February 19th, 2009

young wizards, book

Twilight: a review by a former teenager

My old high school buddy Savil insisted that there is someone in the Twilight series who has the exact personality of a mutual friend from our freshman year. Furthermore, she said, Stephenie Meyer is genius at dialogue and characterization. Peer pressure is the sort of powerful force that gets kids to try drugs they'd never intended to, and gets Miss Lunatic to borrow a copy of Twilight from a friend who happened to have a copy lying around.

I entered the book determined to give it a fair chance. The problem with stuff that is near-globally disliked is that it's very easy to pick out flaws in anything if you're looking for them. The same problems might get a pass in something you actually like. So I decided to go in reading it on its own merits.

The first thing I noticed was the first-person narration. When the default norm in current fiction is tight third person, this is a bit of a daring choice, but it can work, and some stories and characters seem to require it. It can be exhausting to keep up sometimes, though. We are thus introduced to the world of one (Isa)Bella Swan, reluctant ex-Phoenician, and (very) teenage girl.

If you are looking for a book that does not feature the outlook and word choice of a teenage girl, do not, repeat, do not, read Twilight. End of story. This book is not just about people who happen to be teenage, it is about teenagers, in all their contradictory, shallow, and illogical glory. Since it is being told first-person, you don't get any respite from the sheer teenage when Bella happens to be not talking. You're in her head. This means that you have to see the world through her eyes, with her choice of descriptions. Bella is a heterosexual teenage girl whose hormones are starting to kick in. Hi. I remember that. I wrote a novel like that when I was fourteen. That novel has since passed through the cringeworthily embarrassing light of retrospection, and has come out the other side as unintentionally hilarious.

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Overall, Bella would be better off with a human boyfriend, but we wouldn't have a real story if she decided to give this all up as a bad job and only date humans from this point forward. If you are willing to forgive the tacked-on ending and a few writing weaknesses, as well as put up with the unrelenting onslaught of teenage, give this book a try. If you can't take the teenage, don't bother.
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