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Why I Couldn't Get Through Twilight
Hours of my life I will never get back
I tried to read this book three times. Each attempt got me further and further into the extraordinarily dull tale that is Bella Swan’s love life. The third, and presumably final, attempt got me exactly halfway into the book before I had to give up on it for fear of being so bored that I would fall into a permanent coma. When you hate the characters, are appalled by the structure and writing style, and find clichéd teenage romance to induce numerous eye rolls, you have several reasons to put down the book.
Now, like nearly everyone, I knew pretty much the whole plot of the book before even turning to the first page (I will spare you the unnecessary summary.) But despite knowing from the internet that Twilight is not quality literature, I felt obligated to at least pick it up to see what all the fuss was about. To this day, that is a mystery that has gone unsolved for me.
Although I’ve kind of missed the bandwagon on all the Twilight hype and hate, the book series is still maintaining a steady, albeit subdued, popularity, spurred on by box set releases of the DVDs as well as all that stupid Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson tabloid drama. If I can just stop one person from wasting his or her time reading this abomination that tries to pass as literature, that will be enough for me.
The many issues with Bella Swan as a protagonist
The logical place to start is 17-year-old Bella Swan, the most uninspiring protagonist imaginable. When she isn’t being nearly perfect and boring, she’s bitching about something. According to the book, Bella is fairly pretty and has a whole slew of new friends despite having just moved to Forks, Washington. She also has several schoolmates interested in her on a romantic level, as she is asked to the upcoming dance numerous times. Instead of being flattered by this, she gets annoyed and offers sharp refusals. And when her new friend, Mike, meets her after class to carry her books for her, she likens him to a Golden Retriever. Although most people understand how irritating unwanted romantic attention can be, it's pretty awful to compare a friendly guy to a dog.
Despite really being a huge bitch, we’re supposed to think that Bella’s a real swell gal, since she took it upon herself to move to Forks so that her mother could spend more time traveling with and boinking her new boyfriend. This is probably the only real facet of Bella’s personality that isn’t flat and clichéd. I wanted more backstory about her. Did she miss her friends from home? Why did she never talk to them on the phone or anything? What activities did she participate in at school before she moved to Forks? What’s her favorite doo-wop group? We get none of that, at least not in the first half of the book.
Bella is also inexplicably always annoyed with the weather. It is a much different climate than her old city of Phoenix, but she acts as if it’s the end of the world every time it rains or snows. I have a hunch that this is supposed to remind us that Bella isn’t comfortable in her new surroundings and that she feels like an outsider (or maybe that is giving Stephenie Meyer too much credit). If that is really case, I think Bella’s new posse and gaggle of suitors contradicts that to a certain extent. Regardless, I’m not sure why Bella doesn’t buy an umbrella and some galoshes and just get over it.
How the story should have gone
With a taste of a poison paradise
The story doesn’t improve once Edward Cullen is introduced. Bella’s life is just as boring, just in a different way. Now instead of spending her time buying eggs at the grocery store and reading Wuthering Heights in her bedroom like some sort of tragic heroine, Bella has to repeatedly moon over Edward Cullen. And she doesn’t moon over him because he’s a nice guy or because they have a lot in common. Bella likes Edward because he is physically appealing. So, as the readers, we are bombarded with pages upon pages of what Edward looks like, which gets quite boring, especially when coupled with Bella’s interior monologue that just repeats how much she wants to be with Edward. We essentially realize that Bella’s only desire in life is to have a hot boyfriend. She never mentions where she would like to go for college or what career she aspires to have as an adult. All we get is constant reminders of how Edward Cullen makes Bella’s ladybits quiver, which isn't nearly as titillating as it sounds.
The dynamic between Bella and Edward has been referred to as toxic by many critical readers (simply google “Twilight” and “abuse” for a plethora of articles), and I have to agree with them, but not necessarily in just the obvious way. A big issue is that Edward is never happy with Bella. He’s always scowling at her and scolding her for getting into trouble. When he’s not doing that, he is giving her mixed signals. The particular instance that immediately springs to mind is when he says to her that she really should stay away from him and then asks if she’d like a ride to Seattle. If that isn’t emotionally confusing, I don’t know what is. However, another issue is the way that Bella treats Edward. She doesn’t like him for him (at least not at first); she likes him because he is sexy. I don’t actually believe that teenagers are really that impressionable as to take dating advice from a book, but if they did, this would be a guide to the perfect toxic relationship, based entirely on stereotypical gender roles. First, the woman must be meek, mild, and incompetent so that the man can swoop in and save her from every little thing. Second, the man must be controlling, commanding, and emotionally unavailable. Got both ingredients? Bam. Twilight.
