The Twilight Saga is a series that the internet has picked on ruthlessly. From saying author Stephenie Meyer’s writing style mimics what comes out if you bang your head against the keyboard to the overall strangeness of its central love triangle and for some reason a recent meme of the CGI face of Renesmee as a toddler in the final film (because, the super-huge eyes aren’t as endearing on a CGI vampire-human hybrid baby as they are on a character such as the titular robot from Alita: Battle Angel).
It was also the inspiration for the equally if not-more-so-mocked 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, which originated as a Twilight fanfic.
The first Twilight film came out when I was in middle school, and it divided the student body into three groups: Team Edward, Team Jacob, and Team “Twilight Is Stupid.”
I was a proud member of the third, though without basis. I didn’t read it. I admittedly made fun of Twilight because everyone else was.
Fast forward a few years.
I’m now out of college. The Twlight film adaption is celebrating its ten-year anniversary and experiencing a sort of renaissance. People are professing, sometimes confessing, their love for the series.
I still give it a load of crap.
And I still haven’t read it.
On Twitter a while back, I had jokingly asked my followers if there would be any interest in me doing a post on reading Twilight for the first time as an adult.
And there was.
So, here we are.
I bought it. I read it. I wrote the post.
As I did during the online Jane Austen course I participated in, I kept a log of my thoughts while I read Twilight, and believe me when I say I had a lot of thoughts.
Just as a reminder, this is not a review of Twilight, but rather a list of my honest reactions in real-time and a detailed look into my thoughts as I was processing the story. Think of it like watching a movie with the commentary on, or a Let’s Play video on YouTube. I’m merely presenting my thoughts as a reader, just as the director of a film might mention a specific reason she went with that specific camera angle or what a gamer is experiencing while playing a video game.
If you want to follow along at home, I’m going by the hardcover edition.
The Twilight Journal
I’m not going into this entirely blind. I did see the first Twilight movie once, many moons ago. Between knowing several people who were and in some cases still are really into Twilight, gaining a sort of secondhand knowledge about it was inevitable.
And there’s also the rest of the internet.
In short, I know more than I should about the Twilight series than I should for someone who hasn’t read any of the books and has little recollection of the one film adaptation she did see.
As such, I’m going to put aside the knowledge I already possess about the series and do my best to make sure it does not affect my overall expectations for reading it.
As is often the case, I’m expecting there will have been changes made between page and screen, so basing my judgment on the film adaption is likely to inhibit the overall experience.
With that said, it’s time to sink my teeth into Twilight.
Page 8 — So one of the things Twilight gets a bad rep for is its narrator and protagonist, Bella Swan, who is often described as a Mary-Sue (a common term for flat characters). The thing I’m most noticing as I’m reading this first chapter and her recap of moving from Arizona to Washington State (including how much she wishes she wasn’t) is that she is really more distanced than flat. Aloof, if you will.
I will, however, say I’m not exactly enamored with Bella as a narrator thus far. She comes off a little pretentious at times, with some of the ways she phrases things. It’s like I’m envisioning her wearing a scarf and those round black sunglasses—the stereotypical hipster beat poet kind of look.
Going back to that comment about Bella feeling distanced, I know about the vampires to come, so the reveal isn’t going to be the major bombshell I think it would have been had I been able to go into this 100% blind. That having been said, I’m already sensing that Bella’s desire to become a vampire isn’t entirely driven by Edward (even though there’s a lot of criticism based on that I expect I’ll be addressing later on), but because she feels so apart from everybody else and distanced from those around her; maybe being a vampire symbolizes a feeling of belonging for her?
If that is the case, then the foreshadowing of that is done really well (if there’s one thing to learn about my own writing, it’s how much I love implementing subtle foreshadowing).
Page 14 — “No one was going to bite me.”
Can we just appreciate the combination of irony and foreshadowing here?
Page 54 — “I felt excited to go to school, and that scared me. I knew it wasn’t the stimulating learning environment I was anticipating, or seeing my new set of friends. If I was being honest with myself, I knew I was eager to get to school because I would see Edward Cullen.”
One of the major criticisms about Twilight as a whole is Bella’s relationship with Edward. It’s been called problematic and toxic, even abusive (the third of which made worse by the relationship between Anastasia and Christian in Fifty Shades of Grey). I’m only a fraction of the way in, and I’m starting to see why this is.
