And it is done.... I have come out from under my shiny little rock to admit that I have finally read Twilight.
The slamfest against Bella's character is really what has kept me from reading this book until now, but with a teenager living in the house with me, the hype was just too much to resist. I picked up the book off my TBR stack yesterday, and finished it this afternoon. Make no mistake, it's a page turner.
Now for the nitty gritty....
My overall impression of the book: Twilight is a very good, infectious story. Clean, romantic, with just the right amount of tension and mystery to keep the book going at a steady pace. I've passed the book on to my oldest with my highest recommendation, and can easily recommend it to anyone who likes YA and/or paranormal romance.
About the Bella bashing: There is a high level of sophistication that seems to be expected of the YA market that didn't previously exist - at least it didn't in the books I read when I was a teenager, and I think that stems largely from the number of adults who read YA now. Having adult readers in the mix, there is more expectation for characters to act wise beyond their years - specifically female characters - Hermione, from Harry Potter, is a good example of what I'm talking about.
Because of that, I think it can sometimes be difficult for adults to view YA books from a true, this is a book written for a teenager perspective. Age and experience gives us a better insight into life, a better ability to judge and avoid problems by using our head instead of our heart. I think that adult readers of YA are far more likely to project expectations and supposed maturity onto a teen character, especially once the character heads down a dangerous road, even if it's logically, from the mindset of the character, a fitting road for that individual to take.
The truth is a teen's logic and sense of justice isn't the same as when you're 33. There is still very much a black and white view of the world. Good versus evil often wipes out any visible gray path, and rarely is there a middle road to be found. I say that not only as a mother with a 17 year old, but also as someone who was a mother at the age of 17.
While Bella is a complete klutz and aloof to the dangers present around her in almost every situation, I found her character to be age appropriate in terms of mentality and romantic expectations - once she falls in love with Edward. In this day and age, considering how fast kids are becoming sexually active, Bella is actually quite tame in the physical sense. However, her expectactations of where her growing relationship will and should go with Edward - despite his insistence that he will not turn her - are right on the mark, in my opinion. At 17, I was persistent in the face of my first true love (I'm still married to him), but then again, I was also convinced of how worldwise and intelligent I was for someone my age. *forehead smack*
Bella was spot on, in my opinion. As for Edward.... As mysterious, handsome, and interesting as his character is, he is still a 107 year old man even if he is trapped in an eternally youthful, 17 year old body. That he and his siblings still hang around high school is a bit disturbing. Nothing can really excuse that in my mind. However, I guess for the sake of (physical) appearances, and for the sake of YA fiction, I can see why Edward would target his affections to someone in Bella's age range.
But at the same time, I can't help comparing Edward to Claudia from Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. Without a doubt, my view of the complexities of Bella and Edward's romance are biased by my age, as well as the previous vampire books I've read - most pointedly the affection shared between Claudia (a child vampire) and Louis (her maker) in Interview with the Vampire.
As complex as Edward may say Bella is, I find it extremely hard to believe that a 107 year old man would truly find a 17 year old girl "complex", even if he can't read Bella's mind as he can with other people. That he finds her beautiful, fabulously scented, and alluring, sure! But let's be realistic about complexities.
There is a certain intellectual refinement that comes with age, and it actually made me wonder if Stephenie Meyer's vampires (as with Christine Feehan's Carpathians) mature at a much slower rate than humans. After all, Bella is pretty transparent in everything she does, and she's admittedly no skilled liar. I don't see her pulling the wool over the eyes of a predator with any kind of skill. That in mind, Edward's relationship with Bella roughly would equate to Claudia (who happened to be an 80-100 year old predator at the time she is trapped and left to die in the sun with Madeleine), if she she decided she only wanted to befriend, or try to turn, children.
But then, that is perhaps too complicated a theme for a young adult book. And really, that is the only thing that threw me when reading Twilight: Edward being mentally "too old", "too mature" for Bella. At least, at his age, he should have been. When the newness of their romance wears off, what then? They plan to fall back on stimulating conversation?
I know that sounds pessimistic, and I don't mean it to. Truly, I did love the book. And I loved reading about Edward and Bella. My own floundering over Edward's development and the plausibility of vampires willingly remaining in high school long after they've paid their dues - meh. But that put aside, I can take the book at face value, and for as good as the storyline is, I can go on, accept the terms and conditions as they are, and that's what I did while reading this book. Twilight is well worth the time spent, and I will be picking up the next book in the series when I get the chance.
Oh, one last thing, just for the record. (And because I've already been asked a bazillion times, ROFL!) I'm officially declaring myself. I am 100%, without a doubt, on Team Edward. Romantic origins alone win out; Bella and Edward seem a far better match. Sorry, Jacob!
Happy weekend, everyone!