Monday, May 12, 2008

Eclipse, and Series Review

All right, I am ready...

I just read the last 200 pages of the third book in Stephenie Meyer's vampire series. I guess I just wanted to finish it already after neglecting it for a few days, and at the same time, I kind of wish the last novel were released so I could just get the whole messy business behind me. Truthfully, I'm just a little curious as to what's going to happen next. Things are FINALLY starting to happen! At last! So, for good or evil, I am ready to post my thoughts on the series as a whole. I think that would be more beneficial for me than to try to hash out a review for each book (especially since it would be much more harsh for some volumes than others). Supafans, ye be warned. You may not like what you read in this review. Feel free to leave comments, but please remember that this is just how I feel about what I read. I am sorry to all of those who expected me to effuse about the books like they do, but I just can't.

First of all, the series as a whole is somewhat unimpressive. The claims that Meyer is the "new J.K. Rowling" are just absurd to me, and surely Stephenie must feel the same. Twilight can in no way compare to the scope and the breadth and depth that a vibrant, eventful series like Harry Potter has. It may appeal to a similar demographic, but the comparison stops there. I will say, in general, that I liked all the parts without Edward. There's just something unappealing about a perfect, practically flawless character (even if just in appearance and manners). He's such a bland and uninteresting character (albeit sparkly...), clearly designed to appeal to the shallowest of female instincts. Sure, he's gorgeous (comparisons to Michelangelo's David and countless allusions to marble and granite come to mind), but so boring! The most interesting thing he did was abandon poor Bella at the start of New Moon. Perhaps I'm just too much of a male to really appreciate the development of his "character", but every time he and Bella were together, I just had to suppress a constant gagging. As for Bella, I mostly think she's a little inconsistent. I don't think she's very nice, and is pretty passive, except she occasionally is relentless in attempts at getting what she wants. She manages to maintain a group of human friends (inexplicably, considering her behavior toward them), and also somehow is able to not only grab the attention, but also engender the wrath of countless inhuman nasties (including the bigwigs at world vampire headquarters!). Maybe I'm being callous, but I just wonder--like she does, rightly--if she's even worth all the fuss! I never quite understood why Edward was so terribly in love with her in the first place, except for the seemingly all-covering answer of irresistible attraction to her scent. Anyway, I think Bella's kind of unnecessarily uncooperative and sometimes even mean. (I know everyone is sometimes, but when you're creating the heroine, you know...) Now, to the interesting part. And I know I'm not alone in this, but I think the most interesting and developed character (and basically the reason I kept reading after the first book) was Jacob Black. I think I liked the second book best just because of the lack of Bellward (Ella?) and the surplus of Jalla (Bellob?). Their relationship is much more human (obviously), much more tangible, tactile, and warm. Of course the friends-turned-lovers/love-hate relationship is more interesting to read than the unexplained-love-at-first-sight/ little-to-no-fight-for-attention romance. I like the very different characters of Edward and Jacob, but it's annoying how Bella for so long plays both harps, even admitting in the last second her love for both. I know I'm hardly the target audience, but a good book will appeal to someone of any and every demographic. What bugged me most about the first book was that nothing ever really seemed to happen. There was a lot of musing, a lot of brooding, a lot of school classes, a lot of shy and awkward glances, and eventually a lot of gooey, drippy, unrealistically romantic dialogue and unseemly bedroom canoodling. I didn't mind the end of the first novel, when something actually seemed to happen ("Quick, an emergency road trip and near-death experience in Phoenix!"). The second book, like I said, was much more bearable, due to noticeable lack of Edward and a lot of development on Jacob, but even then, a big, randomly-conceived ending ("Quick, an emergency road trip and near-death experience in Volterra!"). The third one was basically a non-stop series of he said/she said teenage angst, the torn girl, the two flawed but stunning options. I will concede that I really enjoyed the ending of the too-long third novel. The battle chapter was thrilling in a way I didn't expect (though it ended surprisingly simply...), and actually had me turning the pages, and before I knew it, 50 pages had flown by. Impressive, considering my history with the story so far, and trying to just get through the thing. I also just found the writing style to be a little confusing. I would read a paragraph or bit of dialogue three times and then just move on, giving up on the implied or explicit meaning. (Incidentally, I don't really even mind that there is the unsatisfactorily explained existence of not only vampires, but werewolves as well--that last part came as a surprise to me--but at the same time, where are the witches and the dragons?)

