twilightWith some extreme exceptions (Harry Potter for one), I’m generally opposed to book “phenomenons.”  If I see everyone reading it on the subway I like to flatter myself that I’m above it all.  I tell myself that I read “real” books (which as any reader of this blog can see, is not entirely true).  I hate when non readers tell me I *HAVE* to read such and such book.  It irritates me.   Worse yet are the books that are made into movies, causing an explosion of books into the population, mostly non readers.

The Twilight series is one of those phenomenons, tween girls are crazed about these books (and the subsequent movie).  But it’s not just kids, plenty of young adult women have been trying to push the series on me.  I successfully resisted, until one of my best reading friends literally put the stack in my hand and said, “Read them, they’re fun.”

I think it was the fact that she didn’t fly into rhapsodies about how amazing and impressive they were that made me take them from her.  Still, they sat on my bookshelf. I had no intention of reading them, I figured I would just hold them for an appropriate amount of time and then return them with a disclaimer that I was “too busy” to get to them.

But what I didn’t count on was that my foray into British history was coming to an abrupt halt with Roy Jenkins’ Churchill.  That book was painful; somehow he made Winston Churchill seem boring.  I had to give up, only halfway through.   It was disheartening, and  I just didn’t have it in me to start anything even remotely challenging. 

“They’re fun,” she had said, and so I reached for Twilight.

I went in with a prejudice, and I wasn’t surprised to find that it isn’t very well written. The author is too addicted to double negatives for one, and maudlin descriptions for another.   Her female characters do too much heavy breathing and fainting.  But I’m ashamed to admit that I am fascinated by two things in this world – superhuman powers and handsome boys.  To put both of those things into one character is a heady mix for me, and I will say that much like Bella, I couldn’t resist Edward.

He is the epitome of a young girl’s fantasy – smoldering, gorgeous, and inhumanly powerful.  My inner teenager (the one who still loves boybands and stupid romantic comedies like Two Weeks Notice) immediately responded.  From then on I was hooked.  I read the whole thing in two days.  I even spent one late night reading, losing sleep I could ill afford to lose.  I lost myself in the brainless, short sighted glow of youth, if only for a few hundred pages.

The teenager in me thrilled at the romance.  Who doesn’t want to have a strong, suave, godlike boy in love with you?  Who doesn’t remember when everything was so new and exciting that the very sight or accidental touch of the one you wanted sent you into ecstacy?  It’s nice to remember when innocence made everything more potent, especially when you’re a cynical married woman begging the man who used to be your god to stop leaving his socks all over the house.

The adult in me can’t agree that it was a good story; there are certainly a few issues.  Bella for one.  I’m not convinced that, other than her penchant for getting into physical trouble, that she was anyone extraordinary.  She is certainly able to hyperventilate around Edward with ease, but she is not fleshed out enough for me to actually like her.  We don’t see much of her in this story, except as a response to him. 

I have also reached an age when, though I have no children of my own, I’ve started thinking like a mother.  I’m appalled that Bella cannot balance her love for Edward with the rest of her life.  I was glad to see that she wanted to save her mother when she thought she was in danger.  But when she commits to becoming a vampire, she is basically turning her back on everyone and everything but Edward.   She is giving up herself.  I can only hope that all those girls reading don’t take this message  literally – that you have to die for the man you love. 

Of course it’s easy to want to throw away your teenage life.  It sucks!  It’s filled with torturous school, social awkwardness, being told what to do, being stuck in between childhood and adulthood and not fitting into your own skin.  I don’t know any sane human being who wouldn’t want to give it away, but adults know that it passes, and what comes after is so much better.  It’s not so easy to throw away your adult life, which you have forged yourself, on your own terms.

Bella is right when she says she has to be Superman too, that she and Edward have to be equals.  Only she is too young to know that giving it all up won’t give her that.  Edward, however is not, and he advises her strongly against it.  Interestingly this part of the book reminded me a lot of Tuck Everlasting.  In that book  too, a young girl is given an opportunity to give up her life and be immortal with a boy that she loves.  In the end, Winnie chooses to live a human life, with all the good and the bad, for which the immortal Tuck says to her headstone “Good girl.”

I wonder if Bella is as smart as Winnie or if, in the sequel, she gives in to her immediate gratification.  The teenager in me wants her to give in, so that she can be with Edward.  The adult in me wants her to pursue other options, and hopes she finds happiness elsewhere.

Either way, much to my own embarassment, I’ll be reading New Moon.