Monday, July 28, 2008

Magic, Insanity or Both?

So, since July 12th, I have read all three of the Twilight series books. All 1,792 pages of them. I bought the first book in the series months ago, and it's been sitting on the nightstand ever since. I finally decided to pick it up and read through it. I did so in about four sittings. The same with New Moon, the second book. Then Friday afternoon, I left work, bought the third book, Eclipse, and finished it Saturday afternoon.

For those of you, like me two weeks ago, who have little to no knowledge of what these books are, I'll give you a little recap trying to avoid as many spoilers as possible. They are YA fantasy about a high school junior named Bella Swan. She moves from Phoenix to the small town of Forks, WA, to live with her father, the town sheriff, after her mother remarries. She falls in love with Edward Cullen and becomes close to his whole "family"--all vampires who have sworn off using humans as food. In the second book we find out that her slightly younger friend, Jacob, is a werewolf. Many problems ensue, not least of which is that werewolves and vampires hate each other and both Jacob and Edward want Bella for their own.

What is it about these books at this time? Damned if I know. They are certainly not flawless. In fact, many flaws when I think about it. The old vampire vs. werewolf device. The tortured vampire with a conscience. The boy from the wrong side of the tracks cliche. Torn between two lovers. Then there are the technical issues. All three books are too long because of repetition of scenes. Overuse of certain words or images. One of the characters (Alice, one of my favorites actually) 'dances' everywhere. It's nice the first time to get across how tiny and graceful she is. After three books, it's just annoying. In the 3rd book, everyone starts to say "Ugh" when they don't like something. And Charlie, the sheriff, is clueless about what's going on. He doesn't like Edward on principal at first and then for a better reason in book 2, but when Bella keeps showing up injured, he never says "Hey, your boyfriend's abusive, I'm arresting him." It's "oh, my poor clumsy little girl." Nuh uh. Jacob, supposedly a sympathetic character, just acts like a whiney, manipulative little kid. I don't see him as being a viable threat to Edward romantically so the whole "who will she choose" question seems contrived.

But there are great moments, too. Some very human. Some that are funny or exciting or insightful and are because of the vampires or werewolves. There is a battle prep scene with Alice and her mate that is hilarious. And Alice, who sees the future, and Edward, who can read thoughts, play out an entire chess match in about three minutes--all in their heads. I get annoyed with Bella, too, but that's because a lot of her reactions and decisions are what a teenager would probably do, and from an adult perspective, it's stupid.

The thing is that by about the third chapter of book one, I was hooked. There's a feeling I get when I read or watch certain things. It's not quite hairs standing up on my neck, it's more a tingling sensation at the base of my brain. The feeling seems to say, "This is for you." And very possibly 3 million others, but still... Very hard to describe, but I've come to think of it as my Hill Street Blues feeling. That's the first TV show that made me aware of it. Certainly not the first I was hooked on, but the first that I identified the feeling and knew I would love the show. Thirtysomething, Lost, X-Files, Dr. Who, Pushing Daisies are all shows I am/was obsessive about and all gave me that feeling. The Harry Potter books do that. Some, but not all, Gaiman and Atwood books do it. I think Lord of the Rings probably did and Little House books before that. And these silly books.

So what do these disparate things have in common? Good solid characters (which is funny when you read the descriptions of Edward, but I digress). There is something just a little different or off about the world and/or the world view. The storytelling pulls you along. You want to know what happens next. If it's a TV show and the "to be continued" card comes up at the end, you may just throw something at the screen. If it's a book, you keep turning pages even if it's an hour past bedtime and you have to get up early. "Just one more chapter." It's what Jenny called Magic last night. If I knew how to bottle it, I'd be rich.

Is it embarrassing to be the age I am and hooked on a YA series? Not after the Harry Potter phenomenon. Disconcerting maybe, but not embarrassing. I don't think Meyer is quite on a level with Rowling. Fewer books appealing to a much narrower demographic for one thing. And while Rowling does tend to get longwinded in the later books, I didn't notice the same number of technical issues that I do with Meyer. Although I will not be in line at midnight on Friday, I know I'll be at B&N on Saturday morning for my copy of Breaking Dawn, the final book in the series.

And I'll finish it well before the Pirate meeting on that Monday night.

2 comments:

Courtney Suzanne said...

Thanks for the review. I've been hearing about these books lately, but I didn't know much about them. I heard the Twilight panel at Comic-Con this year was Beatlemania revisited.

Debbie said...

I heard that, too, about Comic-Con. Apparently, the trailers sent all the little girls into swoons.

My inner MSTie really wanted to hate the books. But they are what they are, and I enjoyed the read for the most part.

As Agent Kristin says, there is a reason why people love certain things (i.e., DaVinci Code, Potter books, Survivor, sushi) whether it's readily apparent or not. And it's not as easy as saying that the people who like these things are all stupid sheep following trends.