Friday, 1 November 2013

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer: Expectation vs Reality

So up until recently, I hadn't read Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. There are a few reasons for this. When it first came out, I wasn't as immersed in YA as I am now and I don't think I'd read a single vampire book, so it just wasn't on my radar. I first became aware of the book through the films. I can actually remember listening to BBC Radio 1 when they were live from the UK premiere of the first film. I hadn't heard anything about the books before, but they were constantly referring to it on this radio show as the next Harry Potter. At the time I was a huge Harry Potter fan so this probably made me a bit sceptical.

As time went on, Twilight became embedded in pop culture. Even without reading the books or watching the films, I became aware of the general plot and the characters became as familiar to me as those in books I had actually read. But as I became more aware of the phenomenon, the desire to read the books decreased. After all, I knew the story. Nobody cares about spoilers with a series that big, so that left me with little curiosity about what happened because I already knew. Then came the backlash. I heard tales of the awful writing, Bella was drippy and how controlling Edward was. I'll admit, I was put off. It just didn't sound like something I'd enjoy.

So what changed? For a while I had this little challenge going with myself - how long could I avoid Twilight? It seemed like an achievement, having stayed away from something so popular for so long. Being one of the few to have not read the books or seen the films was like being in a pretty exclusive club. But as time went on, I realised just how much I was judging it without having read it. I mean I'd written it off as not my cup of tea, but then I started reading, and very much enjoying, vampire books. The more I read, the more it seemed like Twilight was a gaping hole in my reading back catalogue. When people dicussed Twilight, I felt compelled to stay out of conversations because I wouldn't speak anything bad about it having not read the books myself. Still my Tumblr feed was full of posts about Twilight, either graphics and gifs from people who loved it or rants and highlighted passages from people who didn't. I realised it was time to make up my own mind. Luckily my best friend is a fan of the books, so I asked her if I could borrow the first one and she obliged. 

So what did I think?

This isn't going to be a traditional review, for some of the reasons stated above. The majority of people already know the plot and have their own perceptions of the series. I went into Twilight as open minded as possible, wanting to enjoy it, but because I have been so exposed to it through the media and online, it was impossible to go in without any expectations at all. So here are my thoughts based on those expectations.

The writing 

Usually I know within a few pages or chapters whether I am going to get on with a book. This is where the writing has the chance to win me over or put me off. When I started Twilight I was impressed. I'd heard how terrible the writing was, but I can honestly say Twilight exceeded my expectations. When you read as much as I do, you come across all kinds of writing, from the beautifully stunning to the down right awful. Now Twilight wasn't the most amazingly written thing I have ever read, but neither was it the worst. In fact, it was very far from it. I enjoyed the opening few chapters and found the descriptions of Forks to be very atmospheric. I found myself wrapped up the locations and characters because of those descriptions.

Saying that, the beginning of the book was definitely stronger than the end. When I got to the second half of the book, I started to feel the writing slip slightly. Odd words and phrases were starting to slip in. It was enough to be noticeable, but not off-putting. I think Meyer's strength is the description as opposed to dialogue. So much of the latter half of the book is dialogue between Edward and Bella and maybe that's why it felt a little more clunky to me.

Either way, the writing was okay, didn't halt my enjoyment and I would read more by this author.

The characters

From the very beginning of the book I was instantly drawn to Bella. I found her to be likable and confident. She's just found herself at a new school in a new town, and yet she's holding her own and not shying away from people. I liked how natural she was around the kids at her new school. A lot of the criticism I've heard about Twilight is focused on Bella, and having read the book, I'm going to stand up for her a bit.

Firstly, her curiosity about Edward I can totally understand. He's acting weird around her and is generally a bit mysterious. Who wouldn't be intrigued? Plus he's good looking. What teenage girl isn't going to be drawn to one of the best looking kids at school? I liked how she challenged him and tried to learn more about him. She really went out of her way to get the bottom of why he acted like I did. She didn't just put up with it, which is what I was expecting.

