I shall say at the outset that this is a book I am probably not going to read again. After seeing all the vitriol about Stephanie Meyer’s writing and not really believing it, I had decided that I really should read it myself. That said, I’m glad I did read it.
I guess the best way to describe Twilight is that it’s like a cake that hasn’t been mixed properly nor baked long enough. There are numerous nice passages and the whole is still fairly tasty, but there are lumps and raw pieces that don’t really work. Meyer has captured the feel of narrating a fairly self-obsessed senior high-school girl who basically falls in love with an extremely dangerous person. I strongly suspect that this is the main reason it has become so successful, especially with high-school girls. It is essentially a forbidden love story, only quite why it is “forbidden” is that he’s a vampire.
Meyer should be lauded for trying to come up with a new twist on vampires. This is where the much-lampooned “sparkle” comes from. On the face of it, it seemed like a creative idea. Except that it’s painfully obvious that it really only allows Meyer’s vampires to be out and about during the day. The problem is that modern literature and mass entertainment is awash with vampires and making them sparkle in the sunlight rather than burn just looks silly. You simply have to come up with a much more innovative take on them if you want to go in a new direction.
Meyer’s writing is also fairly easy to read. It doesn’t torture prose. Things move fairly slickly and the dialogue is very readable. This is the other reason for the book’s success. It is, quite literally, a page-turner.
But there are larger problems in the work. A good writer can describe a setting, bring out characterisation in the players and advance the plot all at the same time. Most of the time, Meyer struggles to do just one of these competantly. So, you find a couple of very annoying chapters in the middle where Bella and Edward are basically doing twenty questions at each other. Or a cadre of supporting characters who are very little more than names and genders. Meyer tries to create some different reactions to Bella for some of them, particularly early on, but she stops there. A particularly bad case is how the vampires ignore and look down on everyone — until Edward takes Bella home to meet his ‘family’ and then everyone is more than happy to know her and include her in their lives. In fact, this must have even been obvious to Meyer because she has Alice (another vampire) explain to Bella why they’re going to such lengths to protect her from James (a predatory vampire from another clan). I didn’t find it convincing.
The resolution of the climax also feels a bit deus ex machina. The setup was actually quite good, putting Bella in an inescapable position, in some part from her own idiotic choices. It says a lot about her that I was almost happy at the prospect of her death, but there really weren’t enough clues that Edward’s family would, in fact, turn up in time to save the day.
All in all, it was more work than I would have liked to read it. There was a great story idea and some elements where well chosen. However, the execution is very ordinary.