This doesn't even get into moral and ethical problems I have... Though the books mention the conflict of what happens to a soul after death/transformation into bloodsucking immortality, it seems to gloss over the depth and importance of these questions! Doesn't Bella, introspective and analytical as she is, ever think that there might actually be something after this? Doesn't she consider that there might be something worth living/dying to get to? It just bothers me that she is playing with her soul without seeming to consider the eternal ramifications. Also, I saw Glenn Beck absolutely gushing to Stephenie about how wonderfully moral her books are for teenagers. I suggest Brother Beck read the books before he jumps to THOSE conclusions. They are generally free of excessive profanity and drug/alcohol use, but implied sex is fairly rampant. I know Stephenie has automatically become a sort of representative of the Church (to which we both belong), so I had hoped for a little more of a... shall I say... "Young Women-friendly" novel. The third one gets especially racy. I definitely don't think my tween nieces should be reading such a thing. It's basically teeny-bopper Harlequin romance novels directed at high school girls, which I find disturbing.

Besides, this Bella girl is BARELY 18! I know we all think we know everything there is to know about love at that age, but seriously!!! She doesn't even know who she is yet and she's getting ready to throw it all out the door for a perfectly-sculpted but soulless undeadman who can read minds and run really fast. Then, there's the ever-present love triangle... Au yau.

Let it be known that I consider myself a romantic and sensitive person. I don't think it's fair to presume that I didn't love these books because I have no compassion or romance in my soul. I think it's just so-so writing taking too long to tell a relatively go-nowhere story with mostly irredeemably hopeless main characters. I guess I may have been a little glib in my review, and there may be parts that I liked more than I let on here, but overall, meh. Hardly a replacement for HP (the New York Times bumping is due to the fact that practically everyone had bought they copy of Deathly Hallows on opening weekend, of course it would get bumped eventually). I mean, it's entertaining in its own right, but as I suspected, undeserving of the insane hype and phenomenon status that it has been deemed.

Nevertheless, I am looking forward with ever-so-slightest anticipation to the movie, due this December. It should be fairly easy to translate to the big screen, considering how very little actually happens in the first book, and you never know. Sometimes the movies help to get the feeling of the book across more. The trailer displays some already mediocre acting, but... We shall see...

My, this is an epic review. I've always been a bit long-winded about these things. But I guess it fits right in with Meyer's wordy writing style.


  1. I see what you mean. The more I think about it, the more it becomes clear that this is just a girl creating every possible teenage fantasy she can think of. They are fun books on a shallow level, which is what was the draw in the first place, but as they keep going, they just sound more and more fanfic-y. Sigh. And no. There is no way Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling can be even put into the same category. That is ridiculous.

  2. By Jeff I mean Lili. This is Lili. Jeff has never read Twilight. Nor will he ever. Lili wrote that last comment.

  3. Hi Drew
    I didn't have time to read the review but just wanted to say I was here and so was Brit. Your site is cool

  4. If you didn't like Twilight, don't read The Host. I devoured the twilight series(and I still like all of them!:)) but I am having a hard time getting through The Host. It's even less believable to me... oh, and Richie agrees with you about Harry Potter. Maybe if I ever read all of them I will too. :)

  5. I'm glad that I am not the only one who likes Jacob better than Edward. I completely agree with the relationship needing to be warm and "human", like Bella and Jacobs relationship. Also, the series doesn't even come close to harry potter. In any way. Maybe romance, but ....thats all. Thanks for the review Drew!

  6. Yes, I agree. I thought it was just fun fluff as I read the first one, but as it just kept going, and as people just kept being all sorts of obsessed with them, I started to feel all those things. It should not be compared to HP. If everyone would just read them once and forget about them, they'd be a nice fun fluffy read for when you don't want to use your brain. But, well, it didn't work out that way.

  7. Oh, and my friends all want to kill me because when we talk about it, I say, "My ideal ending is that Edward dies defending Bella and she marries Jacob and has little puppies." Oh, the hatred in their eyes. I guess I just can't suspend disbelief long enough to care about their love story any more.

