RULES: Cynthia Lord
Children's Literacy Round-Up: June 10th

Twilight: Stephenie Meyer

I've never been an aficionado of vampire stories, and I was therefore a bit skeptical about this one. But it came highly recommended by others, and it was available for download from Audible, so I gave it a try. And once I started listening to Twilight I was completely drawn in, unable to stop listening. I found myself thinking about the story frequently. Partly I was wondering what would happen next, but mostly I was just thinking about it, wrapped up in the story. Author Stephenie Meyer has a real gift for describing people and places, without actually using a lot of text, but in a way that makes them feel completely real. I could easily picture the town of Forks, Washington, where most of the book takes place.

Twilight is the story of 17-year-old Bella Swan, who moves from sunny Phoenix is live with her father in the small, rainy town of Forks. She is initially miserable, because she loves the sun, and she misses her Mom, and she's certain that she'll never fit in with a small community of kids who grew up together. But the kids in Forks, especially the boys, are friendlier than she would have imagined, and she begins to think that things might be ok.

Then Bella meets her lab partner, Edward Cullen. Edward is strikingly attractive and graceful, and seems to completely hate her at first sight. She can't understand why he hates her, and yet she can't stop thinking about him, either. A period of alternately drawing together and pulling apart follows, reminding me a lot of Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Edward, the glamorous one, fights (not so successfully) against his attraction to the more ordinary Bella. And oh, the forces of attraction between these two. They positively smolder, even when they're doing nothing more than sitting next to one another during a class film. This is definitely a book for young adults (and older, of course), rather than for younger kids.

It turns out that Edward's attraction towards Bella is two-fold. He is interested in her in the same way that several other local boys are interested in her. But he's also interested in her as prey, finding her very scent intoxicating. This is because Edward, along with the rest of his family, is a vampire. Oh, they belong to a particular sub-sect of vampires, one that believes that it's wrong to kill humans. But to live among humans without killing them, the Cullens have to fight against tremendously strong instincts.

Bella, for Edward, is the ultimate forbidden fruit. He wants to be close to her, but fears that he'll hurt her. Bella, once she figures out what's going on, has to battle her own combination of attraction and fear. It's the ultimate conflict. How can you fall in love with someone when being with them goes against your very nature? You'll have to read the book yourself to find out how Bella and Edward handle the conflict, and what other obstacles are thrown in their path.

I found Bella to be an interesting heroine. She sees herself as ordinary, but all of the Forks boys are swarming around her. She's clumsy to the point of being dangerous, she doesn't seem particularly brave, and she has a positive gift for landing in life-threatening situation. Yet when her family is threatened, it turns out that she is brave after all. Normally I'm not a fan of inept heroines who need to be rescued all the time, but Bella works for me somehow. I found her very likeable and real.

And Edward - Edward is a hero to end all heroes. He's beautiful and charming and funny, and he's dark and brooding and dangerous. And his greatest battle is within himself. Most of the other characters are a bit more one-dimensional (Bella's parents, the other kids at school, etc.), except for the vampires. This could be deliberate on the author's part, to keep the reader focused on the characters who matter most. I enjoyed Alice, Edward's "sister", in particular. I did find the notion that Bella's Dad, the police chief, was completely clueless about Edward and his family a bit of a stretch. But that's a minor complaint, stemming from the number of cop stories I've read in my life. And I guess that he couldn't really be expected to guess that his daughter's new boyfriend was a vampire, so I'll cut him a little slack.

As you can probably tell by now, I really loved this book. There's something compelling about star-crossed lover stories, and this is one of the best I've seen. Twilight unites myth and legend with ordinary teen problems in a remarkably seamless fashion. I was a bit frustrated by the ending, which seemed to leave a few things hanging. I was also sad to say goodbye to characters that I had come to love. So I was very happy when I learned that there's a sequel (New Moon) coming out in August. Thanks goodness! I simply can't wait.

You can read more at Stephenie Meyer's website. One thing that you can find on Stephenie's website is the first chapter of a companion book to Twilight, one that she's writing on her own, that isn't currently scheduled for publication. Midnight Sun tells the same story as Twilight, but from Edward's perspective. Don't read it unless you've already read Twilight. But if you have read Twilight, and you would like to know more of the story, I'm certain that you'll find this chapter of Midnight Sun fascinating. I hope that the whole book is eventually published.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.