Monday, October 13, 2008

No Apologies

This isn't a popularity contest. Despite what I've said before about wanting everyone to love me, and the contests and giveaways I do, and all the widgets on my side bar to track who comes to my blog. Really, it's not about popularity. Ok, it is. But today I'm not going to try to please anyone. I'm not going to try to fit in with the Twilight haters. And I'm not going to try to schmooze the Twihards. I just want to put my thoughts out there about the Twilight series, which I finished at 2am last night. Feel free to voice your opinion afterward (but only if you aren't going to hate me if my opinion is so much more RIGHT than yours).

Dedication: I'd like to dedicate this post to all the people who contributed to my reading Twilight. First, to all my friends who didn't hate me while I kept my nose in the air and refused to read it. Tiburon, for convincing me it might be worth a read, Jennie for having an opinion I knew I could trust, Nicki for lending me New Moon, Kati for lending me Breaking Dawn, and Cara for being someone I could bash the worst parts of Twilight with. Also, I want to thank my husband and kids who didn't divorce me when I was reading non-stop a couple of times and didn't do crap other than that all day.

Preface: I resisted reading Twilight as long as I could. First of all, the premise didn't seem that appealing to me. Vampires? In high school? Secondly, the target audience was supposed to be teenagers, which also made me shrink from this book. I read a LOT of bad adolescent literature as a middle/high school English teacher. And I just wasn't up for a 4 book series where vampire tales were hopefully going to carry me through 3000 pages of bad writing. Plus, I HATE to jump on a bandwagon and do what everyone else is doing just because everyone else is doing it. But, on a road trip from Portland, I ran out of things to do. I had hours and hours AND HOURS to kill in the car. And the sister in law I was staying with had just started the newly released Breaking Dawn and swore the books were good. So I picked up Twilight at Target that night and started reading.

Chapter 1- Twilight - I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Ya, there were some juvenile details of clothing and high school conversation I could have lived without. But Stephanie Meyer quickly proved she knew how to do two things really well: keep you on the edge of your seat, and create a connection between the main characters that was almost tangible. I was hooked within about 3 chapters and read almost non-stop for a day and a half. I was so affected by the strange relationship between Edward and Bella, so drawn in by his confusing behavior and their undeniable attraction to one another, despite all sense and reason, that I couldn't stop reading. I seriously felt this emotional pull between them. It was weird. I can't remember being affected by a book that way. Then, when James showed up and the plot abruptly changed to a heart-pounding thriller, I was taken aback. I hadn't seen that coming. And of course I couldn't put the book down then either. So somewhere around Twin Falls I finished. And I had to admit (to myself only. I wasn't ready to join the fan club yet) that the book was good. Definitely good.

Chapter 2 - New Moon- I heard a lot of negative comments about New Moon before I ever read any of the Twilight series. And then again when I was ready to start it. I was pretty well briefed about the fact that Edward was not in most of the book. I was warned that it was hard to get through. And so my expectations were quite low. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this book as well. Maybe knowing that Edward was gone through most of it kept me from being disappointed or worrying about whether he would come back. But I actually enjoyed seeing Bella become friends with Jacob. There was something so healthy about their relationship, so real. Not like the fairy tale, love at first sight, dreamy romance of Edward that made no sense. This made sense. This was the kind of relationship that people really have who live happily ever after. So I liked it. I also could really relate to the numbness, the sadness, the hole she talked about inside herself. I had a relationship--bad for me like hers, addictive like hers--that made me feel that way when it ended. And the author--at least to me--did such a good job of painting Bella's grief that I really felt it along with her. But the thing I think I liked best about New Moon was that Bella stopped being so weak and pathetic. Ya, I get it that her weak and pathetic personality is a foil (see how my English minor is actually coming in handy now?) for Edward's perfection. And I get that it makes us be able to relate to her more when she doesn't have it all together. But I kind of got sick of the constant falling, tripping, and never figuring out what was going on in the plot when it was obvious. So I liked her crazy stunts, her recklessness. I liked seeing her have some pep to her personality. And then, of course, the Volturi part at the end was nice and exiting.

