Aug 15, 2008

Breaking Dawn: the Good, the Bad, and the Downright Funny

I just finished breaking dawn. I wasn't planning on checking it out or buying it anytime soon, or anything; I lucked out. I was over at my friend's house, and she asked me if I had read it yet, I said no, and she rushed and got her copy to loan me. I couldn't very well turn down such a generous offer, now could I? And I must admit I was curious to see how the whole thing would turn out. You know, if Stephenie Meyer would go ahead and Turn Bella.

I'm not going to give it away. (Ok, yes I am, but only out of necessity of this review. So if you haven't finished it, go finish it before you read the rest of this post.)

My opinion of the Twilight series is a somewhat conflicted one. I wouldn't even bother with it; it's not really my type of novel, except the author is LDS, and I admit I've always had a penchant for vampire stories. Anyway, my conflicted feelings about this novel are strangely strong. Here they are. I'm following Dave's method of review... I find it makes things more clear in my head. So here's the good, the bad and the downright funny, of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series.


Fun premise.

1) She creates a unique and interesting supernatural world, with history, social norms and customs, cultures of various groups and lifestyle choices. Somehow, despite the sheer outlandishness of it all, she makes it believable.

2) The danger inherent in each plot is delicious. I gobble it up. I tend to be uncommitted to these novels, a little bored, until the suspense starts and then I can't put them down until I finish. I consider that a sign of good writing (the not putting it down thing, not the bored thing.)

3) With her sensuality, she doesn't do the Mormon-author thing: hint, or awkwardly write around it, without ever fully going to bat. IMO, it's better to just come out and describe something you're trying to describe, otherwise you render it more, let's see, what's the word...

see what I mean? It becomes kind of GROSS when you talk around it or blushingly hint at it. She doesn't do that, for better or worse.

OK, now the bad.

Edward, Bella, the misogynistic overtones, The "helpless love" phenomenon, pandering, and some improbable shifts.

1) The obvious problem is that Edward is too perfect. The author tried to give him a weakness (Bella) but it is quite obvious that in the mind of any reader, Edward being vulnerable to Bella is far from a bad thing. In my own personal opinion, the thing to dislike (loathe, really) about Edward his self-flagellation, meaning, he is always mooning over how bad he is for Bella and how he needs to stay out of her life but he just can't , he needs her. Also his self-righteousness. He's always teasingly teaching her stuff or correcting her clumsy mistakes or simply tossing her over his shoulder and taking her places she does not want to go... which leads me to my next point.

2) Bella is insipid and weak in this story. I am sorry. There is nothing to like about her! The only point of sympathy for me is the fact that she's so pushed around by everyone, but my sympathy fades fast as she seems to actually like being shoved out of harm's way, spied on every night by her protective boyfriend (see a possible scary real-life parallel, girls?),teased about her driving skills, outshone in her chemistry class, and be treated all the time as if everyone else knows better what is good for her. (Though I admit, on this last point she fights back from time to time... thank goodness, or I don't think I could finish any of these stories.) The frustrating thing for me is, Jake's character is empowering, rather than demeaning to Bella as Edward's is. Jake teaches Bella how to ride a Motorcycle, at Bella's request. Bella's relationship with him is much more on even footing. I feel like Bella is shadowed, under some cloud, in all her scenes with Edward, and standing in the sun with the light on her face in the scenes with Jake. She shoulda ended up with Jake, in my humble opinion. It would have brought about a much better message.

3) The helpless love! Holy cow. These books are riddled with examples of "love-at-first-sight," head over heels, relentless passion, not a moment of real annoyance or anger (I mean, she makes a half-hearted attempt in the whole Bella-wants-sex-Edward-Doesn't think, but it never really comes to hard feelings.) The vampires find their "one and only" mate, and in Edward's case it's Bella: she intoxicates him with her beautiful scent (pheromones are going to determine my eternal happiness?) and he can barely restrain himself from ripping her throat open and drinking all her blood (see another disturbing parallel, girls?) And then there's the werewolves and imprinting. They can't help it... it just happens. No freedom of choice.

Love is not like that. I find it disturbing that young girls are reading this series and perhaps forming some unrealistic (and damaging) expectations.

4) Pandering:
These books are romances. Remember my post a while back, on the difference between chick-lit and a harlequin?

this book is a well-written harlequin, in my opinion. I mean, Mrs. Meyers never gets to the point where she's describing in detail enough that I have to put it down, but she dwells on the physical, on the sexual, on the sensual. In just the way a woman would appreciate: a relationship with the "perfect" man, who is overprotective, good looking beyond belief, and unfailingly emotionally intimate. Those scenes in Bella's bedroom where Edward just lies there and holds her softly? Holy cow. Watch out, husbands. Your wives might just develop an appetite for that sort of thing... oh wait. It's already the product of every normal woman's deepest fantasies. Tremblingly intense sexual tension, tenderness, emotional commitment, but none of the man's side of it... the automatic reactions, the desires that, once aroused, are hard to slow down, hard to deny. All you husbands also know what I am talking about. This book gives women exactly what they want... and it paints an unrealistic (possibly also damaging) picture of possibilities for a young woman as well. IN reality, things are a lot messier than that. You can have it, but it takes looooots of practice, lots of familiarity, and dang it all don't ever let any male in bed with you, girls, until you are thoroughly married! Thank you.

