Twilight

The Twilight series can be considered the cause of the current popularity of the young adult paranormal books, and so was a shoe-in for inclusion in my paranormal genre study. It has also received several awards and honors: YALSA Teen Read Week Teen’s Top Ten List 2006, New York times Editor’s Choice, Amazon “Best Book of the Decade…so Far,” Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and ALA Ultimate YA Bookshelf (Back Cover and Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/yabookshelf.cfm and http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/teenreading/teenstopten/06ttt.cfm).

Series Title: The Twilight Saga
Author: Stephanie Meyer
ISBN-10: 0316160172 ISBN-13: 9780316160179
City and Publisher: New York: Little, Brown & Co
Copyright Date: 2005
Author’s Website: http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/index.html

Reader’s Annotation: Bella doesn’t relish being the new kid in school in the tiny town of Forks. When she sets eyes on Edward, who is incredibly good looking but mysteriously never seems to eat anything, she is inexplicably drawn to him, although he treats her with alternating contempt and kindness.

Plot Summary: Bella voluntarily exiles herself live with her father in the tiny town of Forks, Washington. Although she is the subject of male interest as the new kid at the town’s even tinier high school, it is Edward Cullen she is drawn to. He is devastatingly handsome, standoffish, and strange. His skin is the palest of all her pale Pacific Northwestern classmates, he never seems to eat anything, and at first seems to loathe her for no reason, wrinkling his nose as if she stinks. After he demonstrates seemingly inhuman strength and speed while saving her from a potentially fatal accident, she begins to learn the truth about what Edward really is and falls deeply and consumingly in love with him.

Critical Evaluation: Twilight unfolds slowly. Bella is an isolated character; although her friends and family love her, she grows increasingly removed from their concerns. Written from Bella’s point of view, the book focuses obsessively on Edward, providing detailed descriptions of his beauty and his struggle to follow his moral code. But it is because of this obsessiveness and alienation that the book becomes such a page turner. Bella’s feelings are extremely evocative of the overwhelming nature of adolescent emotions. Both her obsession with Edward and Edward’s struggle with his bloodlust create a powerful echo which can send adults back to their teenage years and strike a chord with teenagers’ current existence.

Reading Level/Interest: Age 12 and up
Curriculum Ties: Twilight is an excellent just for fun book. Its widespread popularity also suggests it might be a good choice for reluctant readers or teens who need a little more practice on their skills.
Booktalking Ideas: Read two excerpts: from page 22 “That’s Edward” to “good-looking enough for him” and from page 23 “Just as I passed he went rigid in his seat” to “his eyes were black-coal black.” Then tell them that Bella uncovers a secret about Edward which changes everyone’s feelings.

Genre: Paranormal
Beasties and Supernatural Elements: Vampires
Influences from Other Genres: Romance, Horror, Suspense

Challenge Issues: Bella’s obsession with Edward, her perception of herself as unworthy, and Edward’s controlling manner have been the cause of concern for feminists and parents. Do these story elements teach girls an unhealthy lesson about what to expect from a relationship? Will Twilight send girls into the arms of controlling or even abusive men?
The romance between Edward and Bella is a large part of what makes Twilight so appealing. Bella’s feelings of obsession and self-doubt are the hallmarks of a first love. A first love is the most overwhelming, and in its throes it is difficult to find (and address) a partner’s flaws. First love is not a paradigm for a grown up relationship; it is a step towards finding and accepting that there will be human flaws on both sides. What is unusual in this case is that Edward is not human. Edward believes, and wants Bella to believe, that he is a monster. Bella makes a choice to love Edward no matter what the consequences. She is afraid of him on a few occasions, but her greatest fears are for Edward, and for the possibility he might leave. Twilight does not provide the formula for a healthy real life relationship but it does, both literally and metaphorically, describe the feelings of first falling in love. Reading Twilight provides an opportunity to experience and discuss these strong feelings, as well as the opportunity to discuss and question what a relationship is and how partners should treat each other.

About the Author: Stephanie Meyer is one of the more well known authors in the paranormal genre. In an article published in the Wall Street Journal shortly after the release of Eclipse, the third novel in the Twilight series, she outlines some of the reasons why the series is not your typical vampire novel. Meyer has only read one vampire book, Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, and drew influences from both a dream and her background as a Mormon (Trachtenberg, 2007, Retrieved August 1st, 2009 from http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB118670290131693667-lMyQjAxMDE3ODA2OTcwMDkyWj.html).

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