Several times now, she’s called him “beautiful” and a lot of narration so far details either her relief of Edward’s absence from school or her hope of avoiding him following some rather cold shoulders. It’s a curiosity, sure, but it’s also based really on a physical attraction at this point.
At the same time, going only by the way he is presented and ignoring what I know about the remainder of this book and others in this series, I can kind of see why readers and Bella might gravitate towards him. He’s described in a way that makes him more intriguing than some of the other guys Bella has mentioned like Mike or Eric. He’s mysterious. He’s attractive—and who doesn’t love that combination?
All the same, I’m also seeing why the internet and reviewers are so apt to criticize this relationship and Bella as a protagonist. It feels right now like she’s done a total 180, going from this initial want to avoid him to this new overpowering fascination with him in a few short pages. And there isn’t much mention of anyone else beside Edward, either, which gives it an overall obsessive feeling. When she does bring up someone like Mike or Eric, it seems like it’s only done to compare them to Edward and how they don’t appeal to her.
Page 58 — So I’ve just read through the scene where Edward goes all Superman and stops the skidding car in the school parking lot before it can hit Bella and it felt almost…downplayed?
This is the first real action-y sequence in the book, but it felt to me like it was kind of skimmed over before Bella’s focus shifts back to Edward. It didn’t feel as gripping as I would have hoped.
But at the same time, that feels kind of fitting for Bella’s character and the overall tone of the story. Like her focus would have been on Edward the whole time…
Page 75 — What’s with Bella talking about falling down all the time?
I think this is one of those instances where the author is trying too hard to make their narrator/protagonist likable and relatable to audiences.
A character’s likability is something that is frequently spoken of in the writing world. There is such an emphasis on making sure the main character is someone the reader can relate to on some level and connect with. If the writer does not achieve this, that increases the chances of the reader putting the book down and not picking it up again.
While it is nice to have a protagonist who isn’t a stellar athlete or necessarily attractive and is instead average, moments where Bella mentions yet again that she is apt to trip in Gym feels like that’s being laid on too thick.
Page 77 — Touching on past notes about Edward. The only other classmates Bella makes frequent mention of are Eric and Mike. I’m on Chapter Four, which spends a great deal of time talking about an upcoming Ladies’ Choice dance. Bella makes it clear she has no interest in attending, and subsequently no interest in asking any guy to be her date.
The only other girl Bella has mentioned by name and is friends with is Jessica, who asks Bella’s permission to ask Mike to the dance, which Bella encourages her to do; Mike doesn’t give Jessica an immediate answer, which is soon explained as being attributed to his crush on Bella and his hope that she would ask him instead.
Later, Bella runs into Eric, who was also apparently hoping she would ask him to be her date for the dance.
And then Tyler—the guy who almost hit her with his car—asks her to ask him to the dance, and then suggests they go to prom together when she turns him down.
To be fair, Bella is still the new girl. Being from Arizona and such, that probably makes her pretty interesting to these guys in a way not all that unlike she is interested in Edward and explains why they are all fawning over her in this way, but at the same time, this is the kind of thing that makes the everyday life portrayed in Twilight before the vampire stuff becomes a factor feel kind of unrealistic. Maybe it’s because I didn’t date in high school (or college, for that matter) and didn’t have this cavalcade of guys vying for my attention, but whatever the case may be, I’m finding it rather hard to believe; this is admittedly because up until now Twilight has been this sort of brooding, dreary narrative and all of a sudden it’s developed this new crisis of so many suitors.
And let’s not forget, this is not the only time Bella is going to find herself in this scenario; she ends up having a vampire and a werewolf fighting over her. I think this is the thing that makes this Eric/Mike/Tyler drama feel unnecessary.
Page 79 — Just another note, what’s really not working for me in all of this is how quickly Bella goes from having three guys asking her out in the span of one school day to wondering why Edward doesn’t seem to like her.
Page 101 — I think the scene where Bella gets nauseated in bio class is my favorite so far. The set up to the bloodtyping assignment, particularly Edward’s declaring he will be ditching class that day, is done well. It also presents a good contrast between Bella and the vampires, creatures known for thriving on blood. There’s also a line from Bella about how it’s the smell of blood that gets to her, and seeing Edward tense up at that was a nice touch. Again, just a little more foreshadowing about what he is.
