1/3 Really Good Book, 2/3 Why Does This Exist?
This book has had me at a loss for several years now. I've heard so many negative things about it that kept me away, yet at the same time, people whose opinions I respect all say that it was a perfectly fine or even "good" series of books. Two of my friends, fellow authors, actually love the series highly. So here I've been all these years, unable to reconcile this conflicting information. How can such smart and highly creative people love something so bad? I knew even back then when the Twilight craze was at its peak that I'd be reading the first book of the series one day to appraise it firsthand. Here's that review.
Twilight is a mixed bag, that's for sure. After struggling through the first 25% of the book, I was certain that I would be giving it a 1 star by the end. That feeling stretched on well past the halfway point of the book. This is mainly due to the spotlight here being on Edward and Bella's dull, slow, tease of a relationship if you could even call it that because it was mostly just Bella being desperate for the attention and affection of male model Edward Cullen whose appearance she couldn't go more than one paragraph commenting on.
So, we get to the major problem with the book, the two main characters. Boring Bella, Bland Edward, and their unappealing romance.
The premise is ridiculous from the start and immediately puts me in opposition of Edward and the romance that the book presents. Why would a person over 100 years old want to spend their time as a teenage student? College I could understand, but the thinly explained reasons for his enrollment in high school just do not add up. Doesn't matter if he looks like a teen, spending so much time amongst teens is just creepy and creating and maintaining that farce would be more complicated than less, one would think. And then you must ask why would that 100-year-old be interested in a 17-year-old young woman? Edward is supposedly cultured and well-traveled, so why Bella?
The book gives a few explanations, but they don't really do much to help me root for Edward. First is the fact that Bella has an old soul in a figurative sense. If it were literal I could give it a pass, but it's more personality based. That's told to us rather than shown, because Bella oftentimes comes off as the single-minded petulant teen that she is. The second reason is that Edward is drawn to her gothic looks (tall, pale, raven-haired) and the third reason is that he (and many other vamps) are attracted by her scent which is revealed by the bad guy at the end to be a unique floral scent. I'm sure later down the line, it'll be revealed that Edward and Bella are soulmates or something like that, because for now the reasoning for their pairing and how extreme Bella's feelings for Edward are feels flimsy.
Bella's attraction to Edward appears to be nothing but shallow and surface level, which is proven in how all she talks about is Edward's physical appearance. It's especially egregious in the first half of the book, but it barely lets up towards the end. It doesn't help that Stephenie Meyer's descriptions are often inelegant and redundant. Bella often takes the time to describe Edwards clothes, cars, and the Cullens' expensive possessions in great detail giving the impression that she's largely interested in image and status above all. Worse than all that is the fact that it is a plain case of insta-love. Bella is more-or-less head-over-heels for Edward as soon as she sees him. She covets him before she even knows him. She aches for his attention before they even introduce themselves to one another and for the most part their relationship stays this one-sidedly obsessive until Edward reveals his feelings, then it becomes two-sidedly obsessive and even more creepy.
An excerpt of an Edward and Bella conversation:
"I was curious about you."
"You spied on me?" But somehow, I couldn't infuse my voice with the proper outrage. I was flattered.
"What else is there to do at night?"
"I come here almost every night."
In that excerpt, Edward basically admitted that he breaks into her house on a nightly basis and watches her sleep. This was just after they'd started dating. I thought Edward was a creep before, but this put him over the edge. I'm not saying that Twilight needs to feature moral characters doing things in a way I deem right, but I am saying that this makes me not like Edward and or this romance. The fact that Bella finds this flattering is just weird, but I digress. I already knew they were two weirdos and that's fine. I just don't want to read about them and so I struggled with the first 300 or so pages of the book, often putting it down for more entertaining affairs.
Stuff starts getting interesting in chapter 13 when we finally get around to some in-universe vampire lore and cool tidbits surrounding that. We also get some glimpses into Edward's past and how he was made. The boring romance stuff takes over again until chapter 15 and that's when the book really takes off for me, especially when the Cullens are introduced. It essentially took 312 pages to get to the good part of the book.
