Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer

I have mixed opinions about the Twilight Series.

Twilight (The Twilight Saga) New Moon (The Twilight Saga) Eclipse (The Twilight Saga) Breaking Dawn (The Twilight Saga, Book 4)

My review is for all the four books in the Twilight Saga: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.

A little background. I read the twilight series in December 2008, which is long before it even became the major hit that it was among teenagers in India. And unlike a lot of people who, for whatever reason, criticize the book, I have actually read each and every book and some of them even multiple times. I have thought for hours about Bella, Edward and Jacob. I have read hundreds of reviews on this book, good and bad. I've even seen the first movie (which I hated for a lot of reasons, which I won't go into here because this blog is not called 'in my dvd collection.') So before you kill me, know that I've made a pretty informed decision on this one.

Here's my verdict: I don't think Twilight sucked.

This book goes along at a fast pace. Its hard to find a place in the book where the action or drama lags (unless you hate romance, in which case - why are you even thinking about reading this book?) The plot is fairly coherent. Some of the characters (especially the more minor ones) are quite engrossing. Its hard to put down this book. In fact, I've read the second, third and fourth book of this series in practically a day each, because I didn't want to stop reading it half-way. In fact, as far as books to pass time go...this one wasn't so bad.

Here's the problem: I don't Twilight was all that good, either.

There were loads of obvious flaws in the story. The first was the author's love for purple-prose, long descriptions of the perfection of her main character, and the many other little flaws of writing Meyer unwittingly commits. Of course, since this is her first book this is easy to understand, and one can hope that she improved with her second, but the problem is how so many people have raised it to a pedestal of literary greatness where this book really doesn't belong. In style and structure there is very little to differentiate this book from a regular romance story, except that most romance stories have slightly more plausible reasons for their heroines falling in love with the main hero. The story is often let-down by clunky writing like the following example:

It seemed silly that this fact – the existence of his soul – had ever been in question, even if he was a vampire. He had the most beautiful soul, more beautiful than his brilliant mind or his incomparable face or his glorious body.

The second problem with this book is the characters. The heroine, Bella is a literary 'mary-sue' - a character who can do no wrong. Her only apparent flaw is her 'clumsiness' which is often used as no more than a plot device to move the plot forward (for example, in the first part of new moon). The problem with Bella is that she's so reactive instead of active that with time she infects the whole book with a languid aura that can be very boring to read. And she's not the only perfect character in this series. Edward (and the rest of the Cullens) are perfect just because they are vampires, as Meyer has swiftly removed every classical limitation on vampires in this book without making any new ones, thereby making them pretty much indestructible. Edward has loads of character flaws - like his extreme protectiveness and his often disturbing fixation to Bella, but because the narrative just can't acknowledge anything but how Edward is so perfect, it is very difficult to sympathize with him. Jacob, the third main lead of this book, is better. He is very sweet in New Moon, but he soon takes a 180 degree turn in books three and four to become an odd guy who is first crazy behind Bella and then her daughter. And don't get me started on Renesmee, Bella's daughter, who is perhaps the worst mary-sue example in the entire series and is one of the major reasons for me wishing that Meyer never writer a sequel.

The secondary characters, in particular Seth, Leah (both shapeshifters) and Emmett and Alice (both vampires) are much better - maybe because we don't see as much of them. Even here, by giving Alice special powers (the power to see the future) Meyer adds another super-power and risks making Alice even more god-like than she already is, which makes her highly unsympathetic towards the end of the fourth book as well. The other characters were so mono-dimensional (even when attempts were made to make them more sympathetic by telling their sob-stories) that I barely thought about them during the book.

Other problems with the book involve the often poor plot. The Twilight Saga is a romance series disguised as an action series, and that is often painfully obvious. For most of the series, the real 'action' seems to begin in the last 50 pages, where Meyer tacks on a fight with a vampire or a group of vampires. This is even worse in the last book, where no fight happens at all - the Volturi, supposedly a dangerous group of vampires, pretty much walk away from a confrontation, despite having good reasons to want a confrontation. At this point in the book I was wondering if Meyer really thought her readers were stupid and couldn't tell that she was avoiding a confrontation to avoid having a fight in which one or more of the 'good people' might die.

All in all, what with the group of mary-sues, the sparkling vampires, the purple prose and the poor writing, this story felt more like an amateur piece of fan-fiction than a real book. As far as I'm concerned, I understand people liking the book but its very hard for me to understand people loving it.

Final thoughts:
This book was enjoyable. It was a great way to pass a few hours. It's just not a series I want to re-read again. Definitely not worth the praise and acclaim it has gotten. And its really, really hard for me to hear this book being compared with the Harry Potter series with a straight face.

Interesting links: Midnight Sun [I really enjoyed this...its twilight from Edward's perspective, and boy does he make a more interesting narrator than Bella.] The Movies [Which as mentioned above, I did not like, but all Twilight fans did love them - so what can I say?] Twilight Graphic Novel [A very interesting book...I flipped through it recently.] Twilight Companion [Probably a must-have for fans]


  1. hahaha.....like i old u in school....i don't agree!!! :D well, some of your points are valid but most of them i don't agree with! ;D but all the same it is written awesomely(if thats a word;D)!!!!!

  2. Hey, differences of opinion are good...it means that we actually think about the books instead of just going with what other people think. So, thank you for the compliment and lets agree to disagree. :D

  3. One of the most balanced and fair reviews I have ever read on the topic. I'm surprised you didn't provoke a more widespread reaction!
    Your final opinion of the series is very well put indeed.
    My opinion would have been: 'If you're sitting in line in a government office, and you find this book lying around, go ahead and read it. Else, give it a miss.'
    Truly most of Myers' characters are 'Mary-Sues' and 'Gary-Sues'. In fact, while reading it, the thoughts that went through my mind were that she has been incredibly lazy with her character portrayal and plot description. Definitely not worthy of the acclaim.

  4. Thank you so much Piyush. I really appreciate your comments.
    Frankly, twilight is poorly written but well-targeted. It reached the target demographic and therefore became phenomenally successful - and I think the movies had a lot to do with that. Still, on the whole, I really agree with you - I don't see the allure of these books.


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