Okay, so some of you who read my recent rant about crappy writing may have figured out precisely to which author I was referring and down which book I planned on taking. And I did; I read it. It took me probably six hours over the course of three days, but I read all the way through Twilight and can say, without reservation, that I will never get those six hours back.
Why did I subject myself to this? Many reasons. For one, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. For another, I'd read so many deliciously brutal takedowns that I just had to, in my masochistic way, sit through it and share in their glorious pain.
The main reason, though, was a comment The Boy got from one of "the girls" at his dance school. (These "girls" were his fellow instructors, which puts them all in the late-thirties-to-early-forties range.) They had been going on and on and on and on about how wonderful the books were and how wonderful the movie was and how they were just going to have to read the books all over again after watching the movie to remind themselves of the wonderful. And then The Boy had to step in and wonder, in his Boy fashion, precisely what was so romantic about dating a guy who is constantly on the very cusp of murdering you and drinking your blood.
That's when he was informed that he just doesn't understand true love.
I tried not to take offense when I heard that. In fact, I took it to heart: If he didn't understand true love, that must mean that our love isn't true, in which case the obvious solution is to read the book and try to true things up a bit. So I did. And now I have. And if I now really do understand it, may I die lonely and unloved.
It's not just that the books are poorly written - and oh, they are. I mentioned Stephenie Meyer's addiction to fancy adverbs and dialogue tags and her allergy to the word "said." I could add to that the fact that everything we know about Meyer's entire universe can be - and trust me, has been - exposited by our protagonist, whose name is - wait for it - Isabella Swan. (I spent ten minutes trying to come up with something worse than Isabella Swan to put down as a snarky alternative, and I could find none. Well played, Meyer.) Bella (as she keeps insisting that people call her, because they just won't learn) saves readers the trouble of inferring context and backstory from the plot by just telling us flat-out in the first person.
What else do we know about Bella? We know that she's clumsy. Sooo clumsy. Clummy-clum-clumsy. You can hear "Yakety Sax" faintly in the background throughout the book. She falls down in the woods. She trips over her own feet at the beach. She trips over her own feet in class. She drops her books. She thwacks her classmates in the head with a volleyball. She thwacks herself in the head with a badminton racquet. She gets paper cuts. At one point, Meyer specifically describes her eating a bowl of cereal, "chewing each bite with care," as if a Lucky Charms-Mama Cass moment is an ever-looming threat. And in case you weren't able to pick up on it yourself, Bella is kind enough to tell you herself.
I'm absolutely ordinary - well, except for bad things like all the near-death experiences and being so clumsy that I'm almost disabled.
Oh, are you clumsy? I totes hadn't noticed.
Our love interest Edward also is unafraid of reminding Bella (and, by extension, us) of exactly how close she is to unintentionally self-inflicted death all the time, which is why he bodily carries her practically everywhere she goes (unless his brother, mother, or little sister is taking care of it). I have actually seen that once in real life. The kid was eight, and it got him an extreme home makeover from Ty Pennington. If there's one thing that Meyer will not let us forget about Bella, it's that she's fucking clumsy.
We also know that she's very plain - pale and brunette - but that, having gone from her fancy-pants big-city school in bustling metropolitan Phoenix to a podunk one-horser in Washington, she's somehow become the hot fish in the ugly pond (outside of the reigning hot blonde who is, conveniently, a bitch). We also know that she's super-duper smart - everything they're doing now she's already done back at her school in bustling metropolitan Phoenix, so she's deigning to do it all again just to have something to do. And she reads Jane Austen novels and Wuthering Heights for fun, but the Forks library is so shitty she has to travel all the way to Seattle for decent reading material. And she listens to Chopin and Debussy and nearly pisses herself in shock when someone else listens to it too. She's kind enough to correct the stupidity and unworldliness of the local doofi somehow without coming across as a total snatch. To them, I mean.
We also know that she hate-hate-hates rainy weather, because she won't fucking shut up about it.
We also know that her earlobes taste like Doritos and she lactates beer. Or something like that, because she is a scrawny, clumsy, whiny, pseudointellectual Gisele Bundchen to the boys at Forks High School for the Petulant and Stupid. They are all over her shit. She is beating them off with a stick, actually arranging relationships for them with other girls in school to turn them away from her honey-scented awesomeness. The only boy in the whole region - including the Indian reservation - who is actively hostile to her is Edward Cullen, but we later learn that his hostility is just a shield to hide the fact that, yeah, he's hot for that, because she smells like truffle oil and a child's happy tears, and not just a natural side-effect of her being completely obnoxious.
Now, some might speculate that this Bella Swan is merely a Mary Sue, that Meyer is living out her own bizarre vampire-love-story teenage fantasies through this girl. But, see, that can't possibly be, because traditionally, a Mary Sue is without flaws, and Bella Swan has flaws like whoa. Did you catch that? She's introverted! And plain! And what else... ooh, clumsy! And whatever, but she's totally not a cipher for Meyer's vampire romance fantasy fulfilment or, ultimately, a victim of a significantly twisted concept of drama and romance.
And yet dear Bella, despite all her flaws, still manages to be horny-teenager Spanish fly, the normal girl who, for no other apparent reason than that he's pretty and she smells like warm toffee and the meadow after a rain, finds true love with the beautiful creature of the night who must constantly refrain from killing her whenever she's around.
Think I'm done? I'm just getting warmed up. Tune in tomorrow (or whenever I get around to posting again) to hear more about Stephenie Meyer's "characters" and learn why I think this book is not only flat mediocre but a potentially dangerous read for 14-year-old girls and grown women disinclined to read critically.