The Cullens are a breath of fresh air to what was so far a book filled with cardboard characters--from Edward, Bella, all the way to the nondescript supporting cast of bland humans. The Cullens injected life into the book and the personalities and backstories of Carlisle and his family weren't earth shatteringly unique, but they were interesting to read. That may be due to the plainness of the other characters which help the Cullen family stand out more.
From there we get a superpowered baseball game during a thunderstorm that's predicted from the psychic vamp, Alice and we are introduced to a villain who brings some actual tension and stakes to an otherwise mundane book.
The end of the book was suspenseful and packed full of dangerous consequences as the villain, a vampiric hunter with a hard-on for Bella, put the group, especially Bella herself through their paces. The weakest part of the end was the fact that we didn't see the actual rescue because Bella was unconscious. As quickly as the danger hit its peak, it was instantly resolved because the heroine couldn't witness it. I think a quick Edward POV would've done wonders here, but I digress. After so much fun, I didn't even mind the refocus on Edward and Bella's romance. After such stakes, it suddenly felt a little more interesting to me.
My final thought is that even if I was a big fan of books in the romance genre (there are some I really liked), I could not forgive those first 312 pages of this book. Those pages exemplify what most people who haven't read the book think of Twilight. I say that because I was one of those people and I did think those things. Now that I've read this book, I can see why well-read people say it's good. Certainly, the last 186 pages were.
As far as scoring goes, I've been all over the map with this book. The first 312 pages were worthy of a 1 star, but the last 186 deserved much higher. I was tempted to give it a 3 overall, but then dropped it to 2.5 due to the weaknesses of the first part. After some deliberation about the ending, which also had its flaws, this one sits at a solid 2 for me especially when I consider the multitude of amateur errors that Mrs. Meyer and her editor have overlooked. If the book literally started from page 312, I'd score it at a 3.5 even without the context given from previous chapters.
All that said. I am interested to see where the series goes and may at some point continue it. For now, I have a ton of books that I can't wait to read. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer proved to be a surprise for me and that deserves some credit.
+Vamp lore and consequences are interesting.
+Edward's backstory is kind of interesting.
+Chapter 15 was good with its spotlight on Carlisle and the Cullen family. He and Edward vaguely remind me of Joshua York, a character from a better vampire book called Fevre Dream.
+Chapter 16 was also really good with history, mood, and a good length. Didn't even mind Edward and Bella here.
+Every chapter after 15 was enjoyable.
+A viable and fitting threat as the villain.
-No real mystery throughout the start of the book. Everything is either spelled out or easy to figure out.
-The supernatural parts feel tacked on for the first half of the book. It all takes a backseat to the "romance" aka Bella's thirst.
-Instead of feeling supernatural, the book often feels like a teen superhero book. You could easily call these vamps mutants and this would be an X-Men soap opera.
-Despite just getting to know Bella, Edward divulges vital secrets to her that could put his family and his very kind in danger if revealed. He even tells her how many vampires there are and where they can be located.
-Missed opportunity with the off-screen rescue.
-Book would flow better without the constant descriptions of Edward's appearance and how he constantly takes Bella's breath away with his every action and how he electrifies her with every look.
-Unimaginable repeated metaphors like in chapter 13 when Bella says Edward is "like stone" about 6 different times.
-Edward's reasons for stalking Bella to Seattle are tenuous at best and seem to be inserted to glaze over a plot hole. His stalking method was also creepily elaborate.
-The stalking gets even worse when Edward breaks into Bella's house and spies on her during while she's sleeping. To top it all off, she's flattered by it.
-During their isolated trip to the forest, Edward still wasn't sure he could control himself around Bella as he later admits to her. So, he essentially puts her life in danger to prove a point to himself.
-Bella's intense thirst.