Review: Twilight

Everyone’s got an opinion about Twilight, whether they’ve read it or not.  I’ve read it, and I liked it.

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid hearing about this series, Twilight is the first book in Stephenie Meyer’s series about a young woman (Bella)  who falls in love with a vampire (Edward)  (and a later a werewolf (Jacob)) and the melodrama and derring-do that ensues.  There is a lot of both in Twilight and the rest of the series.

Twilight deserves its popularity.  Meyer writes well with a clear voice, and she’s very good at building suspense.  She draws characters and places distinctly in a few strokes, and when they get filled in more deeply they hold their shape.  She’s particularly adept at giving the impression of someone without describing them superficially.  I can’t recall the first description of any of her characters, but they’re all clear in my mind.

The story itself is fast moving and engaging enough to encourage readers to suspend their disbelief willingly.  There’s a lot of plot in here.  In fact, that’s what really drew me into the books.  There are details about how the local vampire clan interacts with the locals, other vampires, and other monsters.  And there’s something about Bella that doesn’t quite add up.  It’s all carefully consistent and one gets the impression that the truth is out there.  After I saw the first two movies with my niece I found myself trying to tie all the plot strings together, and I realized I was going to have to read the books to figure it all out. The Twilight world isn’t ours – it’s much more exciting –  but it makes sense, and that explains a lot about why people enjoy reading about it.  The world is fleshed out enough to inhabit.

The other ingredient is the characters.  Like the situations, the characters walk the line between realism and iconography, and honestly I think this is the real trick of the book. Everyone’s a little bit a person and a little bit a point-of-view.  Despite that artifice, the reader always has the feeling that if they could get Bella’s or Edward’s attention for just a minute one could talk this whole thing out with them.  At the same time, they’re all on stage with all the exaggerated gestures and feelings that implies. That’s OK by me.  I remember making a few theatrical gestures when I was that age myself, though I didn’t have much luck with the whole immortal creature of the night thing.

Each book in the series makes strong allusions to the classics as well, and that’s one of my favorite things about them.  It’s not that Twilight makes one see Wuthering Heights in a new way, but it does explicitly assume that one is familiar with it.  Reading literature is just part of the background of being Bella or Edward, and in a book aimed at young adults, that kind of assumption is pretty awesome.

I’ve tried to make some sense of why I liked Twilight, but I don’t want to lose track of the fact that it’s just a good read.  It’s a page turner, and a lot of fun.

Strongly recommended.

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