Friday, December 4, 2009

Increasingly Repulsive Garbage by Stephanie Meyer

This review is going to have spoilers. I'm sorry. But you shouldn't be.

I don't have a passage for my review of the four books of the Twilight "saga" because I couldn't find a single piece of writing that stood out in a good way. Let's get that straight right off the bat. There's nothing about Stephanie Meyer's writing in these books that indicates to me that she's particularly talented. Nothing at all. She can string words together as well as any English major, to be sure, but the popularity of these books doesn't come from the prose.

Let me take a step back. I just had to laugh at myself out loud, sitting at the keyboard because of how pissed off I was by these books. I'm pretty exhausted and I wanted to write this review in the morning. Upon finishing the fourth book, though, I was so happy to be done with the series and angry at what I'd just read that I wanted to write this all down before I forgot anything.

I read the Twilight books to try and understand why they were so explosively popular. After the first one, I thought I understood*. They read like Goosebumps. It's like popcorn. I read the entire series in six days, though admittedly after book 2 I was so dead set on being done with these awful %$&*ing characters that I wasn't stopping until I was completely finished. You don't need to think while reading them. I understand the concept of escapism. Really, I do. I enjoyed the Harry Potter books as much as the next guy. That's why I said I understood the popularity of the series... With an asterisk. I understand why your average 12 year old could enjoy these books. I do. Vampires and werewolves and dumb shit like that, kids eat that crap up. I know I did (Again, Goosebumps).

What I do not understand, is how any self-respecting adult could read these books and not walk away hating all of the main characters, the author, and all the themes of the series. I'm gonna focus on women here because its pretty clear men are not the target audience. My sister and lots of my female friends love these books. Before reading them, I would kid them about because I'd heard how bad the writing was and how over-the-top romantic it was. But even then, I can understand the appeal of some brainless gumball romance novel, much in the same way that I enjoy watching Die Hard for the 437th time whenever it comes on FX. After reading the books, though, I realize that these books aren't just brainless gumball romance. They're misogynistic, pedophilic, and really... Just ugly.

All I read on the internet these days is this 'TEAM EDWARD" or "TEAM JACOB" nonsense. Are you girls kidding me? Hmmm... Lets see: "Team Breaks-Into-Your-Home-At-Night-And-Watches-You-Sleep-And-Blatantly-Stalks-You" or Team Forces-Himself-Upon-You-Sexually-And-Then-Develops-An-Infatuation-With-Your-Infant-Daughter?" WTF. The main character, the woman the audience is supposed to identify with, is completely useless in every way you could possibly imagine. She depends ENTIRELY on her man to not only keep her safe and alive, but emotionally stable as well. Once he leaves, she falls to pieces. She's so distraught at her beau's absence that she takes to suicidal behavior because it makes her imagine his voice. Seriously. But don't worry... She gets better! As soon as another man swoops in to save her again. The only other (human) female characters are: 1) Tw0-timing "friend" who turns on Bella for popularity's sake and, naturally, to get herself a boy 2) Another friend who is left completely undeveloped until she finds a boyfriend to play against 3) Bella's mother who is an airhead who clearly cares more for her new husband than she does her daughter. I also really enjoyed the part where Jacob grabs Bella, grabs her by the hair and forces himself upon her while she struggles and fights herself off (to no avail, because she's oh-so-weak) and then when Jacob later tells Bella's father about the incident, he applauds him. It's okay though, because like 200 pages later Bella realizes she really wanted it the whole time. This is what we want young girls reading. Right.

Everyone knows about the whole abstinence allegory. It should be noted that Bella only becomes a strong(er) character after she fills herself up with Edward's... venom.

The whole pedophilia angle is almost so mindbogglingly sick that I can't believe I haven't seen anyone talk about it. First let's start with the less obvious case. In what way is it okay for Edward (like 90 years old) to be going after Bella (17)? In what universe do people read this story and go, "Ohhhh that's normal, he looks like he's 17!" How does that make sense? Just because he's not a wrinkled old pervert doesn't mean he's not an old pervert. A 30 year old man and a 16 year old girl are essentially on the same level of sexual maturity. Would a relationship between the two get any less disgusting if he suddenly aged 60 years but looked exactly the same? Hell no!

The more blatant example comes from the werewolves and their imprinting. It's no big deal when a full grown man falls in love with a toddler (or later, an infant still covered in afterbirth) because, hey, he doesn't have any sexual feelings for her. That's Meyer's explanation. And I bet there are fans out there who would defend it. Guess that. That's still twisted. Think about that relationship and its nature. Exactly when does that paternal love become sexual love? It's a gradient, and at one point on that gradient things are going to inevitably be disgusting. Go read Lolita and then come back and tell me H.H. doesn't talk exactly the same way about his little nymphettes in exactly the same way that Quil and Jacob talk about theirs.

I won't go too much into how shitty of a writer Meyer is. Even the people who somehow like these books seem to agree that she's not much of a wordsmith. But there were a few technical things that really pissed me off:
1) When you're trying to make allusions to other great literary romances, be subtle about it. Don't spend pages and pages spelling it out to the reader that this character = Romeo and this character = Juliet and this character = Paris.
2) When you inevitably DO decide to make the dumbest decision possible with your main character (Making Bella a vampire), come up with something more interesting to propel the plot than suddenly introducing a bunch of X-Men like characters with lame super powers.
3) If you're going with suspense, maybe don't name the last chapter of the final book (listed clearly in the Table of Contents) "The Happily Ever After"

I could go on but I think you catch my drift. These books are disturbing and send all the wrong messages to exactly the audiences that are consuming it at the fastest rate. It's really a shame.

Lowlights: Knowing how many people have read this trash and not picked up on how instantly unpleasant it is.
Highlights: I liked Seth. That's it. This book has like 100 characters and I liked one.

PS - All this being said, there's no way I won't be paying my $11 for tickets to the film version of Breaking Dawn just to see Cedric Diggory give his Keanu-Reeves-Acting-Academy co-star a Cesarean with his teeth.

PPS - After this, if I don't finish with 54 books I'm going to feel like I cheated myself.


Amanda said...

I made a deal with someone to read Twilight if they'd read Harry Potter. I was sort of so-so on the first book. Fun, but kind of dumb. But I read the second book. Oh the horrors. Oh god. I never read any further. I saw spoilers on Breaking Dawn the other day, which were truly disturbing, and I'm SO GLAD I never read further.

Nihil Novum said...

Jim, you are my hero.

Nick said...

I stopped after the first (which I reviewed here) in spite of how the friend who passed it along suggested I breeze all the way to the fourth just to see how outrageous it gets. Boy, I don't want to be the one charged with filming Breaking Dawn.

I have a strong suspicion that the market for this among both teenage girls and thirty-something stay-at-home mothers is because they all write the same way, and they all have the same idea of what a book ought to do (read: disturbing paranormal wish-fulfilment). It's just that this sort of tripe normally stays on the Internet and never makes it to print.

linda said...

Thanks for spreading the word about how god-awful the books are. I still don't understand how anyone reads them at all--plus at this point I would almost think the hype and Twi-hards alone are enough to turn off anyone seeking out something good to read! But the hype marches endlessly on. Crap crap crap!

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Jim said...

And for the record I'm not gonna knock anyone for reading these books, because I understand that some people can just take things at face value without analyzing them. There's nothing inherently wrong with the narrative, really.

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