A lot of Stephen King stories have done that, of course. There’s a reason why I’m a big fan. But Stephenie Meyer somehow manages to be a step above, and that, surprisingly, is putting it mildly.
I’d never given much thought to dying—though I’d had reason enough in the last few months—but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.
~Preface of “Twilight”
How can you possibly turn away from a book that starts like that?
Twilight is, without a doubt, a love story. It’s Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Wuthering Heights, with a touch of Tristan and Iseult and a heavy dose of the relationship between Lancelot and Gwenevere, all rolled into one. Bella and Edward are very unique people in their own ways, yet their first meeting isn’t exactly “love at first sight”. Through a series of misunderstandings and conflicting emotions, their first contact can only be described as rocky.
It doesn’t remain that way, of course, or there would be no story.
Bella is a girl who feels she has never fit in.
Edward is a vampire, part of the Cullen family, which has devoted itself to never drinking human blood, choosing instead to hunt wild game (just the same way humans hunt said game). Only difference is, they hunt with their bare hands and teeth, and tend to prefer tougher game. Polar bear, anyone?
Bella’s fascination, as a young girl looking not only to fit in, but to be somewhat noble, is unavoidable. She sees the Cullens as beautiful immortal humans who happen to be vampires. Her love is as deep as Juliet’s.
Edward’s matches Romeo’s.
When Bella’s life is endangered, the Cullens rally to keep her safe, but she is trapped into sacrificing herself rather than bring death to those she loves. Edward has to hurry, barely making it in time.
Throughout, it’s Meyer’s vivid storytelling that holds your attention. You can practically smell the dampness of Forks, Washington, hear the rain falling in the lush rainforests of Olympic National Park.
By the time I was done with Twilight (which I read in nearly one single sitting, forfeiting sleep to finish it), I knew I absolutely had to have the next book. New Moon didn’t disappoint. It’s preface tells of a birthday party, hosted by the Cullens in her honor. While unwrapping one of the presents she didn’t want them to give her, she gets a paper cut.
Dazed and disoriented, I looked up from the bright red blood pulsing out of my arm—into the fevered eyes of the six suddenly ravenous vampires.
It only gets better from there.
The problem with Bella, amply demonstrated in the first book, is that she is not only accident-prone, she positively attracts danger. And the Cullens aren’t the most dangerous creatures around, far from it.
There are the werewolves, too, the natural enemy of the vampire.
Not to mention other vampires, ones who haven’t made a practice of avoiding human flesh. In short, things are heating up in Forks, and it all seems aimed at Bella, through the Cullens.
I can’t say any more, or I’ll be giving WAY too much away. I’ll just say this: “September” broke my heart.
Eclipse and Breaking Dawn
I’m blurring these two together because I read them back to back without pause: 1408 pages in less than 48 hours. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep then, either.
This is Bella and Edward at their most intense. By this time their bond in unbreakable. This is the kind of “forever” love everyone yearns for, deep, fulfilling, unadulterated.
They stand together before all threats, willing to sacrifice themselves for the other if needed… in short, this is Love with a capital L.
Can you tell I identified with Bella?
I remember being that kind of teenager: smart, but unable to fit in anywhere, romantic at heart, wishing something intense, life-changing, and interesting would come my way.
Throughout it all, there are plenty of substories, not the least of which is the chaste abstinence of the two protagonists. When Edward leans in to sniff Bella’s pulsating neck, he says:
“Just because I’m resisting the wine doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the bouquet,” he says. “You have a very floral smell, like lavender … or freesia.”
Over and over again, without even touching each other, the sexual tension is almost too much to bear. In a world where most of our entertainment seems to be overly saturated with sex (most of it gratuitous), this is simply delicious, and it kept me going at the times when I wanted to scream at Bella or Edward for being so goshdarned self-effacing, or overly self-sacrificing.
They are not perfect. Heavily flawed, in fact. Bella’s deep insecurities are as much a hindrance as her clumsiness. Edward’s certitude that he is doomed no matter what he does inclines him to take onto himself more than he deserves, a trait I find grating at any time (“what makes you think you have the right to take on my guilt as your own”, I want to ask?)
All of which is precisely what makes them so very human, keeping their story compelling.
I will read the books again some day. Maybe soon.