Page 107 — As I’ve mentioned already and will probably mention again, I went into this read-through fully aware that Edward is a vampire.
One of the things I’m noticing more and more about Bella’s interactions with Edward is how often his being a vampire is alluded to in his dialogue. While he is consistently evasive, he manages to balance providing her with enough information to answer her questions without explicitly saying anything that would give her any reason to consider the possibility of him being anything but human.
I genuinely enjoy foreshadowing done like this, so on some level I feel like I’m missing out on the impact of the reveal to come and that moment of “oh…that was what he meant when he said…” when all of the little pieces start coming together and starts making sense. I won’t get to experience that this time around.
But at the same time, it’s really interesting to read these conversations while already knowing the truth about Edward.
In general, I love anything with details sprinkled through like this, little tidbits that get you wondering about possibilities and what a character really means in that moment. That’s what makes me want to read a book or watch a movie more than once, to go in with the complete scope of what happens or a fuller information of a character’s past and start to pick up on all of those things that seemed incomplete or insignificant but were basically spelling it out all along (and that effect is what I’m really working to bring to GtK).
Page 108 — “I’m sure he’s heard. There are no secrets in Forks.” ~ Bella
Little lines like these are my favorites; just enough foreshadowing with a hearty dash of irony.
Page 120 — I’m at the introduction to Jacob, who becomes the third corner in the love triangle later on in the series. Even though I know how it all turns out, I feel like I’m already siding towards Team Jacob. This conversation between him and Bella just flows so much more naturally than those she has had with Edward up until now. She’s not as standoffish here, either, which is nice to see. Overall, they seem to have stronger chemistry.
Page 124 — So as is the case with Edward being a vampire, I also know Jacob is a werewolf. This whole bit with him mentioning the folklore and how it ties into his Native American heritage, specifically the stories of the Quileutes being descended from wolves feels like the sort of thing that would have very easily gone over my head had this read-through been completely blind because so far there is no real mention of there being werewolves in Forks, just some nudging from Jacob about him being aware of the vampires including Edward and telling Bella to keep her distance from the Cullens. Really nice inclusion.
Page 177 — I was waiting for this part to become relevant, and here we are.
Perhaps the greatest criticism Twilight faces is often based around the many, many, many red flags signifying Bella’s toxic relationship with Edward. These comments gravitate mostly towards his stalker tendencies (again, later being such a massive part of the criticisms revolving around Christian Grey, Edward’s counterpart in E.L. James’s fanfic). These are often excused by his “protecting” Bella.
In Chapter Eight, Bella goes dress shopping with Jessica and Angela. After a bit, she sets off in search of a bookstore, gets lost, and has a run-in with some cat-callers who end up following her.
Just before there can be any altercation, Edward swoops in out of nowhere with his car and gets her out of there.
But how did he know she needed rescuing?
Edward’s explanation boils down to reading Jessica’s mind and tracking her (he cannot read Bella’s mind for reasons beyond even his understanding, which upsets him).
So he essentially followed her to Port Angeles. Just in case.
Big ol’ red flag there.
But while Bella’s just kind of going along with the way he’s explaining how he knew she needed him over what has become something of a dinner date, I’m sitting here kicking myself for not having had any problems with the other times Edward swooped in to save Bella like this (the car almost hitting her, escorting her to the nurse’s office when she couldn’t make it through the bloodtyping experiment). That’s the thing that concerns me most at this moment.
I typically am drawn to the antiheroes and bad boys, like Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, Enjolras of Les Miserables, Cato in The Hunger Games, and recently Bellamy from The 100. Hans from Frozen is my favorite Disney Prince and he’s the freakin villain. Heck, even some of my own characters fit the bill.
I think I’m more perceptive of Edward’s problems because I’ve known about them for a long time. It’s the thing about Twilight you hear most about (apart from the last book, that whole mess with Jacob imprinting on Renesmee in her infancy and all).
But the fact that I don’t have as big a problem with other bad boys as I do with him is actually kind of worrisome.