Chapter 3 - Eclipse- This was definitely my least favorite of the books. It was the first one that took me weeks to get through instead of days. In fact, I had to force myself through parts of it. The constant bickering between Jacob and Edward, their immature behavior, their refusal to acknowledge the goodness in each other, the tug of war with Bella, got on my nerves. And the plot was just so much slower that a lot of the author's writing habits that I had been able to ignore when the plot was driving me forward were so glaring now that I almost couldn't stomach them. All the lips pulled back over the teeth (how do you even do that? I spent 5 minutes looking in the mirror trying to make a face that might resemble this description and only ended up looking like a turtle with his dentures out), the growling, the flexing of the fists, the glares and hisses.....ugh, I just got so tired of every facial and physical movement being described in minute detail. And in this book, Jacob just bugged me. I didn't find him refreshing and endearing anymore. Just annoying. Just over-the-top irritating and irrational. So ya. This was like the bridge book/movie that always comes in a multi part story--just getting you to the end without being much of a story in itself. Ya, the vampire fight at the end kept me riveted. But it almost wasn't worth the painful bickering and fighting through the rest of the book.

Chapter 4 - Breaking Dawn-- General opinion of this books seems to range from it being atrocious to fair. I only had one person tell me they loved this book. So after wading through Eclipse, I almost didn't want to start Breaking Dawn. But I did want some resolution to the story, so I set out. It took me a few chapters to get into it. But then I was quite surprised when the wedding took place as planned. Right there in the beginning of the book. I thought for sure something would go awry and we'd have to wait until the end of the book, that the wedding would be the climax. Then when Bella got pregnant, I was totally thrown for a loop again. I honestly hadn't thought that was possible (thank you for not ruining that for me, those of you who knew it was coming. I would have been so disappointed to know it was possible while reading the other books.) Then when Bella was dying during childbirth and Edward plunged the needle right into her heart to change her, I was once again completely shocked. I had expected either some outlandish alternative to the story that didn't' involve her becoming a vampire (like Edward somehow changing to human), or else a big romantic, detailed description about the whole process. I never expected it to be so abrupt, right then. I like surprises, and this book kept surprising me. I figured out the endings to the other three pretty fast. But this one was better at keeping things a secret until they happened. Another thing I did like about this book was that the pace was good throughout. It moved along well for me and didn't stall out like the 2nd and 3rd books both did. The writing seemed better--not as much drivel about people's body poses, the sounds through their teeth, and the texture and temperature of Edward's chest. I also really appreciated the fact that Bella stopped being clumsy and stupid when she became a vampire. Although some of her insecurities still remained, I was so glad she was able to jump without falling, that she was stronger than the others like she was supposed to be, and that she was not a below-average vampire as she had been a below-average human. It followed the cycle of a hero--having a weakness, going on a journey, entering hell, and then coming out renewed and better.

Now to the sci-fi parts. In Twilight the existence of very well-hidden vampires only stretches your imagination a bit. They look mostly like us. And the vast majority keep to themselves. Lots of unsolved murders can be explained by their presence. There really isn't anything so outlandish about the concept. Then when you discover in New Moon that there are werewolves, you pretty much have to throw all sense of reality out the window. You can't keep pretending that you're reading fiction. It's sci-fi now. So in Breaking Dawn when things got super sci-fi (the vampire hybrid baby, all the powers of the vampires, etc.) it didn't bother me. I had long since abandoned my need for this book to be anything close to realistic. I had given it over to pure science fiction and was fine with that. Really the only thing I can say that I absolutely HATED about Breaking Dawn was the name Renesmee. RENESMEE? Are you kidding me? Was the author serious about that name??? I thought for sure she was kidding. In fact, I was sure the child was going to be a boy, because when Bella announced the name she would use if the child should be a girl, I fully expected all the other characters to groan, or laugh out loud, or mock her. But they didn't. Then when it WAS a girl, I thought for sure someone would pull Bella aside and say, "Listen, Sweetie. I know you're fresh out of high school and that making combo names out of the parents names seems really avant garde to you, but it's not a cool way to name your child. Especially when one of the names is Renee and the other is Esmee. Try again, Dear." But they didn't. NO ONE said anything about it being the single most horrible name in any book EVER. Am I alone on this one? Did anyone else find themselves unable to move past the hideousness of that name? I couldn't. I just couldn't. Even the nickname from the Loch Ness Monster was a relief after Renesmee Carlie. Blech.

