Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reading Round-Up ~ June: The Twilight Edition

21. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. (Borrowed from the library. Book club selection. 498 pages. 1 day. Yeah, I know.) WARNING: Long review with spoilers for the two people who haven't yet read this book.

Brilliant. The author delivers EXACTLY what the reader (of Twilight) wants. Any guesses? It isn't superb writing. It isn't a complex plot. It isn't witty dialogue. It isn't breathtaking descriptive passages. It isn't fascinating ideas to keep one thinking long after the book is closed.

The reader wants to BE the female lead in an emotionally intense romantic story. She wants to be HERSELF, in a common place, with an extraordinary experience. She wants to feel not just wanted, but obsessed over. Not just beautiful, but irresistible. Not just popular, but worthy. And she wants the chance to give herself over completely to the experience, no matter the cost, no matter the danger--yet be protected/saved by the person with whom she is risking everything. Yep. Stephenie Meyer delivers. Spectacularly, I might add.

When you enter Twilight, you don't have to live vicariously through the story of a beautiful woman in an exotic location. Nope. You get to be you--with all your insecurities, your low self-esteem, your empty life, your angst. You get to be Bella in the rainy Pacific Northwest. Your father and mother are like children. You have never been part of the in-crowd. You don't fit in. You're invisible. You're plain. You're physically awkward. You're the new girl in a depressing, ordinary place. You're writing the story in first person.

You don't have to wait long to feel a change in the atmosphere. (It's a good thing. We're at the fast food counter, here.) You're the new girl--suddenly mysterious, fascinating. The boys are lining up. But you aren't the typical (shallow, unimaginative) girl, of course. You don't want just any boy. You want THAT one: the mysterious, fascinating, exotic guy across the cafeteria, the rich one with the fancy sports car, the one who makes your hair stand on end. You want the one who can make an author spend an entire book convincing/reminding the reader how unnaturally god-like he is, and run out of original ways to say it on page 50 of a 500 page book. Let's not even get started on his eyes.

Just looks and a fancy sports car aren't enough for you. (Besides, it's his eyes that intoxicate you; who has time to notice anything else?) He can do EVERYTHING superbly. He's insanely smart. He drives at 125 miles an hour. He has super-human strength, speed, and reflexes. He plays the piano more brilliantly than Rachmaninoff. He has to play baseball in a thunderstorm because the crack of the bat sounds like lightning. He reads minds. (Except yours, of course. You are his kryptonite, which makes him irresistibly flustered and vulnerable only when he's with you.)

But, oh, wait! There's more! Not only is he the (supernaturally) best looking teenager in the school/world complete with supernatural talents, he has all the attraction of an older man and the charm of the early 1900s: he can dance, he is elegant, he has beautiful handwriting, he appreciates classical music and good books!

(I swear, this is almost as addicting as the Dr. Pepper I'm drinking to stay up late enough to finish this book in one day....)

So, we've established that he is the best looking, most talented, charming, teenager/older man, but we're not through. He's dangerous. Deadly so. He's the tormented bad boy (and that's an understatement). You get all the angst. The up and down roller coaster of moods. The obsession. The stalking. The smouldering emotional passion.

Ah, but even though you are 'the addict's personal brand of heroin,' he loves you. Not only loves you, but loves you supernaturally in a way he has never before experienced in his looooooong life. He will fight every urge to consume you physically, will summon up a supernatural self-control in order to save you, to protect you. So now he is the bad boy turned personal savior. Awesome.

Feeling faint in biology class? He'll carry you to the school nurse. Almost run over by a van? He'll stop the vehicle with his hands while shielding your body. Trapped by a gang of guys in a dark alley? His sports car will screech up at the last minute and he'll order you to get in (and take you out for dinner so that his jealous/protective instincts don't cause him to hunt the guys down and kill them).

He knows that he is bad for you, but he's between a rock and a hard place. You need him and he needs you. Life has no meaning apart from your love and desperate need to be together.

You make up your mind. No risk or cost is too great. You can't live without him, so you put your life in his hands, offering yourself to him. He summons that inhuman self-control, and your life is safe. Luckily, a single kiss (with a vampire) packs enough physical and emotional punch to make up for the absence of other things.

The danger intensifies. Now you are being hunted by the deadliest tracker on earth. It will take the efforts of seven supernatural beings to protect you, but you are worthy. You almost die as the hunter traps and savagely attacks the hunted (because you nobly offer your life in the place of another), but your personal avenging angel saves you at the very last moment in his most agonizing moment of self-denial.