5) improbable shifts (plot spoiler warning). This whole series describes in detail how Bella should not become a vampire because she'll have to leave family and friends, for a long time at least, because of the nature of newborn vampires (uncontrollably thirsty, driven only to drink human blood) and the very real need for secrecy, to protect those who aren't vampires from the volturi (who will kill anyone who is not a vampire to keep the vampire secret). Bella turns, and isn't uncontrollably thirsty. She can still associate with Charlie by slyly hinting and he naturally just doesn't "want to know". Improbable. Also, Edward did NOT want Bella to become a vampire, he said all along he'd miss her scent, her human fragility, her warm skin... she turns, and it appears he is more passionate about her than ever before. He doesn't bat an eyelash. It appears he wanted her to be a vampire all along, because, according to Bella, "It's so much better" that way. What? I mean, What???

This leads me directly into my third category:

The downright funny.

Bella's honeymoon, strange plot twists, and the name that rhymes with sesame.

1) OK. I'll try to get through this. SO the honeymoon was unlike all of Mrs. Meyers previous "Sex" scenes in that it is suddenly removed from the moment. We don't read about Bella and Edward having sex. I guess this is a good thing, but it's also jarring for me... it becomes much more harlequin-y when curtains start to be drawn over scenes and we read about Bella "blushing" all the time rather than reading about what really happens. But that's OK. No, no... please, Stephenie. I'm OK with it... don't go into anymore detail.

2) So, Edward is so out of control on the honeymoon he chews through some pillows and scratches up a wooden headboard. Ha! Hahahaha!! Sorry. It's so disturbing, I should not be laughing. And the fact that Bella has bruises all over her body the next morning, too (OK, girls... another VERY disturbing parallel.) But dang it... it's just so funny, when you read it, and think about it... I'm sorry.

3) So Bella gets pregnant that first night, and because her baby is a half-vampire she is has the baby in her for only about a month before it is delivered... this seems all-to convenient for the author for me. But OK. But it's such a strange part of the book... Bella suddenly starts wasting away, Edward is angry, angry, angry at her because she wants to keep the baby (another disturbing paralell) bella almost dies and then wait! She has to drink blood, and then everything is all better again... except Bella dies when the baby is born and has to be turned into a vampire. Wha??? And then Bella is suddenly a vampire and the whole world is glorious and all we read about is her stunning new speed and grace and beauty and her and Edward's undying passion for a hundred pages. It completely throws one for a loop, mentally.

4) She names her baby Renesseme. usually with unusual names I can get it through my head and be OK with it... never, in this case. I have just one thing for Mrs. Meyers: you realize that you have created the ultimate in "Utah" baby names? How do you think this looks to the rest of the world (said with a wry chuckle?)

Well, in the end I guess I'm not saying don't read the book. There are those few good things about it. Ultimately, i guess I"m saying don't take the book too seriously. Please. For fun, it's no harm. But make sure that you can make fun of it, too. Because if a person were to really take all that this book teaches, all it contains to heart, I would be seriously worried. So I'm hoping that anyone who reads it just does it for entertainment, and can possibly laugh with me too.


Janell said...

Thanks for your review! :)

Putz said...

it was almost like reading all the books all over again, what a treat...although everyone and i mean everyone i talk to about this book is sure thaat edward is a righteous dude, in fact righteous enough to get sealed in the temple for time and all eternity, after a good talk with his bishop to clear up a few minor points like his weaknesses, but the bishop will clear him for the temple because of all huis strenghts, and most i have talked to would be lucky to end up with him for eternity

Firebyrd said...

Go Team Jacob! I really don't get the Edward obsession most people have. He and Bella are a major case of being unequally yoked in my opinion. I would hate to be with someone that was better at me at /everything/ and always would be because of 100 more years of experience and sleepless night studying. I would always feel inadequate, vampire or no. Plus Edward is so boring. Jake is fun and seems like an actual, real person.

I think the name was actually a subtle mockery of Utah names. With the way the other characters reacted to it, it's clear she knew it was way out there. This is my hope, at least, because while I think the books are just silly fun girly porn (you described why I call them that extremely well), I really, really hate made-up names and I think my enjoyment would go way down if I thought SM was taking that awful name seriously.

the nice one said...

thanks nsg for your review! i found the books enjoyable but there were a few things i wasn't okay with for example the cuddling all night long! yeah not okay! but over all i found them enjoyable the funniest thing for me is the people who get so caught up in it all!! again thanks for your review! it was fantastic

Laurie said...

Thanks for the great review. I know so many married women who are in love with Edward and I find it very strange. I had to stop reading halfway through the third book because it was driving me crazy. I am not a big fan, but a lot of people love these books. Someone recently told me they were better than the Harry Potter series- that's a pretty wild assertion if you ask me.

Putz said...

so your mom reminds me of bella, and your grand dad perfectionist who wants to help your mom with her did i get involved with all this????

Putz said...

tell your maom to go to her silly blog, practice blog....she has forgotten about it

Anonymous said...

Interesting review- I really agreed with a lot of your points. Especially what I like to call the "convenience factor." Like you, I was also pretty disgusted by the way every insurmountable problem just went away... to the very last page. No sacrifices were made. Maybe SM felt the weight of her overwhelming fan base too much or something? Maybe it's just an "end of the series," "gotta wrap everything up" thing? I found myself frustrated with HP 7 for the same reason.
Anyway- nice comments about all the danger to teen girls as well. Great review.

Allison said...

It's probably too late for Putz to know that my dad (if he could ever be persuaded to read something like Bella and Edward) would indeed think I am like Bella. He also thinks I am like the pre-transformed (klutzy) Princess Mia in The Princess Diaries. I should be glad that there's someone out there who thinks I'm cute and awkward, even when I'm a gnarly old grandma.

Nate and Rebecca said...

Interesting review. I haven't read the books myself and can't say they have ever sounded remotely interesting to me. Your review mostly makes me all the more glad I haven't read them...I am really not into chick-flicks, chick-lit, or that sort of stuff for the most part anyway. But based on what I have read and heard about this series, your review sounds pretty accurate. I can't believe how caught up some people seem to be in these books.