There’s a joke that Twilight makes a great PSA for high schools about what makes a toxic relationship.
And honestly, looking at the kind of fictional guys I like, I think that’s not entirely wrong…
Page 180 — Update to the previous notation.
Bella just asked how Edward knew what direction she went in once she parted from her friends.
“I followed your scent.”
How does this not concern you!?
I understand Bella’s curiosity and fascination with vampires, but what I don’t understand is why she doesn’t have more of a reaction to any of this.
Page 190 — “It’s wrong. It’s not safe. I’m dangerous, Bella–please, grasp that.” ~ Edward
Yes, Bella. Please grasp that.
Page 203 — I’m at a conversation between Bella and Jessica (and subsequently Edward who is eavesdropping via Jessica’s thoughts because of course he is), mainly discussing Bella’s encounter with Edward in Port Angeles, whether they’re dating or not etc.
I bring this up because this is the first time any of Bella’s dialogue has felt like it’s coming from a teenager in high school.
I know of the major concerns in any instance of writing in a first-person POV is that the narration is coming directly from a character within the story. While true for any book but especially YA like Twilight, a caution often presented to writers is to ensure the narration doesn’t feel too whiny, as many teens are. It kind of goes back to likability.
Bella’s narration does have a level of maturity in the way she presents herself and these events as she is reflecting on them, but there are times where her word choice feels off somehow. This isn’t to say seventeen-year-olds should not or cannot have large vocabularies beyond the memes of the day (Obligatory stay in school message! Develop that vocabulary, kids!), but at times it does lean towards what one of my college writing professors referred to as an “authorly intrusion,” when it feels like the author is disrupting the story’s flow or verisimilitude with a word choice or phrase that seems out of what is expected for the character, as if to sound more “like an author.”
So seeing Bella actually talking like a teenager feels both authentic and inauthentic if that makes any sense. Up until now, her narration has a sort of brooding sageness to it, so to see her acting her age feels a little strange, like an opposite “authorly intrusion” scenario.
Edward’s “Penmanship” is gorgeous.
Page 249 — Unrelated to the story itself, but if you didn’t already know this about me, I absolutely love fonts and typography, and we all just need to take a second to appreciate the font used for Edward’s penmanship because it is gorgeous.
Page 275— But really, how is Bella so nonchalant about this (or anything to be perfectly honest)? She’s just so chill about this vampire stuff it’s actually kind of concerning.
Page 276 — One of the tropes with the stereotypical bad boy/good girl romance is the idea that she can “fix” him. That’s kind of what I’m starting to see in Bella and Edward’s relationship.
Here is a vampire who has stated on numerous occasions that he is dangerous and could very well hurt Bella or even kill her if he loses control of these predatory urges for even a second. A literal thirst for blood—her blood, specifically. And yet she’s out here chilling with him in a meadow like it’s nothing to worry about. Like it’s a redeemable quality because he is a “vegetarian” vampire who only hunts bears and deer and such.
Not to mention how many times she herself has called herself stupid for pursuing this relationship at all.
But at the same time, I think I can sense something beyond the initial physical attraction. I’m wondering if she feels like she can “fix” Edward somehow, because he does have these bloodthirsty instincts and manages to control them because he “loves” her. I really wish this potential theme would be explored more; it would make this feel less shallow than it does right now.
Page 293 — Edward hangs out in Bella’s house in the middle of the night, watching her sleep because he doesn’t really have anything else to do, and her first instinct is not only to be okay with it but cuddle with him in bed.
Oh so many red flags here.
Page 318 — “I don’t want Chief Swan [Bella’s father] getting a restraining order put on me.” ~ Edward
You know, that may not be such a bad idea there…
Page 318 — “Would you really be here?”
“As long as you want me,” he assured me.
“I’ll always want you,” I warned him. “Forever.”
Forever. Okay, knowledge of the remainder of this book and the other three aside, maybe slow down there a notch, Bella?
Seems we’ve reached the obsessive portion of this story I heard so much about.
Page 328 — (After Edward mentions Alice’s vision of a more violent pack of vampires approaching the area)
“Finally, a rational response!” he murmured. “I was beginning to think you had no sense of self-preservation at all.”
You and me, both, Edward.
