I reluctantly embarked in reading the whole series: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. I don’t know why I was reluctant. Something about now being thirty and reading a young adult series discouraged me somehow. It wasn’t meant to be proper literature, and after spending a decade studying “real” literature, I felt disconnected. Of course, this attitude was rather hypocritical on my part seeing as to how I’m an avid Harry Potter fan and that way back when I used to devour the Ann Rice Vampire Chronicle books. But that was eons ago, a different time and a different world for me. I think another reason I evaded Twilight, though, was the response my (female) students had to the books and, particularly, to the movies. So much was the teenage frenzy that, quite frankly, I didn’t know if I could relate.
Well, I was sucked into this Twilight universe so quickly I didn’t have a chance to resist! I read the first book, Twilight, in a few days. I read the second, New Moon, in two days (but really, about 6 hours, 3 each day); I read the third, Eclipse, in about 6 hours of one day. I became a Twifan, or whatever it is they’re calling Twilight fans these days. Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final book in the saga, I read in a day. I became obsessed, donning a have-to-find-out-what-happens attitude that I think mimics the frenzy with which addicts take to their drugs. It was wonderful and disconcerting, all in one, and it resurfaced bits of me that had been long dormant, that I had pushed away in order to tend to reality.
It’s not hard to get sucked in, though, if you remember anything about being 17 and in love. The intensity of first love, the power of finding out what these emotions do to you mentally and physically, is so vividly described in these books that I literally felt like I was 17 again, all giddy and giggly. I loved it! They’re not perfect, but I loved them nonetheless.
So here’s my take *warning: may contain spoilers*:
I loved the characters from the beginning. There’s a lot of criticism about the character Bella Swan, the damsel in distress who always needs to be protected by either Edward or Jacob. She’s a hazard to herself because she’s clumsy and a magnet for danger and trouble, but the connection between her and Edward is wonderful and Stephanie Meyer did a great job in writing and building the romantic tension between the two. Jacob doesn’t have much a role in this first book. He’s still a kid who has a crush on Bella. The main story here is Bella and Edward falling in love and figuring out that while they’re so different (um, yea, one’s human, the other’s a vampire!), they still realize how much they love and need each other. It’s a selfless, innocent love.
I started New Moon eagerly, wanting to know what happened to the Edward and Bella, knowing that somewhere I was going to understand the whole Team Edward and Team Jacob thing. And sure enough, when Edward leaves and Bella is plunged into the rawness of a broken heart, here came Jacob. I was a little annoyed at times in this book because the relationship between Bella/Jacob very much paralleled that of Bella/Edward in the first book. The same song and dance was going on. He (now turning into a werewolf) claims he’s no good for her while she neglects reason and safety just to feel loved. The dialogue gave me some deja vu. Still, it was endearing seeing their relationship grow from friendship to something more, even if Bella wasn’t admitting it. I do think if she’d never jumped off a cliff, and if Edward hadn’t thought she was dead, and if he hadn’t gone to the Volturi and she to go save him, Bella would’ve ended up with Jacob. As a human, Jacob was for her. But the events happened the way they did and, of course, there has to be some action other than just the romantic triangle. I was sad for Jacob in the end.
Of course, once I started with the series, I want – no, I need – to finish all books involved. In between getting the books, I read anything online I could get my hands on. I read the summaries, I read Stephanie Meyer’s website. I wanted more. I needed to know more about the characters. It was fun. 😉
So Eclipse I anticipated much more than the other two. The first, well, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. The second, I saw the movie first, so I had more of an idea of what was happening (more on the whole movie/book thing later). But when I started Eclipse, I had only an idea of what was going on because of the movie trailers (the film had come out recently, on June 30) and Stephanie Meyer’s website. So I took to it like air for my lungs and I read. This was my favorite of the saga. The raw emotions in this book were fabulous. The romantic triangle came around full force as Bella realized her true feelings for Jacob and, even though that didn’t change how she felt about Edward, it brought vulnerability to her character. The despair she feels when she has to tell Jacob good-bye is real and fresh. I was sorely disappointed that Kristen Stewart couldn’t give that same emotion in the movie and that those pivotal scenes were left out of the movie. Of course, the whole vampire + werewolf coalition was great and the fight scene was pretty well done. But my favorite parts of this book had to do with the way the characters really came to life while making sense of their feelings.
Ah. Breaking Dawn. I read it because, in my mind, I had to. I could not start the series and not finish it. I liked it, sure. It gave me closure. I didn’t hate it the way some of the critics raged about it. I didn’t mind that they didn’t fight in the end; in fact, I agree that the symbolism behind the cover (the queen in a chess game) and the idea of mind over brawn was pivotal for this book. But I was disappointed. I wanted more. The romantic tension between Edward and Bella was so strong in all three previous novels that I was expecting more in this final installment where they actually get married, go on their honeymoon and *gasp* have sex. While I didn’t want to read porn, I did expect a little more build-up to the “sex-scenes” – if they can even be called that. I wanted more romance.
The birthing scene was a little too graphic, but it didn’t bother me as much. It’s hard not to have a graphic birthing scene with the type of pregnancy/birth that this was: a half-vampire, half-human that developed and grew at an alarmingly accelerated pace. I mean, she was ravenous the day after their first time together! Her pregnancy lasted a couple months, and it broke her, literally. I do like that this was how she became a vampire, though, because it was an act of love in a way.
I have mixed feelings about the whole shift in point-of-view in the second section. I like it because I love hearing inside all character heads. I read the part of Midnight Sun that Meyer has on her website, which is Twilight told from Edward’s perspective, and I loved reading The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner for precisely the same reason: I want to know more about all the characters. I have so much invested in this story, in these characters, that I want to know more about them. However, I don’t think that the voices are distinct enough. While reading Jacob, I still thought at times I was reading Bella. Still, it was nice getting that other perspective.
The third part of the book is probably my favorite for Breaking Dawn. I loved seeing Bella transform from clumsy human to agile vampire, and I loved that she was able to skip through the whole “newborn” phase. She had control; whether it was her own will or whether that was part of her natural power can be contested, but it was great. I loved the introduction of all the other vampire covens and seeing Bella become the savior for her family. She was no longer the damsel in distress but the knight, ready to defend her family and thinking logically for the best move. I am undecided yet about how I feel about the whole Jacob imprinting on Renesmee, though. I thought that was an awkward resolution to the Edward/Bella/Jacob triangle. I guess the magic of imprinting erases all past strings, and I know that’s what was being alluded, but still… I don’t know. It didn’t work great for me.
But I did get closure, sort of. I want to know what else happens to the new, happy family throughout eternity. 😉
Thinking ahead, I see so much possibility for using these books in my classes. It makes me giddy all over again! From making connections to the “classics” Meyer references in all four books, to philosophical questions about whether we really have free will to choose between right and wrong (or between what we’re born into/with and what we want to be), to the history of all the vampire characters and important historical moments they cover. It’s a goldmine!