm not as careless with my children! Furthermore, I find Bella and Edward's obsessive relationship quite unhealthy. I hope girls out there don't mistake this obsession with real love---they will be in for horrible disappointment.
    Again, many thanks!

  8. Absolutely agree with you!

    I'm a teacher, and read the series after many of my female students (13-14 years old) raved about them.

    I am sorely disappointed, and even a bit queasy. The writing is mediocre at best. The creepy bizarre obsessions is really disturbing to me. And the fact that Bella will give up her IDENTITY to stand by her man disturbs me so much I can't bear it. I was truly wishing through book 3 that Bella would lean toward Jacob - because in doing so, she would be embracing her humanity.

    These are essentially Harlequin romances targeting teenage girls. I think we can aim higher!


  9. Mary,
    Thanks for your comments. I felt pretty lonely posting this review, but apparently I'm not the only one with some critical thoughts on the series!

  10. Can someone tell me if this book is appropriate for a girl just turning 11 years old? My daughter just brought it home from a school book fair. In just reading the cover and random sections, I'm leaning towards 'no'. She's upset that she spent her own money and may not be able to return it. Advice would be great!

  11. Shelly: I would not want my 11 year old to read this. The character is a senior in high school (so lets say 17) and there is a lot of sexual tension and titillation (sp?) throughout. And then there are the vampires which are used as sexual metaphor (I don't think I've ever read a vampire novel that did not include sex; can you separate vampires and sex?; I'd be interested if someone has done so). I think it is very well written and very entertaining, and perhaps with an older teen (16 or 17) I might feel more inclined to allow it (kinda depends on the teen). But I really do feel that 11 is just too young for this book.

  12. Thank you so very much for posting such an honest review. I've been searching desperately for criticism and, frankly, it's few and far between when it's really quite deserving.

    Two years ago I had a group of friends that were utterly obsessed with the book and the series, and I had to listen to them prattle on about vampires with razor-sharp teeth containing poison that didn't burn in the sun but, rather, "sparkled." I was not amused, and shoved the series into the same sort of popularity as Eragon, thinking it would sort of fade off.

    Seeing that the movie is coming out this December, the popularity of this book around my school has downright exploded. Hardly a day goes by without me seeing one of those black-and-red books in the hands of a girl walking by.

    I caved in today and shelled out ten dollars for a paperback copy of Twilight and promptly began reading it.

    You're right in saying that it's a quick read--I got through about 140 pages in two hours--and I simply had to stop because it was falling apart.

    Meyer fails as a storyteller, I believe. One thing I noticed while reading it is that Bella is completely devoid of a personality, lacking any sort of distinguishing traits, and Edward is entirely nondescript himself. All that I really perceive of him is that he has amber/black eyes, bronze-ish hair that is rather tousled, and bags under his eyes. Oh, yes, and the fact that he's very beautiful; whenever he's mentioned, I get the fact pounded into me.

    I think that this is one of the reasons this flimsy book is so popular: its readers can project themselves into Bella's position and fill her out themselves with their own traits. Likewise, they can put whomever they wish into Edward's position.

    Another thing that bothered me was Jacob telling her the "horror story" at the camping trip. It completely blew the believability out of the water. Clearly, subtlety is not Ms. Meyer's forte.

    All in all, I'm terribly sorry for rambling on like this. I'm just rather delighted to find at least one article of criticism.

    Now all I have to do is work up the guts to publish a review of my own in the school newspaper someday...

  13. riicchan, Thanks for visiting. And I don't mind lengthy comments at all. I'm happy to hear what others have to say and it sounds like you've given this book some good thought. I agree, it can be difficult to publicly go against popular opinion.

    I dropped by for a visit. Nice dress! Also, keep up the writing. Good job :o)

  14. I agree with your comments! I read it after MCAS testing because my friend had given me a raving review and claimed to have re-read it 2oo+ times! I found it rather gag-a-riffic. The way Bella was so entirely obsessed with Edward was just weird. The characters were flat. Bella didn't seem like a real person to me. She seemed too flawless. Her only "flaw" was that she was a "clutz" Ms. Meyers didn't really act clutzy she just tripped, like, once. The Vampires, well there didn't seem to be much of a downside to being one. She should have made them a little more vulnerable, at least to something. I mean Superman had Kryptonite, what do the Cullens have? It was four hundred+ pages yet the action doesn't start until maybe page 300. It's very predictable. As soon as the Cullens show themselves as being harmless you just KNOW that a bad vampire is going to come and see her a snack. What's worse, at the very climax, she goes unconscious and everything that happened is told to you afterwards. I give it 1/5 of a star.

  15. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but all it seems to me is that you're all bashing this series. I've read and loved it! To me, they were very engaging, and I felt I could relate to the characters. It's coming from a teenage girl's perspective, and although you may not like it, all of what she thinks really is how the majority prioritise and think. Maybe if you were of the Young Adult age group you would like it more. I am, and I honestly don't think I can find anything wrong with it. Each to their own, I guess.