High school never ends
Another niggling issue I have with the book is the whole idea of vampires in high school to begin with. If I was immortal and possessed supernatural qualities, I don’t think I would repeat the whole high school experience for eternity, chasing silly adolescent girls and attending the same biology classes over and over again. It just doesn’t make any sense. Why not spend your time getting a post-secondary education, building a career, earning money, helping people, refining a craft, or trying to benefit society in some way? To me, this desire to stay in high school forever makes Edward seem both like a slacker and ephebophile.
YouTube celebrity nerimon reads Twilight
The endless excuses for Twilight
I think one of the main reasons I hated this reading experience so much is that everyone who likes Twilight tends to make the biggest excuses for it. I have only heard a few people say, “Well, yeah, it’s not a good book, but I like it anyway.” Instead, I have been confronted with all sorts of stupid reasons to give Twilight a pass. The four that I will address are the ones that I have ran into the most often.
1. "Twilight took the original vampire mythology and turned it on its head, giving it an original and unique twist." – False. First, there isn’t just one vampire mythology. Different cultures, regions, and time periods have their own takes on vampires or vampire-like beings. Secondly, adding a romantic element to a vampire story is not a new concept by any means. Twilight was published in 2005, meaning that several books, movies, and TV shows came out prior to the book’s initial publication, including the Sookie Stackhouse novels (2001) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997). Adding a purely sexual spin on the whole vampire thing is an even older concept when you take a look at Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (1976) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897).
2. "Twilight is a great book for teenagers, because there is no sex in it." – This argument makes my head hurt. To think that having premarital sex is the worst possible thing that teenagers can do or read about is ridiculous. What about the toxic relationship? What about the violence? What about the fact that the Cullens run around in the forest, slaughter animals, and drink their blood? Besides, if your children can be so easily swayed by something written in a book, you are doing the whole parenting thing wrong.
3. "Twilight is good, because it gets teenagers interested in reading." – I struggle with this argument quite a bit. Does the fact that you are interested in the act of reading in general trump the fact that you only read tripe? Like, if you say your kid loves vegetables, that’s great, right? But what happens if he only eats carrots? That analogy is kind of a stretch, but the point is that it’s silly to treat reading like a virtue if you are only reading mindless dribble like this. There has to be some variety, to say the least, and there has to be a focus on quality rather than quantity. If all you’re reading is Harlequin romances, can you really call yourself a bookworm? I don’t really think so.
4. "Well, the reason you don’t like Twilight is because you aren’t a teenager anymore. You can’t relate to it." – This is insulting to teenagers to imply that they are so far removed from mature adults that they are on a separate plane entirely. Even if this was the case, I was still a teenager three and a half years ago. That’s not enough time to have passed for me to have completely forgotten what it was like to be a teenager. Besides, I don’t think that I’d really like the book any more as a teenager than I did as a twenty-something. If anything, I was more of a book elitist at that age than I am now.
Does content or depth of a book matter if it just gets kids to read?
As an aspiring writer, I can't decide whether I am encouraged or discouraged by Twilight's publication. One half of me says, “Well, if this nonsense could get published, you definitely have a shot as long as you keep trying and practicing.” The other half is more pessimistic and says, “People don’t read anymore. When they do read, they choose to read mindless stuff like this. That’s the market now. Just give up.” I’d like to think that it’s the first one, and that the popularity of Stephenie Meyer’s books is some sort of freak occurrence that is never to be repeated in the future literary world.
Reading this book (well, the half I actually did read), wasn't a worthless experience. It provided me with many concrete examples of how NOT to write a book as well as renewed my appreciation for quality literature. That being said, the end does not justify the means. This book was painfully dull, and I regret even picking it up.
I’d give it a considerably generous 1 out of 10.