  8. I haven't actually read the books, and it's because of all of the things that you mentioned in your review. I can't stand mindless romance (her smell? Seriously). I can't stand Gone With the Wind for the same reason, everyone in the movie is an idiot. Thanks for reaffirming that I don't need to read them. :D

    On the topic of the movie, if there is implied sex in the book, they tend to show it in the movie, which makes me think it won't be so great.

  9. Heads up: this is Haylie Shore. Welcome home. Here goes nothing. I guess the literature teacher will be the only one defending the books. The biggest flaw I saw with your review is that you hate Edward for the exact opposite reason you hate Bella. You say Edward is too perfect, yet you find Bella not perfect enough. Would you prefer all characters to be perfect, or flawed? I suggest picking one and sticking with it. You seem to forget that Bella is a teenage girl, and coming from a family with an 18 yr. old sister, believe me it is quite obvious. Even my dad has pulled parallels between Bella and J'see. Stephenie was dead on of her depiction of a teenage girl. No, I wouldn't say that Stephenie is the most amazing writer in the world, but I'm not sure that Rowlings would fit in with Shakespeare, Jane Austen, or the other classic writers either. Lastly, as a reader of plenty of romantic fluff there is never any implied sex. Yes, there is lust and desire in the book- both of which are the nature of man which even good mormon girls experience while dating in high school. Edward and Bella do make-out, but so do plenty of mormon girls and boys. If you feel there is implied sex you need to reread the parts where Edward refuses to go there until after marriage. I could say much more, but in the end I doubt I will change your opinion and you won't change mine. We will just have to agree to disagree.

  10. I didn't mean there was implied sex, but that there was implied sexuality. Of course I'm intelligent enough to know that they don't actually do it. My problem is that she was trying to convince him to do it in a book aimed at a relatively younger audience by an LDS author. Besides, Edward mainly refuses because he's afraid of hurting her physically. Sure, he mentions her virtue, but only as an afterthought, and as a way to manipulate her out of the idea.

    My sister has a degree in literature and editing, so it's not like you have to be a literature buff to appreciate anything in literature.

    And, erm... don't forget that I grew up with FIVE SISTERS, and I remember when each and every single one of them was 18 years old. I know exactly what teenage girls act like, and I still thought Bella was an annoying character. What I didn't like about Bella wasn't that she wasn't perfect enough, just that she was unrealistically portrayed. In some ways she's a very typical teenager, but in others she's practically supernatural in her ideas and reactions. I just want the characters to be human (or at least ACT human), which is why I said I liked Jacob. He seemed more believable.

    And, even I never would dream of comparing even Rowling to Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, etc. I just think that while Rowling is perhaps below the above classic authors, Meyer is even in a lower tier. The writing is just not as good. A literature teacher should be able to tell this.

    I must say I'm surprised it took this long to get a somewhat negative response, though it is silly to try and discount my opinion on my own blog! :)

  11. welcome home drew...I often stop in on your blog and appreciate many of your points of view. though I loved these books I have to aggree with much of what you said. Especially the part about the sexuality. As a new mom I think there were several parts of the book that I wouldn't want my little bianca reading as a young teen-which is the audience the book is aimed for. thank you for your input. very insightful.

