Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight series has been a smash hit among the tween and teen reading crowd for the past couple of years. Because I was in grad school and reading lots of . . . well . . . boring things for assignments, I wasn’t able to read any of the books until about a month ago when I read the first installment. Twilight is a contemporary love story set in the NW United States. All good fiction must have a twist. The Twilight twist? Vampires. Yep. The male lead is a vampire, along with his whole vampire family.
Working in the library world, I had heard lots about these books before I ever read them.
From Christian librarians: “I know they’re vampires, but they’re vampires with morals. It’s so refreshing to have a love story that emphasizes abstinence.” (This was said because of the main character’s reluctance to “bite” the female lead and because there was no sex in the first 3 books.)
From public school librarians: “They may not be great writing, but at least kids are reading them and they’re long and show them that they really can read long books!”
Being a mom and associate of college students, I heard lots from them too — everything ranging from how great they were to how poorly they were written. I had to read at least one so I could form my own thoughts.
My. Oh. My.
Or maybe that should be “Meyers. Oh. Meyers.” because I am seriously considering writing to the author.
I am concerned. Not so much because vampires are used in the range of characters, because authors have used magical and imaginary beings throughout the history of literature. If we are going to toss aside every book that employs dark creatures or magical elements, then we will have to quit encouraging our children to read C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. These elements have had many wonderful uses over the years.
I am concerned because the primary audience for these books is young girls. In the early part of the first book, I read Bella, the main female character, mentally go through the steps of rationalizing her potential involvement with a very dangerous man — the same rationalization that a friend of mine in high school used to justify her involvement with an abusive boyfriend. And please note that Bella “knows” that she “loves” Edward the Vampire after barely spending any time with him at all, similar to Rose and Jack on Titanic who knew they were lifelong partners after about 24 hours on a boat.
Later in the first book, Edward chooses to spend the night in Bella’s room. In Bella’s bed. No, there’s no sex, but the level of intimacy that is involved is beyond what teen relationships should include and yet these books are often used as an example of how engaging fiction can promote abstinence. I don’t think so. I’ve heard many, many conversations among Twilight fans wondering when Edward will “bite” Bella — bite being used as code for when they’ll have sex.
And that question was answered when the fourth book, Breaking Dawn, was published. I haven’t read it yet, but from conversations I’ve had with those who have, I know there are many allusions to Edward and Bella and sex. MANY. And that it’s pretty violent. He’s a vampire. What else did you expect? And somehow it’s OK because that’s his nature and he couldn’t control himself. Once again, I can hear the same words my friend used to justify her abusive boyfriend’s behavior.
I know that I think too much. I know that I connect deeply with books and sometimes see complications that other people will not see. Please understand that I am not about to advocate some ban on these books. The quickest way in the world to get anyone to read a book is to tell them not to. Like The Da Vinci Code, I think we should all read it and be able to have conversations with others who have read it. Meyers is a good storyteller and there’s enough intrigue that even though I didn’t like the content of the books and thought they were poorly written, I wanted to know what happened next. I’m planning to read all of the books, if for no other reason than to know what’s in them and not just depend on what others say.
If you have read the books and disagree with my take on them, please let me know. I would like opinions beyond those of young readers who are enraptured by the story. I would like to hear the thoughts and opinions of well-read adults. Am I overreacting? Making applications that no one else will see? I’d love to hear your side!