Epilogue - I have to admit, despite wanting to hate these books, that I liked them (well, most of them). There were parts I didn't like--places where you had to suspend your disbelief a little too much. Things about the characters that got on my nerves. Writing habits of the author that bugged me. Holes in the plot that I just couldn't ignore and that were never explained. But overall, I liked the books. I loved the first, like you tend to love the first of any series--the set up of the characters, the setting, the situation, and any magical characters or elements. The 2nd and 3rd books were OK verging on not OK. Mostly just a bridge to the end. And then the end had the satisfaction of tying things up nicely without just giving up and making this perfect happy ending. The fight seemed real, they had to work to gain the resolution they wanted. And Bella actually being the one to save the day instead of the one to need rescuing appeased the feminist in me. Don't get me wrong: I'm not going to start wearing around a t-shirt saying "My heart belongs to my husband, but my neck belongs to Edward." And I'm not going to be standing in line at midnight waiting for the next book, if it ever does get finished. But I'll read it. I'm amazed that Stephanie Meyer did such a good job for her first writing adventure, and the characters in the book have really grown on me. In fact, I think I might be missing them just a little bit today. Having slight Cullen withdrawals. Shhhh....don't tell.
Well, there you have it. Feel free to get your own thoughts off your chest.
The End


Corpuz Family said...

Very well put! I agree with a lot of what you said! The name of the baby really bugged me as well, its not a name you can read and keep going, it makes you stumble a little. Welcome to the world of the Cullens! You can read part of her next book on her website.

Omgirl said...

I actually already have, Mary!

Christie said...

Being a Twilight virgin, I'm glad you wrote how to pronounce the baby's name, because I tried for about 5 minutes with no luck. That is pretty bad.

Kay said...

I liked the name. It was unique without be horrid. But then, I like unique names. I liked it much better than some of the other vampire names And if you think about it it fits for a mythical half-vampire.
I loved the 4th book. I liked them all actually. I never expected anything realistic because it was a vampire story, and from the get-go it was written in first person (which I normally skip)and from Bella's view point which was totally biased. (Though I loved reading Jacob's view point.)
I didn't think her love with Edward was like a drug or a bad relationship. If that was true she would not have had a happy ending. Nor do I think how she reacted when he just vanished was proof that it was. She reacted like someone died on her, a severe post-trauma depression.
I liked how she was overly klutzy. And not good in sports, and obviously shy. I liked how she was old before her years.
I never thought she should or was in love with Jacob. Jacob was way too pushy. But I do want a Camp Jacob shirt. Wolves rule. (And Camp Edward just for fun.)
I personally have no problem with letting a princess be a princess and the knight a knight. Sometimes the princess is the one saves the day, but that doesn't mean the knight has to be some wus. I'm not a feminist, but I hate it when the girl is just weak and a background charactor and I hate it when the guy is like that. I like teamwork best.

Chelsea said...

I agree wholeheartedly Arianne. I like the books, but they're not in my top ten list or anything. And the name Renesmee is just cruel to the child and the reader!

CaraDee said...

I can't talk to you right now.
What about Jacob imprinting on the baby???? Eff!!

tiburon said...

You already know my opinions ;)

Misty said...

I agreed with you on so many points. Actually, I think I have forgotten already because your post was just about as long as the first book! jk, loved the post and I like that you are a fan. :)

Omgirl said...

Oh my gosh, Misty, please dont call me a FAN! Ok, I might like them. But I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm a fan. Ok, maybe a fan of #1. But the rest, I don't know.

Notme said...

Welcome to the dark side :)

Mama C. said...

Man, oh man... you need to go read my blog post about Twilight. We could be twins, separated at birth, although I didn't go into as much detail. But, then again, I've only read the first book, so I've yet to know how I feel about the other three.

And... I'm having Cullen withdrawals, too.

Erica said...

I've read three now. I found your commentary inseresting. I loved Eclipse the best so far. (Each book I've enjoyed more.)
One of the great things about books is, there is no one shoe fits all. Different writing styles, different reading styles. If everybody thought the same, we'd not have the lovely variety we have.

alex dumas said...

I am simply amazed by how much thought went into this post.