Tuesday, September 30, 2008


My book club has been reading Twilight, heaven help me. If you don't know it, you may not have a teenage girl either in your life or in your head. It's the first in a four- (possibly one day five-, which has me all excited) book saga, which I shall try to summarize herein. Okay. Here we go.

We have Bella, a high school girl recently moved from Phoenix to Forks, Washington, a town so obscure that in our seven years in Seattle, even my geography-obsessed husband never made it there. Forks has the distinction of being one of the rainiest places in the country, which is intrinsic to the plot for reasons that will become clear.

We have Edward, a high school boy of strange and compelling mien - or so we think. (Dum-dum-daaaaaahhhh....)

Cutting to the chase, he's a vampire, she's not. He and his "family" of vampires, however, call themselves "vegetarians," having chosen to live more humanely than most of their kind, slaking their thirst with the blood of animals rather than humans. Edward likens it to tofu and soy milk, and throughout the whole series we're left with no doubt that animal blood is not NEARLY so tasty or satisfying as human - which I think is really funny, since when I was a vegetarian long ago, I tried hard to convince both myself and everyone around me that vegetarian fare was just as yummy as my formerly (and again, now) omnivorous diet. Back to our story: Bella's blood, for some reason, is terribly appealing to Edward; he can barely restrain himself from killing her when he's near her.

But he falls in love with her, and she with him. Trouble, and a lot of very G-rated yet heart-pounding non-sex, ensues. Lather, rinse, repeat, for four (maybe five!) books.

This is the real deal in the line of teenage-girl romance. There's minimal physical contact, but what there is is described in terms that conjure "seventeen" pretty much flawlessly - at least, my seventeen. There's loads of talk, loads of soul-baring. There's courage on both sides, and a commitment to one another that adults would call "obsession" but that seventeen-year-olds understand perfectly is just the hallmark of "true love." It's FABulous, if you (a) are seventeen, or (b) remember seventeen with any kind of fondness.

Why I remember seventeen with fondness is beyond me. My seventeenth year spanned two horrible "true loves": the year of my long-distance relationship with the very devout Catholic boy who said he loved me, took me to the brink of all kinds of sin (but never beyond), and then said he thought he wanted to be a priest; and the turbulent beginning of the ultimately monotonous hurricane whose passing marked the end of my brief first marriage. (Ultimately monotomous monotonous (sorry): a hurricane is a lot of wind and rain for a long time, right? Dangerous, destructive, but ultimately monotonous. That was my six years there.) Yet I read Twilight and its sequels in the space of about nine days, and have been rereading them ever since. Why?

Because I never got older than seventeen, of course. And I never stopped looking for the fairy tale of Edward, though I didn't know his name yet: the boy, or man, who couldn't resist me but never stopped trying, because he knew that being with him could destroy me. And this is Twilight's flaw, if you want to look at it that way: Bella says, and acts as if, she's in love with Edward, but what comes through most clearly is that she's overcome by his love for her. He really does love her, though his love is a little inexplicable (the fifth book, a retelling of Twilight itself from Edward's point of view - its draft first third or so was leaked, and now the author has released that manuscript because the cat's out of the bag - attempts to right this shortcoming). But Bella? She's just this girl, you know?

Except that the author, Stephenie Meyer, really really likes her. In this book, in this series, Bella is a giant Mary Sue. (I'm not linking to anything in this post because it's kind of embarrassing that I'm writing it at all, but I recommend to any reader unfamiliar with the term the enlightening Wikipedia entry on Mary Sues.) But here's the thing: I like Mary Sues, as long as they're sympathetic. So I don't mind. Bella's falling in love with either (a) Edward or (b) Edward's love for her (did you follow that?) makes perfect sense to me, and I've thoroughly enjoyed my foray into my own past.

Next question: how do I get back to my present? Final question: Why would I? Sigh.


Gahrie said...

I'd like to go back to 17 also....

Jamie said...

I don't know if I'd go that far... Seventeen was rough. I hadn't yet begun killing my brain cells with demon rum, but my fuzzy recollections from those days certainly indicate to me that I wasn't firing on all cylinders. The hormones, yikes! It's a really good thing, I think, that we all grow up eventually... but it WAS fun to "visit" 17 again.