Page 331 — To be perfectly honest, Carlisle’s backstory has me more intrigued than Bella and Edward’s story—which is kind of a problem considering theirs is the main plotline. This retelling of Carlisle’s past is the first time I’ve felt myself being really pulled into the book and my attention has been truly captured. I’m actually really fascinated by this.
If you have written or know of any Carlisle fanfics focused on his upbringing/life in 1600s London and the first couple of centuries of his vampire-dom, please send them my way because I totally want of that kind of content.
Page 351 — I’m again leaning more towards Team Jacob (and he’s oddly reminding me of Drake Carne from Poldark for some reason. That could explain why I like Jacob more than Edward).
Page 357 — Charlie pointing out the obvious age difference between Bella and Edward. Glad to see somebody said it. Because really, how can these Cullens keep passing themselves as high school kids? I know it’s been said that they move around a lot, but it’s also been said that they could pass themselves off as college kids or even teachers. I’m still kind of wondering how no one really questioned that.
Page 366 — “I love you,” [Edward] said. “It’s a poor excuse for what I’m doing, but it’s still true.”
I’m just going to let that one speak for itself…while I secretly come to realize one of the major flaws in both guys from GtK. Because really there are points where either of them could say that to Faith.
Page 384 — Just a quick catch-up:
Those vampires Alice saw in a vision have arrived and one of them is particularly keen on hunting Bella. Queue the frenzy to protect her, get her out of town so he can’t track her etc.
For what really feels like the first time in the whole of the novel, Bella is showing some signs of agency and disagreeing with the Cullens’ plans and offering up her own rather than just sitting back and going along for the ride like she has been up until now.
Moments like these, particularly how few and far between they are, are the main source of my discrepancies with Twilight, namely Bella as a protagonist. I don’t need a protagonist who fights against absolutely everything, but at the same time I don’t need a character who fights against nothing. Bella is pretty passive, letting things happen to her and just accepting them as they come—particularly when it comes to vampires.
There’s also the fact that the book opens with her low-key hating on Forks and some of her classmates in her narration, but once she meets Edward she is totally cool with him and down to do whatever he wants.
Seeing Bella stand up for herself in this instance was one of the few times where she really felt like a protagonist to me, whereas the Cullens (like Carlisle and Alice) are relegated to secondary characters despite being more interesting to me.
Page 410 — Nice to see Bella taking some responsibility for the potential consequences here.
Page 418 — All of this stuff about James and this hunt for Bella, I’m really wishing there had been more of this before now. The opening I didn’t mind being slow because the everyday dreariness of Forks and Bella’s life after moving there makes for a good contrast for the vampires and also furthers that draw to them Bella has, but there was so much of the middle that felt like it was dragging along. I think I would have enjoyed this read more had there been more of a threat like James introduced sooner than within the last hundred pages.
Page 422 — In continuation of the previous note, the action here doesn’t seem hyped enough.
As a reader, essentially as Bella because we’re experiencing this through her perspective, we’re kind of getting the “everything else” happening in the hotel room with Alice and Jasper keeping an eye on her while Edward and co. are off dealing with James. We seem to be getting the more exciting details secondhandedly. I at this point would be more interested in seeing what Edward and the other Cullens are up to concerning James rather than just getting it via phone calls.
Again, this is in part due to the first-person POV, with Bella at this point being separated from the action, therefore not allowing us to witness the actual event.
Page 428 — So we’ve finally gotten a little excitement with Bella’s mom being kidnapped by James. This actually caught me off-guard.
But at the same time I’m a little annoyed with Bella in this moment. Why is she actually following James’s instructions and taking this phone call away from Alice and Jasper, freakin vampires who could actually help her out here? Not even so much of a glance to sat, “Hey, something’s going on” and explain after hanging up?
To be fair, hostage situations are tricky to navigate, but considering Bella’s track record this does feel more like it’s based out of her usual passivity.
Page 444 — So I have to be honest here. James’s use of the VCR and Bella’s old home movies to trick Bella into meeting him was actually a good twist and something I did not see coming. I’m actually impressed by this move.
Page 446 — Apart from Carlisle (1600s Carlisle, to be specific), James is really the only character in Twilight that has really successfully captured my attention. I finally feel like I’m being pulled into this book (and again wishing there had been more of James as an antagonist earlier on).
