Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Twilight Review - Grab a BIG Mug of Tea!

OK, Twilight fans, this one's for you, and I want your opinion! Grab a BIG mug of tea and settle in for some deep contemplation, and leave me your thoughts!

I've finished books one and two of the Twilight saga. Book three should be here from the library any day now! I read them voraciously. I enjoyed them. I think author Stephenie Meyer and I must both have been in love with Johnny Depp, in Edward Scissorhands because when I picture the Twilight Edward, I see the Scissorhands Edward in my head!

The books have been a super-huge hit with the tween set (and their moms)! The books have also been subject to a lot of criticism, both from a literary perspective (holes in the plot) and from a feminist perspective. I clearly see the plot potholes, yet they don't impede my enjoyment. The feminist issue is of more concern to me. Over the weekend, I was talking about the books with a group of girlfriends, and one friend asked me about the feminist concerns. I've spent the last few days thinking about it, and here's my reflection.
  • It's a paradox. I really like the books. Yet I do have concerns, too.

  • Bella is far too wimpy for my preference. She's presented as clumsy and insecure. True, lots of girls her age identify with that. And yet, I would have liked to see her represented as a stronger lead. (BTW, I found the movie Bella to be more to my liking than the book Bella.)

  • The love story transcends logic. That's part of what draws me to the book. I like fantasy, and tie that up with vampires, and I'm a gonner. I just love vampire books! So for me, this story caught and kept my attention. However, others have criticized the love story for being too out there. Obsession, not love. I don't have an issue with this part of it. It is, after all, a fantasy.

  • Bella gets pushed around by the boys. This was distasteful to me, even while caught up in the reading frenzy. Edward can be very bossy, and so can Jacob. She immediately takes on the role of the house-daughter for her Dad. Here's a criticism from Sue Corbett, a children's author."Bella is constantly in need of getting rescued. She moves in with her father and immediately starts cooking for him and doing his laundry. She's on track to go to an Ivy League college, but doesn't because of Edward. It's the exact inverse of what I'm trying to teach my daughter." I wonder if that's why they have Bella and Dad eat out in the movie. Stephenie Meyer counters by encouraging readers to get through the whole series. "The thing about Bella is her story isn't finished yet."

I'm going to finish out the series, and I'm certain I'll enjoy the last 2 books. If I had a daughter, I don't think I'd keep her from reading the books. But I would have some girl-power conversations about Bella's choices. That's my 2-cents. Will you share yours?


Esmerelda said...

Growing up I had lots of favorite reading. When I was the same age as girls who are reading Twilight, I was reading two very distinct types of literature. I read fairy tales: princes and princesses and magic. Message to me: prince charming will come and take you away and nothing bad will evet happen to you. The prince saves me (er... the princess.)

The other thing I read: Nancy Drew. Message to me: I can figure it out myself. I can get myself out of jams, solve the mystery and take care of my friends and family. I have a sweet boyfriend who comes around but why would I marry him? That would take all the fun away!

I think my main question is: What messages does Twilight send to young female readers? I have not read the books. I may...

Southern Touch Catering said...

Since I am not a feminist- I really can't argue your ideals with you. I do believe that girls should be girls (and will be girls) and that they will or will not be strong just by their own characters. But as long as you enjoy the books, don't let the contradictive thoughts ruin them for you. There are all sorts of other books that do give the young girls very strong leading roles. Just enjoy!

Steph said...

@Esme - I didn't read Nancy Drew, but you prompted a thought in my head. A fair criticism of Twilight could certainly be that Bella's life becomes totally focused around THE boyfriend. When they break up, she's completely zapped. That's not cool.

Teafan said...

I think you will see, as you get through the next 2 books, that Bella's character becomes increasingly stronger and more sure of herself. She holds out for what she wants and gets it.

Having said that, I agree that the message of the boyfriend being the focus of her life is a little concerning.

Stephanie O' said...

I have read all of the books and consider myself a feminist. There were major parts of the book that I had problems with; logically and as a feminist. The final book about tore me about, but then it kind of redeems itself in the end.

I don't have children, but if I did, I would let them read the books. Why not? I read a bunch of different books when I was younger and still do. As long as they read a variety of books or at least understand how very fantasy-esque these books are, I say let them enjoy them. However, I don't know how wide read most teenagers who read these books are and am curious as to how they interpret them.

Hootie said...

I agree with Teafan, you'll see how Bella grows through the next two books. But I'll say no more or it will spoil the story for you.

Reading these books at the same time as my teenage daughter has produced many conversations with her about life/reality/messages sent/relationships/vampires/feminist images/etc. These are conversations that we have all the time though, not just after reading one book.

Maybe what one sees as Bella getting pushed around by others (not just by boys) is that she's trying to come to terms with the fact that at a younger than society has said is appropriate age, she knows what she wants in her life. She's just trying to find that balance we all strive to have and Bella does like to please those around her.

It's nice when she decides to put herself first in book four...finally!

My daughter hasn't read book 4 yet, but plans to soon. I can't wait to hear her take on things when she's done. Truly this series needs to be read completely for the full picture.

As for what other things middle-school teenagers are reading, in school: To Kill a Mockingbird, Adv. of Tom Sawyer, Frankenstein, and 1984 to name a few.

High Schoolers: The Double Helix, Anna Karenina, The Odyssey, This Side of Paradise, and Animal Farm.

At home: Most of these kids grew up the writings of JK Rowling, Brian Jaques, JRR Tolkien, Lemony Snicket, Eoin Colfer, Christopher Paolini, & CS Lewis.

Certainly a fine group of older and modern authors and stories to choose from. My opinion is Stephanie Meyer in the mix for my daughter and myself is a good diversion and addition.

I like the fantasy she has created in the Twilight Series. I'm glad the stories wrapped up though. I'm ready to move to a new book and/or issue to contemplate.

BTW, Did anyone read Elizabeth Kostov's The Historian? Just curious. It's another "vampire" book. Definitely not as juicy! :)

ms. mep said...

I've read the first two Twilight books. I enjoyed them and look forward to the rest, though I don't consider myself obsessed. I see the points about Bella being weak, etc., but I do think the Cullen female characters are rather strong. I'm going to see what unfolds in the rest of the series.

I think it's more important that young women (and young men) are READING than that the "right" stuff, whatever that is. When reading leads to conversations and contemplation, all the better.

For years I've had a little Mary Engelbreit illustration of a girl reading a book framed on my bookshelf. The quotation accompanying the picture: "Today a reader, tomorrow a leader."

ms. mep said...

Oops, I meant to say "than that they are reading the . . ."

Steph said...

You've all made such thoughtful and sincere points. Thank you, all. I so enjoy hearing from you!

You know, those Cullen girls do kick butt!

Anonymous said...

I liked your comment about letting a daughter read the books and then discussing the issues with her...As a parent, I think this is extremely important. We cannot protect our children from every influence in modern culture, but we can equip them to DEAL with it! Open lines of communication and giving them the tools to think through situations are both vital! The more you shelter your child from something, the more you draw their attention to it...