Saturday, March 7, 2009

Finally, musings on the Twilight Saga

I finished the four novels which comprise Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga over a month ago, but I'm just getting around to sharing my impressions. And a few random impressions is all this will be, because I just don't feel like writing a book report suitable for English 302: Literary Analysis and Thematic Deconstruction. I'm not going to provide many examples to support any of my positions, either. The appropriate thing to say might be that I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't yet read the series. The honest thing to say is that I don't own a copy of the book, and it has been too long for me to remember some of those specifics. We are talking about YA novels here, so perhaps my ramblings would be fit for Sophomore English.

In general the Twilight series was, for me, an excellent re-introduction to the world of reading because it was fun, creative, and drew me into the fantasy entirely. For many, many months I listened to hype from family and friends and the internet (and my own husband) before I decided to give it a shot. My original avoidance was due mainly to the fact that I just wasn't reading anything. But also, like many who initially resisted or have yet to read this series, I tended to condescendingly balk at the idea of a "vampire love story." Now it seems entirely inadequate to describe the tale with a label so superficial. The story and the writing may not have been perfect, but I thoroughly enjoyed the fantasy. I do not regret in the least that I waited to begin until the series was released in its entirety. I simply walked to my sister's house next door to trade one finished book for the next, never being forced to endure the agonizing wait for each sequel.

A minor grievance of mine, completely unrelated to the story itself, is the poor editing. I was shocked at the number of typos throughout the books, and it got progressively worse. During New Moon I lost count around 18 errors, and since I am a slow, deliberate reader, the interruptions were distracting. On the other hand, I felt that Stephenie Meyer's writing improved over the course of the series. While reading Twilight, I recall thinking to myself, "If only I could come up with a great idea like this, I know I could write it just as skillfully." But after another 1500 or so pages, I've been convinced otherwise. The author did a tremendous job of weaving the numerous storylines together, and her capacity for descriptive narrative expanded a great deal after the first book.

There are a few exceptions to this analysis, however. The most glaring in my opinion being excessive repetition of specific diction. Certain phrasing and word selections appeared over and over in the text, which annoyed me. Probably because my seventh grade English teacher honed in on repetitive writing, and taught me how to make use of a thesaurus. Perhaps in approximately 2800 pages of novel, duplication simply cannot be circumvented.

My husband usually predicts outcomes to movies with surprise endings within the first 20 minutes, while I am left to cluelessly enjoy the illusion. I am plainly not one who attempts to unravel a story's mystery before it unfolds as intended. A few too many times, pieces of the Twilight story that I sensed were supposed to be shocking plot twists were obvious to me before the intended moment. When it happened, the meticulous foreshadowing and double-entendres which paved the way for said shocking moment lost their effect as I incredulously waited for the clueless characters to wise up as I had.

I am glad I watched the movie of Twilight first. This allowed me to appreciate the film on its own merits, rather than viewing it through the lens of my own hopes and fabricated images. Also, my brain doesn't transfer descriptions of people and places into visual imagery very well, so I loved having faces and settings to picture while reading. I liked most of the casting choices, except now after having read the author's very detailed descriptions, I can say that Alice should have been far more dainty, and the actress portraying Rosalie was definitely not the picture of goddess-like flawlessness that Meyer intended.

Speaking of detailed character descriptions, we got it. Edward is a statuesque model of perfection. I would have preferred a little less of Bella's swooning for his impeccable physical features, ad nauseum. The constant reiteration of this particular premise left me feeling like the author believes me to be an idiot, since she felt that I wouldn't fully grasp the concept the first 63 times it was described.

Edward is an amazing character, however, and if you haven't read Stephenie Meyer's partial draft of Midnight Sun, then you have not fully experienced the Twilight Saga. This draft apparently began as a character development exercise, where Meyer wrote Twilight from Edward's first-person narrative. Personally, I'd love to read the entire series from his perspective, because Edward is a stronger character than Bella, and his perception and internal monologue is even more interesting than the love-struck teenage girl's, in my opinion. This version offers a new layer of depth to the story, opening a perspective that was closed throughout Twilight. It was such an interesting, entertaining break to read the story through Jacob's hilarious perspective in Breaking Dawn. If you thought that was refreshing, then you must read Edward's version of Twilight.

I commend the author for developing such a solid premise on which to build her fantasy. She expertly reveals the history and character connections only through story development instead of expositioning us to death. Nothing ruins good fiction more than a bunch of here's who's who and what's what.

New Moon was easily my least favorite book. I wouldn't quite go so far as to say it was merely a necessary evil, but close. Of course having finished the two subsequent books, I completely understand what the author had to portray and why. But the extent to which Bella allowed herself to be destroyed actually weakened my perception of her character more than I believe was necessary to convey the message, and probably more than was intended. It becomes clear later why the relationship between Jacob and Bella had to be developed to the degree that it was, but I believe it could have been done in about 150 less pages. I actually allowed myself to flip toward the back of the book to make sure that Edward's name did actually reappear in the text at some point.

I realize I have listed more criticisms than accolades, which might leave you with the impression that I wasn't very happy with Twilight. In truth, this combination of minute faults doesn't overshadow the bliss I enjoyed reading a purely fun, interesting, suspenseful, romantic thriller. The development of each and every character was as absolute as the relationships between them were intricate. I definitely hated the name Renesmee, but its cheesy origin was probably the only aspect I would deem lame in an entire four-part saga concerning vampires and werewolves falling love with humans in the Pacific Northwest.

1 comment:

Bridget said...

Spot on! I loved your comments.

I don't want to reveal any spoilers, either, but I will say that I loved New Moon. I just love Jacob and I also really identified with Bella's sorrow.

You make me want to read the books again, just from reading this.

Are you going to try The Host?


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