Twilight: What's it done for YA readers?

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Why I hate Stephenie Meyer (and kinda love her, too)

I both love and hate what Stephanie Meyer has done for the young adult reading world. In equal parts, I think she has both moved young readers forward and taken a huge step back. I cannot argue with the Twilight Series popularity. It was first published when I was a young adult librarian and, at first, it seemed to be a strange, dark vampire story. It didn’t get much attention. But then, as is always the case, a few people read it and suggested it to a few others. Even as a young adult librarian, it took several people to suggest it to me before I would pick it up to read myself.

“It’s not like a vampire story,” they told me.

“It’s more of a romance,” they said.

So, I read it. And true to what my patrons said, I loved it. I read it inside of two days. My heart beat with suspense. I cheered for Edward and Jacob. I tolerated Bella. As each new book in the series was published, I read them just as quickly. When the film came out, I watched it. It was gloomy and beautiful (and dare I say, much better than the book).

So, why do I hate Twilight (and by extension Stephenie Meyer)?

Because she created Bella, a weak, whiny, pathetic model for young women everywhere. The travesty is that the Twilight series has sold by the millions. How many young women have been influenced by Bella--a girl who could not solve her own problems, protect herself or live without a man to save her? When Edward left her, she fell into a pathetic, depressive state, incapable of even dredging up the will to live. When she was threatened by hordes of renegade vampires, rather than learning to protect herself, she persuaded Edward and Jacob to team up and save her. Where is the model of strong, capable, intelligent young women? Stephenie, do you really believe that young women need a man in order to feel like they can go on with their lives? I don’t. And, I hope the legions of young women who have read your books can see through the superficiality of Bella, as I have.

How can I now say that I love Twilight (and by extension Stephenie Meyer)?

Flat out, hands down, no contest: the Twilight series gave young people too old to read Harry Potter a reason to read. And not just read, but pick up really long, involved stories (far too long…how many times do we have to read that Edward is beautiful?) and talk about them-with their peers. Young people became cultish in their following of Edward and Jacob. The excitement flowed following the release of each book in the series. It was a banner event for young readers everywhere.

Would I say that these books are high quality, young adult literature? No. Not at all. The writing is weak, at times sloppy. The books could have been shortened by at least fifty pages and been all the better for it.  And, really, did we need another vampire story? No. But, they met a need. These books encouraged some of the most reluctant readers. While the Twilight craze is nearing an end, it served a fine purpose.

So, thank you, Stephenie Meyer, for what you contributed to young adult literature. And who knows, maybe young women will rise up in rebellion against the weak example you have set for them and become stronger through opposition. Now that would be beautiful! 

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