Secondly, she's completely entitled to act like a soppy teenage girl around the guy she fancies because at the end of the day, she is a teenage girl. Bella admits she has little experience with guys. The less experience you have, the more naive you are. I think back to how I was as a teenager, and how I acted about guys was probably quite pathetic. I mean I used to write about boys in my diary - in code. And I daren't even think what ridiculously soppy things I would write. So yes, it is a bit annoying reading about the colour of Edward's eyes every five minutes because Bella is obsessed with them, but this is her first love and so I can forgive her a bit of mushy observation.

Then there's Edward. I mean firstly, the Edward in my head looks nothing like RPatz, which was a miracle in itself. But hey, I went with the book description and formed my own image. That meant my Edward was slightly more good looking to me (RPatz doesn't really do it for me, sorry!). I didn't really fall for Edward the way Bella did. Sure he has his moments, and some of the times he looks out for Bella were quite sweet, but I did tire a little of his "I'm dangerous, Bella" routine. Perhaps because I didn't really feel that danger until the last 100 pages of the book (more on that later). He did have his charming moments and I liked the scenes where he and Bella are asking each other questions to learn more about each other. Plus his vampire skills like his super fast running were pretty cool.

So obviously I've heard of Team Edward and Team Jacob, and I come out of Twilight with a fondness for Jacob. He isn't in it much, so I can't form a solid opinion on whether I like him with Bella, but I definitely appreciated his kindness towards her. I liked that he took the time to explain his family's history with the Cullens so that Bella was up to speed. I also liked the fact that Bella's dad and Jacob's dad are friends and so Jacob and Bella have a history. I'm excited to read more about Jacob as a character because he seems like the nice boy to Edward's moody and mysterious, and I am all about the nice boy.

The plot

So I went in expecting a girl to fall in love with a vampire, and that's what I got. The romance is the main focus of Twilight, and for a lot of the book I struggled with the lack of plot. Not a lot happens and it's a long book. The enjoyed the first hundred pages, because I could lose myself in the world building and join Bella on her discovery of her new surroundings. The middle lagged a bit for me, but when you get to 300 pages in, stuff does finally start to happen. Finally Bella is in danger, which sounds like a horrible thing to say, but have 300 pages of Bella and Edward bonding and Edward claiming to be dangerous, I needed something to grab my attention and really prove that. The last hundred pages were fast paced and exciting, I just wished we'd got to that moment sooner.

Summing Up

Twilight was better than I was expecting. I did not hate it. Not at all. It was a bit slow, and wasn't always on board with the romance, but it had enough about it to keep me intrigued. Now a lot has been established I am excited to see where the story goes. Obviously I know a lot of what's coming up in later books plot wise because the media has spoiled me, but I am still interested in reading about it for myself. High up on that list is learning more about Jacob, and discovering the consequences of something that happened with Bella and Edward. I'm also intrigued to watch the film so I can compare the two.

Lessons learnt

Don't judge a book before you've read it. Duh. And don't let other people's attitudes towards a book put you off. I know people have their reasons for not liking Twilight, and so I hope they will respect my wish to read the books and form my own opinion.

Rating: 3*
What to read next: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
Books like this: Evernight by Claudia Gray, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

1 comment:

  1. Nice to hear that you decided to read the book on your own, and did not go in with others' expectations. I find that each book I read speaks to me differently. Some of the hyped-up books, like Twilight, I do love. Others, not so much (The Hunger Games really upset me, and I just couldn't read it). I love what you said about Bella; I agree. I don't understand why she's so unliked.I also agree about Edward in the book vs. R. Patterson's Edward. I'm team Edward, but in the films, I'm team Taylor ;)

    And speaking of Jacob, read New Moon. You won't be disappointed ;) For me, each book got better than the previous, as did the movies. Enjoy!


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