  12. First: Lili, I can't believe that after how obsessed you were with these books you are giving in so easily! We went to Phoenix for heaven's sake!
    Of course they're fluffy and romantic. Of course they're silly. It's a love story with a VAMPIRE. But that doesn't mean that they can't be appealing and lovely to read. I have to admit that I didn't love Eclipse - too angsty and achy for me - but despite my knee-jerk reaction to hype (shun!) I will continue to love and defend these books. Are they escapist? Absolutely. I first read them when I desperately needed an escape. (And I read them more than once! Gasp!) Are they full of unrealistic expectations and unhealthy relationships? Sure. Does Stephenie get carried away with her descriptions of Edward? Indeed she does. And she carried me right along with her.
    Here's some of what I love about these books. I read them when I was taking an adolescent lit course where we discussed them quite a bit, and I'm telling you, those books are magic. My fellow English majors all read and loved them (at least the girls did - I'm careful about which guys I recommend them to because I know that this is not necessarily universal.)Mothers, teenagers, college students - women from every age group love them. That's incredible to me. As a future teacher I am always looking for books that appeal to the kids I'll be teaching, and although many of the people who read this blog may have escaped or forgotten the magic, it's there, and I see girls reading- and not reading Gossip Girl. They read it and they love it and they want something else like it. And here's the thing - it's right there. In the books she references Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights. So what if girls read those books only because Bella did? At least some of them will read them. It's like a gateway drug. :)
    I don't expect you to effuse about the books. I don't think that your dislike of them indicates a lack of sensitivity. It may reflect a lack of understanding about what it feels like to BE a teenage girl (not to live with one. BE one), because I'm telling you, I recommended this book to a LOT of women, and about 95% of them had no problem stepping right into Bella's head. She's annoying and silly, but she reminded me of myself at that age,and I was not a particularly silly teenager. Sadly, she sometimes reminds me of myself NOW.
    And I agree that Jacob Black is a more real character, and that the relationship with Jacob is more healthy. If I was choosing for me, I'd pick Jacob. But I want Bella to pick Edward. And I don't care if that's irrational and shows my shallowest of female instincts.
    Also, just for the record - you say "a good book will appeal to someone of any and every demographic." Sure it will. That doesn't mean everyone will like it. Lots of guys hate Pride and Prejudice. I'm not putting them on the same plain, but hey, you can't argue that it's a good book and not many fathers of 5 love it. I didn't care for Catcher in the Rye, but I can appreciate why so many people do.
    Lastly, I actually have to disagree with whoever said something about The Host - I think it would be more appealing to you than these, although it was less appealing to some women I talked to. There's less romance but I thought more depth - questions about goodness and humanity. I'm not saying it's a classic or a masterpiece, but I liked it and it even made me think a little (plus it was a nice release between reading In Cold Blood and Don Quixote.)
    Good thoughts Drew - just had to defend my love of these books - and throw another literature teacher's opinion into the pot.

  13. haha. That was really long and I sound obsessed. I'm not, but I don't care if you think I am. Now that I've destroyed all of my literary credibility... signing off.

  14. Thanks for your thoughts, Megan, I actually understand your point of view quite well. I still feel mostly the way I do, but I think I'm beginning to understand the appeal to the masses a little more, especially since I know you are quite educated and somewhat discriminating when it comes to literature and art in general.

  15. Lili, you silly pants. How quickly you dropped poor Edward, and after all you went through together!

    Well Drew, where you and I differ the most is that you seem to hate the books for exactly the reason I love them, and that is this: when I read them I was thrilled to FINALLY see an LDS writer who is capable of writing good literature that isn't Jack Weyland. Sure, I can see why parents would be concerned for the 13-year-olds reading the books, but all they need to do is talk to their children; and as far as adolescent lit goes, these books treat the subject very well. I don't know how much adolescent lit you've read (besides Harry Potter), but it is FULL OF SEX, and you know why? Because that's what teenagers think about. If books aimed at them didn't address it, they wouldn't be writing for their demographic. But the thing I loved about the first two books is that Edward spent every night in her room and it was made very clear that they DIDN'T do anything. That's pretty impressive for an 18-year-old and a guy who hasn't had sex in over a hundred years, and that's what stuck out to me.

    The thing is, even though the series dwells so much in the supernatural, Bella is actually a very realistic character. She is annoying because 18 year old girls are annoying, and she thinks and acts just like a real one would. Like Megan said, she reminds us of us. As far as why Edward loves her, can you really expect that there be logical explanations? You don't love someone for REASONS, and that is why ugly people get married and sometimes people don't work out even though they're "perfect" for each other. Bella's imperfections and inconsistencies are the reason that she's a good character. Real girls are inconsistent. Real girls sometimes treat their friends like crap for a boy. Real girls wonder if they're worth it, and that's why they enjoy reading a character who also does.

    Of course we know the books are silly and romantic, but that doesn't automatically make them literary mud, and it doesn't change their appeal. Sometimes it's good to put down Ivanhoe and read a silly romance.