Then everyone lives happily ever after... at the high school prom. (And only if you can resist reading the sneak peek of the sequel placed for your convenience at the end of the book.)

The best part? You may read this even if you are only ten years old because there is NO SEX. But your mother will enjoy it, too. Because, deep down, it just isn't about sex. It is about a deep, compelling, emotional hunger to be someone's EVERYTHING. To be desired. To be worthy. To dangerously offer every part of yourself...and be protected in return.

{Suddenly, unexpectedly, as I'm sitting here typing this review, it hits me with a knock-my-breath-away force. We were created with this desire, but on a staggeringly grander scale--with a more breathtaking culmination possible. The parallels are jumping out at me. Here's a PSA: God's got it all covered. I'd quote C. S. Lewis right here, but I think it would be sacrilegious to do so in a review of Twilight. Plus, I can't find the exact passage I'm looking for. ETA: Give these quotes a try.}

ETA: I am not endorsing this book. I am simply describing what it felt like to read it. And I am certainly not recommending that you let your ten-year-old daughter read it. (I apologize if my sarcastic tone didn't come across in the writing.) I think the theme I proposed could be much more insidious than any sexual situations, for young girls and their mothers alike, not to mention that this is, indeed, a book about vampires.

[On a MUCH LESS serious note, for those of you who missed this article when I linked it some time ago: What do you get when you mix vampires with the Amish and the End Times? The Ultimate Christian Novel. Am I the only one dying laughing?]

In the anticlimactic finale, we have the other three books I read this month:

20. The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins (Purchased from Amazon. 215 pages. A week of reading.) Lengthy review can be found at this link.

19. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. (Purchased from Amazon. Book club selection. 187 pages. Two weeks.) Many quirky, silly, mostly older women lived in Cranford. Random events happened. The end. (Skip this book and go straight for North and South, Wives and Daughters, or Ruth.)

18. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. (From my bookshelf. 266 pages. The first 50 pages took me a week or two, the last 210 took a day. Grin.) There is a reason Agatha Christie is considered an undisputed master of mystery (if not THE). That is all.


Anonymous said...

I loved your review Heidi. I just read Twilight a few days ago, also in one day, and you put into words exactly how I felt about the book. I kept thinking to myself how strange and unbelievable the story was, but I couldn't put it down.Then I watched the movie and it leaves a lot to be desired...

Amy Jones

Jodi P. said...

Heidi- such an awesome review...couldn't have said it better myself :-) I just finished Eclipse in one night and loved it nailed it with your description of how Bella feels and what she wants.....

Skeller said...

Of course, I totally enjoyed your review. You nailed it. Totally.

Now, if only Stephenie herself had read your review *before* she wrote the next three. Methinks *the essence" you presented would have been a good reminder for her ... ;-)

Jessye said...

So glad you wrote this. I read the series before the movies and before the 4th book was even out but was too ashamed to admit it until recently =) Also- I also died laughing at your link!

Erika said...

Wow! I think you just convinced me to read the book I'd been turning my nose up at for a couple years now. It's funny how preconceived ideas can keep you from trying something great.

And, Agatha Christie is a favorite of mine!

Jen Rouse said...

You totally hit the nail on the head with what the appeal of this novel is. It's the appeal of any romance novel, really--every woman wants a chance to imagine herself as the object of desire, immensely pursuable and worthy. Twilight does that well.

Sarah said...

Spot-on review! I got it from the library to see what all the hype was about- ready to scoff and discard it after a chapter or two. I didn't tell anyone I was reading it- I was embarassed to have succombed to this craze..and to end up ENJOYING it(gasp) I In one evening. And then the next day I went to the library to get the second in the series and again, read it in a day. Needless to say- not much housework got done until I read the entire series (it was only 4 days, but we KNOW what kind of damage a family can do to a house in 4 days w/o our attention, don't we?!)...I watched the movies and they just don't do the series justice. Of course that didn't stop me from watching them but..the books are much better!

Colleen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colleen said...

Oh, dear. I turn away from blogs (including my own) for a time and return to the discovery that you're partaking of Classical Conversations and Twilight. Interesting!