Page 448 — And this James/Alice backstory! This is the kind of stuff that interests me. Not “wow why do so many boys want to be my date for this dance” and “whoops I fall down a lot I’m so clumsy and relatable so why doesn’t/does Edward like me?”
Overall, this the best comparison I can make here is to Les Miserables: the second half is substantially more interesting than the first.
In the case of Les Mis, it’s not until the story hits 1832 with the barricade at that I get really into it. All of the Valjean/Javert storyline does have some interest, sure, but I’m really there for the revolution.
But even then, the story takes a focus on Marius and Cosette when I am much more interested in characters like Enjolras and Grantaire (don’t get me started on those two), Courfeyrac, Gavroche, Combeferre, and really anyone involved with Les Amis de l’ABC (and also Eponine because I love her).
That’s kind of where I am right now with Twilight. I would have liked to spend more time with characters like Carlisle and James. Edward just doesn’t have that same draw for me.
Page 448 — Is it weird that I really want to know what I would smell like to a vampire?
Page 451 — Oh man I really wish I got to see Edward kick James’s ass! Chapter Twenty-Two really had me invested (not to mention this is the first time Edward has gone full-vamp mode), but because Bella fell unconscious after James attacked her, we don’t get to see any of that go down, and that ripped me out of the scene.
Page 460 — I genuinely appreciate Edward calling Bella out on her recklessness here.
Page 462 — “Afraid of a needle,” [Edward] muttered to himself under his breath, shaking his head. “Oh, a sadistic vampire, intent on torturing her to death, sure, no problem, she runs off to meet him. An IV, on the other hand…”
I mean, he does have a valid point here.
Page 473 — “But it just seems logical…a man and woman have to be somewhat equal…as in, one of them can’t always swooping in and saving the other one. They have to save each other equally.” ~Edward
So this quotation really stood out to me. Not in the sense that I want to nit-pick it in comparison to his relationship with Bella, but because it really is a good quote concerning writing romantic relationships and passive protagonists.
As a romance writer, I take this kind of thing into account as best I can. One of the best critiques of Twilight out there suggests that this is something of a wish-fulfillment, and in a lot of ways it is. The average girl who has a lot of guys fawning over her, getting herself caught up in the mystery and the unknown through the vampires, finding something of a literal undying love. And I think some of that wish-fulfillment does come in the idea of the handsome prince on a white steed who swoops in to save the day, only in this case it’s a sparkling “beautiful” vampire in a Volvo. In my own writing, I do notice a tendency to have the man lead when it comes to romantic advances. Zach finds the first volume of a novel written by Eve’s favorite author with a promise to track down the other two volumes, William flees his own wedding to propose to Miranda and elope with her, and so on. That’s the kind of trend I think I’m subconsciously challenging myself to break as I’m starting my next novel and developing Nancy as a protagonist.
Page 483 — “I’m sorry if there’s been some kind of miscommunication, but Bella is unavailable tonight.” Edward’s tone changed, and the threat in his voice was suddenly much more evident as he continued. “To be perfectly honest, she’ll be unavailable every night, as far as anyone besides myself is concerned.”
And there’s that possessive quality. This is beyond trying to keep Bella safe or out of harm’s way. This is isolation. This is toxic, to say the least.
Page 490 — Jacob crashing the prom to talk to Bella only makes me more Team Jacob. I mean, it’s hinted at that he does have a tiny crush on her, but I think at this point his advising Bella to break up with Edward isn’t driven by any romantic feelings but out of a genuine concern for her (of course, we all know how that changes down the road).
Even before I picked it up, whenever I mentioned I was going to be reading Twilight, it somehow always came with “Don’t judge me” or “It’s for the blog” as though I was trying to defend myself, which was completely against the point of this endeavor.
Twilight wasn’t as bad as I went in thinking it would be, but it wasn’t the greatest book I’ve ever read.
It was a pretty quick read; I finished it in two afternoons, and I probably could have done it in a shorter period of time if I hadn’t been stopping to take notes about what I was thinking every few pages.
