Playing with your food

Bella Swan, the new girl in school, is brave — albeit clumsy — a misfit who smells like freesia and has the high school boys in a drooling tizzy. Especially Edward Cullen, who sits at a back table in the cafeteria with an impenetrable gang of equally attractive and socially inept friends and siblings. Bella is drawn to Edward, who runs hot and marble cold when he is near her … until finally he confesses that he can’t stay away from her.

True love ensues. The dangerous kind of true love, akin to falling in love with a mound of cheese curds. Nuzzling up to the greasy batter, maybe even licking a crumb, BUT NOT EATING IT! NO DON’T EAT IT! YOU LOVE THIS FOOD TOO MUCH FOR IT TO BE GONE! BUT IT SMELLS SO GOOOOOOOOD!

Edward, the male lead in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight is a vampire. His electric touch is like a cold stone; his skin is glitter in the sunlight. And his eyes, his eyes are:

black — coal black.
a strange ocher, darker than butterscotch, but with some golden tone.
light again today, a deep golden honey color.
bright, excited.
burning gold.
bright only with humor.

If the desires of teenaged girls are mirrored in this book, it means that this gangly, giggly subset is looking for someone coveted, yet untapped by their prettier and more popular peers. A boy who recognizes you as different — whether it be your specific mix of pheromones, or your inability to play volleyball in gym without getting a concussion.

This was also the way things were in my version of 1994.

On the other hand, there is an alarming need for 24 hour contact and an open invitation to stalk. Edward watches Bella sleep. Edward watches Bella in the woods. Edward watches Bella almost get raped in an alley. Edward catches Bella when she faints in the hallway after Biology. [I’ve been seeing these restraining-orders-waiting-to-happen also in teen films from the mid-2000s. I blame technology.]

And on their first date-date, Bella brings up marriage.

I gave it a certain amount of leeway, since I am not its target audience, but took that leeway away when I overheard plenty of adult women cooing over Edward Cullen. I don’t think I am going to bite on this serial phenomenon. The storyline is pretty lifeless. I can tell you Bella’s class schedule, but I can’t tell you what she is wearing, interested in or if she has any talent. Edward Cullen is moody and domineering and prone to snacking on road kill. They spend a lot of time yapping about their love, while Edward flashes his teeth and reminds her that she is simply a biggie-sized soda fountain of blood that he could lap to death if the wind changed in a certain way. Not to mention that these vampires are conveniently different from other vampires found in fiction: they can be out in sunlight, they have a cross in their home … I don’t think Stephanie Meyer has the authority to change universal vampire truths.

I finished the chapter leading to the climax, yawned, closed the book and didn’t resume reading for eight hours. And speaking of climaxes, there are none. This is some seriously chaste young adult fiction.

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  1. Jenn 27.Sep.08 at 6:29 pm

    I don’t think Stephenie Meyer ever intended to write high-brow fiction about the undead. This is teen love. And teen-love from the female perspective is ALL about the swooning and the moodiness and the obsessive focus on, in this case, a boy and the color of his eyes and his marble-y beauty.

    The story might be ‘chaste’ in the sense that actual sex didn’t happen, but I must say, I thought some of those scenes were kinda hot. It got old for me in subsequent books, but going back to the issue of whose perspective this story is told from, it reads rather authentically for me. Isn’t that exactly how a teenage girl would experience sharing a bed *GASP* with her one-true-love? I mean, granted, I’m someone who didn’t do much of anything with any boy in high school. But if I had, I’m pretty certain I would have experienced it in similar lusty detail.

    Knowing that Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon, it was pretty fascinating to read into the subtext of Bella and Edward not being able to have sex. She didn’t present premarital sex as bad from a morality perspective, instead it’s a bad idea because he might actually kill you. I don’t know, I kind of totally bought it. The other interesting piece is that the one who keeps pushing for the two of them to do it is Bella, not Edward. Bella is a passionate, strong-willed woman, and she wants to get it on with her unbelievably hot boyfriend. Maybe Edward’s refusal is heavy-handed chivalry (which, like Bella’s propensity for swooning and near-fainting, does get old), but really, what’s so wrong with that?

    Bella *would* bring up marriage on their first date because she is besotted. On the other hand, a fairly consistent theme in this series is Bella’s ambiguity over getting married – she gets that she’s young and it didn’t work out so well for her parents. I’m not a big fan of getting married just because you can have sex with your guy, but hey, Stephenie Meyer can do whatever she wants. She’s the author.

    As for universal vampire truths, it’s not the Constitution, it’s fiction. That means the author is allowed to make things up. And I thought that the way she twisted the traditional vampire symbol was fairly creative. A vegetarian vampire? Skin that twinkles in sunlight like a disco ball? Huh. Cool. I thought that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a kick-ass show. Didn’t win any awards, though. But, to quote a writer friend of mine, who says that every book written needs to be the next Great American Novel? It’s entertaining, it DOES have a plot, and who cares what Bella is wearing? I was thoroughly entertained – yeah, some habits of the characters get a little annoying, but teenagers are sometimes annoying. I still had a great time with them.

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  5. Greg K 25.Feb.09 at 2:27 pm

    How about the fact that Bella spends the climax of the first book unconscious? That the female protagonist is rendered so powerless she can’t even be awake for her rescue. Not to mention that, since the book is told in first person, the reader doesn’t get to see it either. It’s a double whammy of atrocious sexism and poor storytelling (not writing, mind you: a book can be poorly written and still have a good story; Twilight has neither).

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  7. Nika 22.Feb.10 at 12:31 pm

    Honestly,Twilight is probably the worst book I’ve ever read.I was going to say the worst ever written but I think my mom had to read this boring book with really long descriptions of nature when she went to high school so it’ll be ONE of the most boring books ever written.And one of the most pointless.
    As such,I really don’t get why the majority of my schoolmates(I go to an all girls’ school)like it so much.Seriously people,WHY? It has an annoying heroine(who barely deserves the name) who I’d just love to punch/murder;a 108 year-old Gary Stu;*sparkling* vampires;WAY too much romance and a horrible excuse for a plot.

  8. Jenn 22.Feb.10 at 12:53 pm

    Going back and reading what I wrote before, I am realizing that I have changed my mind on Twilight. Mostly I just don’t care any more. If ever there was an example of oversaturation, Twilight is it. Never thought it was outstanding lit, but it certainly kept my attention (obviously – I read them all in quick succession and at the time really really was into it.) Now I’m just sort of ‘Meh.’ I agree – Bella is annoying as hell. Edward (especially now that I get to picture him as Robert Pattinson) is just awful, capable of only one of two extremes (extreme rage or extreme ‘chivalry’). Even though I totally get the points that MANY people have made about the sexism inherent in the books, I have found that the indifference/distaste I now have make me incapable of getting angry because what intelligent young woman would fall for that? Well, clearly this one did for a while. I admit it. God, I’m so sick of Twilight.


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