I must say, I have no desire whatsoever that read tgat book-that-shall-remain-unnamed. The closest I will ever come is reading this review of yours. And for that, I am glad. Because it means I didn't have to read the book. And it means I did get to read you. And you write well, and you interest me, and that's a good thing ~ and I'll leave it at that. *grin*

Heidi said...

LOL, Colleen. Classical Conversations and Twilight are quite the combination, no? I'm just full of surprises... ;-P I've missed ya. Still waiting for a new post on that blog of yours...

Susan said...

Heidi, I would encourage you to read this very informative article.

I would love to know your take on this. I have chosen not to read this series mostly because the idea of a young girl falling in love with a vampire does not entice me at all. I would NEVER let my daughter read these books in my home. Why would I want her to be enticed and titillated by this worldy and I would say underworldy type of garbage? The fact that so many christians are putting this into their minds just drives me nuts. I know, to each his own, but I would hesitate in recommending 10 yr olds read this.

The Hayes Zoo said...

Snort - Heidi, your review was hilarious.

And yes, to quote CS Lewis in a review about this book would be sacreligious. :)

Heidi said...

Susan~ I was being sarcastic when I said you may read this if you are only 10. I apologize if my tone didn't come across correctly. I think the heavier message of wanting to be worthy and being willing to risk everything because of emotion obsession is even more dangerous for a young girl to immerse herself in than the presence of sexual situations in a book because it is more insidious. (I have no plans to allow my children to read them.) And, even as an adult, I can see just how addicting these sorts of books can be...and easily unhealthy or damaging. I was simply reviewing what it was like to read the book (hoping that my tone would come across correctly), not endorsing or recommending that anyone else read it. (I read it for two reasons: 1. It was on our book club schedule. We read a huge range of books to stretch our minds and the ideas we have about life. 2. Reading it was the best way to have an opinion on the craze.) Honestly, the whole vampire thing came across as a way to magnify the theme I proposed. Maybe it's just me, but the vampire idea in general doesn't appeal to me so I didn't feel drawn into in that way. I don't know what the subsequent books are like and have no plans to read them at this time.

Susan said...

Heidi, you have no idea how your comment has relieved me! ;-) Phew. I was so worried I would be offensive in my comment and I came back wondering if you had deleted it. I still have no desire to read it...and that is ok. I don't like any craze unless it is of God. I don't even like 'christian' crazes. KWIM? I do have to tell you that your book club has inspired one of our own (me and some friends) and we are on our 5th book. It has been a huge stretch for me. My pick was Jane Eyre and we LOVED it! It was my first time reading it. Now we are on the monstrous in size Count of Monte Cristo. I have a month and I've hardly started!

Heidi said...

Susan~ No worries. :) I'm glad to hear you are enjoying your book club. Jane Eyre was one of our favorites recently, and The Count of Monte Cristo is MY all-time favorite... even at over 1,000 pages. You better get cracking. ;-P

K-Sue said...

Your link to The Ultimate Christian Novel cracked me up - I had to stop reading, since I was eating a bowl of cereal at the time - I was afraid I'd die laughing.

I don't plan to read Twilight, but I know the C.S.Lewis quote you are referring to - the mudpies vs. holiday at the shore quote. I think this book is probably an elaborate mudpie. Thanks for sharing your review.

Heidi said...

K-Sue~ I'm thinking there are several of his quotes that would apply here. Yes mud pies vs holiday at the shore would be very apropos. Or this one: "If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." ~ C.S. Lewis

carole said...

Maybe I am one of the "two" who haven't read this. I think I must be out of it 'cause I didn't know about it being a huge sensational hit. :) Perhaps it has something to do with just having had a baby (can I still use that excuse at 6 months?).

I am reading the Benedict Society books now. Quite interesting. Have you read Chesterton's "The Man Who Was Thursday"? So far it reminds me of that.

And ... girl clothes shopping?! Oh. My. Goodness.

Amy said...

I have always said S. Meyers was a GENIUS! And not for superior writing but for writing something that 10 to 80+ yr olds will love, crave, pay big $$ for. She hit ALL the bullet points and then some we didn't even know we had!

It's like the guy who creates the simplest thing that everyone needs and makes a million! We all say "why didn't we think of that!" (not that we would do it)

Genius! pure Genius!

Michele said...

Best review of Twilight EVER! I couldn't get past the sparkly skin part. I especially love that you recognize that this can be even more dangerous than if it did have a lot of sex.