I suppose it’s only fair to preface this by saying that I’m not a reader of the vampire sub-genre. In fact, I’ve never read any novel with the plot revolving around vampires, and Anne Rice remained somewhere on the lower half of my mental “to-read” list. Right below 100 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade.
In a way, that can be an advantage for critique. It gives me a fresh view going in, as I have nothing to cross-compare it to and no expectations.
*Spoiler level*: minimal
On the inside of the back flap, Stephenie Meyer said she wanted to create “characters that are so deeply human that their perspectives make the situation believable.” In the end, I remain unconvinced.
Take the protagonist, the narrator, Isabella Swan. I suppose Meyer wanted her name to be ironic, a graceful princess-like assonance contrasting to her gratingly annoying and awkward character. She’s always “pleading” or “grumbling” or “complaining” or “glaring.” She likes to “glare” a lot (it’s enough times to turn it into a drinking game) , especially at Edward. She’ll be smiling one second, be in horror the next, in disdain the next. Her character is negative, negative, negative, unsatisfied with everything, including her own humanity.
But even though written from her perspective, the novel isn’t about Bella at all. In fact, I feel that Meyer designed Bella’s character to be quite unlikable on purpose.
Twilight’s appeal and popularity relies heavily, as in 97%, on the appeal of Edward Cullen to the female reader. If she had made Edward’s love interest a likeable character then it would be immensely unsatisfying for the ladies. Why else would Meyers juxtapose Bella’s constant whining to commentary of Edward’s “dazzling” and “hypnotizing” looks? If the reader sincerely wanted Edward to be with Bella unconditionally, then what masturbatory fantasies would be left for her, the reader?
Trust me, I’d hit it too, if vampires can have sex with humans. Meyer never really elucidates on that point, something unusual because they’re seventeen years old. Seriously. High school juniors carry rubbers with anticipation. Meyer needs to not let her Mormon roots get the better of her. But I digress.
Edward and Bella’s relationship is one dimensional, the roots for Edward and Bella’s “eternal” love unfounded. Their attraction began as physical chemistry, admittedly scent on Edward’s behalf. He notes that he’s curious about her and intrigued by her sense of perception. But where’s the depth of their relationship? Their dialogue is constant argument and bickering and clashing. I can’t find any grounds for emotional or intellectual attraction between the characters. And that’s rather sad considering most of the book seems to have the intent of building the couple’s relationship; the secondary characters have barely any substance of their own.
The action of the story was short lived. From the start of the major conflict to the climax, it’s less than 100 pages of the 498 page novel. And not much happens in those pages except for a lot of talking. There’s a residuum of wit in the story but not so much to absolve it from the rest of Bella’s grating narration.
The only major likable thing about Twilight remains Edward: the chiseled, intense, chivalrous, mystery man. The only reason he’s not a cliché is because he’s an a-typical vampire, both in the context of the novel and contemporary stereotypes of vampires.
Perhaps Twilight would be have been more for me if Meyer had expanded upon the apple allusion, given more depth to the consequences of temptation and immortality, provoke some thought. But she didn’t. Twilight did nothing more than the show me yet another way to exploit the relatability and popularity of the confusing throes of young adulthood and raging hormones.