    As far as good books appealing to all demographics--well, unfortunately that is simply not true, and it is in fact a very unrealistic expectation for anyone. There are lots of people in all demographics who hate Shakespeare. How many men love Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf? How many Mormons like Toni Morrison or Ken Kesey? Do atheists and agnostics like the Narnia books? Some demographics are inclined toward or against some kinds of writing, but that isn't a guideline by which to decide a book's inherent literary merit--just its merit for THAT demographic.

    Anyway, I don't expect to change anything by having written this--I just thought it might help you to understand why so many seemingly intelligent people have been taken in by such badly written nonsense.

  16. Drew- I'm sorry if I sounded like I was attacking you. I forget as an English teacher how powerful I can make my words. Anyway, the other girls were able to say a lot of what I wanted to say. My biggest reason as an English teacher for liking these books is not because I like them personally, but because they are the type of books that gets my reluctant readers reading. The classics won't do it, but these books will get the hardest, most reluctant teenagers reading. And like, I think it was Meg, said it just might lead them to reading more books. That is my number one goal as a teacher, create lifelong readers. Drew, I wasn't saying that you have never had teenage sisters, but they've grown up and I guarantee you don't remember the half of the drama created by them. I don't remember all of the drama that Whitney created. I have actually had boy students read the book because they wanted to know how girls think, and I think that Stephenie does a great job portraying that. I'm still a little confused about your claim about Bella having supernatural ideas and actions? Can you give me an example? I'm just not sure what you mean by that. I am actually enjoying this conversation and hope that I don't offend anyone. I will try to evaluate my words to make sure they don't come off harsh sounding. Well, if all else fails I got some of the supporters to speak up.

  17. Very interesting thoughts, one and all! This is more what I was expecting a week ago when I posted this!

    Miri, I see what you mean about demographics... I must concede that you make a fine point, certain books are definitely written to certain audiences. I think maybe I just meant that the BEST books can overcome being aimed at just one age group or gender. I think that's one of the reasons Harry Potter is so good.

    And Haylie, what I meant by Bella having supernatural tendencies and actions was her completely blase reaction to vampires and werewolves literally at her every turn. I mean... I think a normal person would find the fact that the cute boy next to her in biology is actually a vampire to be at least ever-so-slightly disconcerting. Bella has never really seemed to mind that her man is an undead bloodsucker (pardon the term, but you know what I mean). I know she had a minor crisis about considering the actual existence of such creatures, but it never really bothered her that there are actually vampires around her. In fact, she is all but bribing them to make her one of them! I guess I just didn't find the thought processes behind this to be very well-expressed.

    Anyway, like I said, I fully expected the fans to come to Edward's defense, so I'm not upset. I'm just glad that I'm able to put something out there that doesn't say the same thing as every other review, and also find it gratifying and satisfying that a lot of people are finding this a refreshing change of scene as far as Twilight reviews go.

    And I appreciated the humorous links to another blog about Edward and the spell he has cast over women around the world that Megan sent me. Ask her about it, it was fun.

  18. Makes more sense Drew. Thanks for clearing that up. The only response I have for it is that you would be surprised by the number of teenagers that probably wouldn't bat an eye at the existence of werewolves, and vampires. So Bella's reaction to the existence of such fanciful creatures isn't so far fetched. I have numerous students that probably just have a brief moment of shock, and then just accept it. Finally, there are people out there that would equate believing in vampires to believing in God. They can't fathom how we believe in the existence of someone so fantastic. Yet we do believe with less visual evidence than Bella has about Vampires, and at even younger ages. Hopefully that analogy makes sense.

  19. (This is Todd's sister Missy.) Amen to your entire review. I had a good friend recommend the book so I didn't post my own review of the first book on my blog. I didn't want to make her feel bad. The truth is that it was an intense read and I finished in one day. Afterwards, I thought the love story seemed really dumb and infatuated. It also didn't feel like I had improved upon my existence by reading such fluff. I agree with your points and feel dread with reading the second book. My friend says I have to because it is much better. I am skeptical.

  20. I just want to tell you that I totally and completely agree with every single thing that you said about the Twilight series. Everything. I couldn't have said it better myself. The only thing that I wasn't aware of, was the thing with Glenn Beck. I didn't know that he had promoted her books as moral for youth. I was really disappointed, because I really like Glenn Beck. So, as a result, I created my own blog, and posted something. See what you think.