When I first read the Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer, somewhere in my late 20s, I loved them. And I have been ashamed of it ever since. It seems that the books are unanimously hated by anyone with any taste and/or brains above the age of 15. The only thing worse than liking Twilight would be to like 50 Shades of Grey* – which kind of makes sense, as 50 Shades was apparently based on Twilight fan fiction, so it’s sort of “got to” be worse.
To me, the relationship between Bella and Edward perfectly exemplified that kind of intense first love, when you believe you’ll literally die without the other person. And the stories were pretty exciting too, with lots of suspense that kept me turning pages into the wee hours.
I have recently reread the Twilight saga, as I needed something immersive and light to read (because of reasons). And I must admit that I feel I have outgrown it a little. But I still enjoyed it, and I definitely do not and will not think it’s awful. And here’s why (mild spoilers ahead):
I think the story arcs are well put together, and I think Meyer is really good at building suspense – I still kept reading till late at night, as I’d forgotten much of the detail since my last read-through. I think a lot of the secondary characters are fun/sweet/interesting, like Charlie and the rest of the Cullens. I also always find it cool to see a writer’s take on the supernatural elements they use in their story – which bits of traditional mythology do they take on, which do they discard, which do they twist and what completely new stuff do they add? In that way I guess vampire/shifter fiction is kind of a forgiving genre – there’s already so many different variants of the myth out there that you can basically just pick and choose what you want to use (I remember while reading the Sookie Stackhouse books that one of the vampires at some point was watching episodes of Buffy and laughing his ass off at the fact that the vampires got bumpy foreheads when they wanted to attack someone).
But for some reason everyone is super hung up on the fact that Meyer’s vampires sparkle in the sunlight and that’s why they can’t be outside in the sun, rather than the traditional bursting into flames reason. Personally I found it kind of a fun twist on the original vampire myth, but whatever floats your boat…
This time around though I did find both Bella and Edward kind of unbelievable. And whiny. And their attachment to each other is a little extreme. Bella basically has no self-preservation instinct and is constantly willing to die at the drop of a hat for any of the people around her, even though it’s never necessary (Oh, you stubbed your toe? Would it help if I killed myself? No? Just checking). I don’t think it’s humanly possible to lack a self-preservation instinct to this degree. And Edward is of course ridiculously controlling and moody. His reaction to Jacob and the pack at first are exaggerated to a bizarre level. Though I think people who call Edward a stalker and the relationship abusive are taking their vampire fiction a little too seriously. I also don’t really think it matters. For more on that, see my footnote.
The parallel that is drawn between their story and Wuthering Heights in book three is perhaps a little too apt. Edward and Bella discuss how Cathy and Heathcliff are basically unsympathetic people and the love they have for each other is their only redeeming quality. I have read Wuthering Heights. I kinda hated it. Because the main characters were horrible people who brought their misery on themselves and it was very hard to sympathise with them (I did however enjoy the 1939 film adaptation with Laurence Olivier). But the Twilight series has, for me, other redeeming qualities. And I definitely have more sympathy for Edward and Bella than Cathy and Heathcliff.
Though as someone who is almost always too cold, it is so not appealing to imagine a partner who is always cold to the touch. For that, and because Jacob is generally a more likeable and reasonable character, I am #teamjacob. Though Jacob does also have a slightly obnoxious period somewhere towards the middle. Of course by the end it’s a moo point.
So, I do not think the writing is generally bad, I think the story is exciting and has a good build-up and enough fun and interesting bits in it to enjoy even if you’re not/no longer a fan of the romance. And for the no doubt younger target audience there is surely more to enjoy, as the intensity of the relationships and feelings will be more recognisable.
Also, the Twilight saga has sold over 100 million copies. So there’s that. Stephenie Meyer is likely to be a much more successful (commercially speaking) writer than all the people complaining about her books. You know what they say: Those who can, do; those who can’t, sit around and whine about those who can do.
*For the record, I have read 50 Shades (the first one), and I did not enjoy it because the writing pretty much sucked. I do not however think that writing about a borderline abusive relationship should be punishable by death, or ridicule, as the case may be. I strongly believe that adult human beings are capable of rational thought, making up their own minds, and separating fantasy from reality. End rant.