As far as YA novels go, Twilight is heavily centered on the romance between Bella and Edward, rather than the action or tearing apart a corrupt government as is the case in other YA novels I’ve read recently. I will also admit it’s been a long while since I last read YA; apart from my Critique Partner’s YA Dystopian/Sci-Fi novel I’ve been helping polish up, I haven’t really picked up a YA novel since I was in that demographic myself and reading books like The Hunger Games and Divergent. But as someone who reads and writes romance, I didn’t find myself feeling as into the romance this story revolves around. Rather, I found myself picking up on signs of a toxic relationship, Edward’s more problematic characteristics and habits, and took great issue with how passive Bella so often seemed. I just didn’t feel the chemistry between them. It was all physical, in both attraction and sensation with the way she describes an electric feeling when he touches her. Superficial. Whereas with Jacob, I felt she had some chemistry with him. There was a change in her overall tone, she seemed more open and personable and there wasn’t as much of an awkwardness with him as there was present in her interactions with Edward.
I can see readers in the target audience, ie teenage girls, would have been all over Twilight back in the day. Bella is a narrator that readers might be able to identify with. She’s average, she feels out of place, she’s just like the “typical” reader, which can lead to a feeling of living vicariously through Bella as she uncovers the mystery of the vampires and falls for Edward. In this sense, she’s more accessible than Katniss of The Hunger Games, and why I think the Divergent trilogy could have garnered a stronger fanbase if The Hunger Games hadn’t proceeded it. Like Bella, Tris has a fish-out-of-water vibe as she goes from her home faction of Abnegation to Dauntless, trying to feel like she belongs and to prove herself worthy of running with the big dogs, traits that Bella presents and the kind of cold but smoldering bad boy love interest in Tobias. In some ways, Divergent is kind of a middle ground between Twilight and The Hunger Games.
Overall, I think my greatest critique of the novel comes from the way a lot of the information and events were presented to the reader. In most cases, whenever something piqued my interest or curiosity, it was often through a secondhand iteration. A perfect example of this is with Carlisle. He has such an interesting backstory I would have loved to read more about, but hardly got to know him.
James is also someone I would have wanted to see more of, as I think the threat he posed towards the end of the novel was the thing that got me really into the story, but then things shift and while Edward and co. set out to deal with him, Bella is corralled into a hotel room with Alice and Jasper to wait it out.
I will fully admit Twilight, at least the first of the four novels making up the series, doesn’t deserve as much hate as it got and still gets on occasion. I think I can find myself shifting more towards a middle ground when it comes to my perception of it. Again, it’s not that I liked it, but it’s not that I hated it or loved it, but I am willing to give it some credit where it is due.
There are some things that are done well and had me thinking about my own writing, particularly my male protagonists. Even though a lot of the log above is spent commenting on how Edward is a bit of a stalker, obsessive, possessive and such, I was starting to notice some unfavorable qualities in him that are also present in the two love interests in Guises to Keep in one degree or another. Most of that novel’s first draft was written while I was in high school, around the time Twilight was at its most popular. I always said the dynamic between the two guys had some inspiration in that of Jack and Cal from Titanic, but oddly enough I think there may have been some influence by Twilight whether I had picked up on that or not—especially in the later chapters.
Bella’s character also has me wanting to keep a closer eye on passivity in my female protagonists. This is one of the things I think can be a challenge for historical fiction/romance writers because of the societal customs and rules in place for a young lady at any given point in time. But again, a quiet lady is not necessarily a passive lady provided she does have some agency available to her (of course, having that agency and making use of it are two different things).
As was the case with my first time reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, I was often annoyed with the protagonist. Dorian’s overall arrogance and frivolous nature had me rolling my eyes so often and wishing there were more chapters dedicated to Basil; Bella’s more reserved nature and feeling distanced from a lot of the vampire action, also annoyed me. But that doesn’t make either a bad story, just not necessarily my thing.
I did also notice some changes in my reading habits, but I think it would be better if made into its own post for next week.
In conclusion, this was a surprisingly interesting and eye-opening experience. I’m not exactly champing at the bit to pick up the next novel in The Twilight Saga, New Moon, but I don’t know how against it I would be either. This could be the start of a new tradition!
If you enjoyed this post and would be interested in seeing my thoughts and reactions to New Moon or another massively-popular novel I might not have read yet but probably should have, feel free to let me know in the comments below!