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.