Monday, November 23, 2009

The things I do for you, Internet.

Ever since my office moved from a dank basement to the 11th floor of a building that overlooks the Capitol, I've enjoyed some of the creature comforts available. There's a little kitchenette thing that allows me to wash dishes I use, and a fridge in which to store stuff. But my favorite is the area that has somehow sprung up, like magic, at the end of the row of cubes where I sit. It's right by the window, and there's a comfy chair and an end table with a pile of free books.

I've found all kinds of entertaining trash in the free book pile, usually things I wouldn't bother to buy or check out of the library, but things about which I am curious. Like Eat, Pray, Love, for example: I got around to reading it because it was in the free pile. I've read a whole host of whodunit procedurals and other sorts of brain candy/trash in the last year, thanks to the free book pile. But on Friday, I went over to check out what was available, and lo and behold, I hit the motherlode. There, on the top of the pile, were the movie-tie-in cover versions of everyone's favorite sparkly emo vampire trash, Twilight and New Moon.


Internet, I never intended to read these books. I have not and would not have sought them out. I would not have borrowed them from the library or paid any amount of cash money to own them, nor would I have borrowed them from someone I know who owns them. But the siren song of the free book pile at work called to me for a reason on Friday, and I knew that I would have to take one for the team and read some sparkly emo vampire trash so that you wouldn't have to, Internet.

I find it difficult to believe that anyone out there who pays any attention to popular culture whatsoever would not know of these books. They're the biggest new thing since Harry Potter, beloved by tweens/teenage girls and middle-aged moms alike. Fans are called Twihards (or something?) and man, are there ever fans, because despite terrible reviews the movie version of New Moon, which came out this weekend, was the 3rd biggest movie opener ever. I knew there HAD to be some reason why so many people love these books, and I decided I needed to figure it out for myself.

Despite clocking in at around 500 pages, Twilight took me about 2.5 hours to read. Maybe 3. It was not the most difficult or deep material, and the plot primarily consisted of Girl Meets Boy, Girl Discovers Boy Isn't Human, Girl and Boy Pine Chastely For One Another, Fin. Which I already sort of knew, just via cultural osmosis. There wasn't anything about the writing style that drew me in. I didn't really like any of the characters very much. Bella, aforementioned Girl, is kind of a whiny melodramatic martyr-ish brat. Edward, aforementioned Sparkly Emo Vampire, is creepy and obsessive. Bella makes up her mind that she will be miserable in her new home (Forks, Washington) before she even gets there, and does everything she can to make her prediction come true. She fends off attention from friends and boys alike, then falls head-over-heels with a guy who spends the first part of their acquaintance either acting like he hates her or ignoring her completely. Later, he admits he's been stalking her to the point where he hangs out in her bedroom while she's sleeping, without her knowledge or consent. Yikes. He falls for her because she's the only person (human or otherwise) whose thoughts he can't hear; she falls for him because he's perfect and completely unattainable, sexually.

Because, yeah. They can't do it. They can barely even touch, let alone kiss. Twilight is written by someone who obviously has a large amount of experience in the "I'm so attracted to someone but we can't touch each other, we're so in love and must stay pure" area. It makes sense that Stephanie Meyer, the author, is Mormon - pious teenagers in that religion (among others; I'm sure pious Musim teens and pious Jewish Orthodox teens are the same way) don't give in to their carnal lusts. Or something. And because I assume she has a lot of experience with it, she's good at writing about it. I told Dan after I finished reading it that I could totally understand why a 12-14 year-old girl would enjoy reading a book like this. It has the perfect imaginary boyfriend: a guy who is dangerous, beautiful, and disciplined enough to look but not touch, an excellent choice for a 12-year-old who isn't ready to handle the idea of sex yet but is all about the idea of romance and love.

I'm less certain about why older women seem to like the books. Maybe because they're easy escapist fantasy, involving something marginally more interesting than Fabio's chest? Or maybe women who are too prudish to be into bodice rippers can get into what's essentially the same thing without any actual ripping bodices? I'm pretty flummoxed on this one.

New Moon was closer to 600 pages, and it took me about the same amount of time to read it. I liked it marginally better than I liked Twilight, if only because Sparkly Emo Vampire isn't in most of it (he leaves because...something something about...I dunno, it's not really explained), which makes Bella, the main character who rarely takes any action on her own, fall into a pit of despair. A few months later she pulls herself out of it, sort of, to realize that her friends don't care about her anymore and she's kind of secretly thrilled about it. Then she makes friends with another boy, with whom she seems to actually have a good relationship, until he turns into a werewolf and treats her like crap for a while. Then the vampires come back. Then SparklePire himself is going to commit suicide by Other Vampire because he thinks she's dead, even though he spent the previous six months traipsing around the world, studiously avoiding her, so she drops everything despite being begged by Wolf Dude (aka Jacob) not to go, and she flies to Italy, and saves SparklePire, and he vows he'll never leave her again.

Apparently, vampires and werewolves are Mortal Enemies so she can't be friends with Jacob and maintain a relationship with Edward. Or something. I liked New Moon better up until Stephanie Meyer decided Edward needed to be brought back into the picture. I liked Jacob until he decided that Bella couldn't be friends with her vampire friends. At least he treated her better than sparkling chiseled marble Edward ever did, and didn't hang out in her room while she was sleeping or anything. I dunno. I guess if I have to pick, I'm Team Jacob, but I don't have much intention of reading the other books (unless for some reason they show up in the free book pile at work) and honestly I can't bring myself to care that much.

So there you have it: my review of Twilight and New Moon. Now, if you've read the books and want to read the funniest review of them ever, click here.

ETA: I found another good review, and this one has visual aids!


Crafty Mama said...

Sparklepire *snicker!*

I got sucked in a bit for the Twilight series and you hit the nail on the head for why tweens and teens read this stuff.

I also love the idea of a free book pile @ work. Wish my work would do that!

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

I liked reading the series primarily because it brought back all those cozy memories of my Teenagehood and reading the very same sort of tripe. That is all, nothing more. The writing style and plot were so puerile, but again, the MEMORIES. Sigh.

Leah said...

It was all I could do to even read a REVIEW of these books. Thanks for taking one for the rest of us, Em.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

You know, I also think the whole series is a really, really, REALLY tame S&M fantasy, Mormon-style. The "controlling" man (men, really), the obsessive and almost violent nature of love, the rough s-e-x (sorry, I'm at work) --> it all points to someone who er*tically subscribes to that whole freedom-in-s*xual-subservience thing. Even Mamapop's downright hilarious "femunust" defense of it boiled down to something like "liberation in submission" or something. I don't know, I think my eyes glazed over at an attempted "femunust" defense of the Twilight series.

PS: You can't be on Team "Point and Laugh" with me unless you're actually reading the books. And please, you've gotten this must complete the cycle by at least reading Breaking Dawn. Eclipse you can skip, though the seminal dry humping scene/completely obnoxious forever-broken-former-rapee elements were ultimately too delicious for me to pass up.

Cilicious said...

Older women read the Twilight series?
That I didn't know. A lot of the young women at my work read it.
We have a free book pile, too, and the Twilights are a hot item.
I can understand the 'tweener unattainability thing--makes sense. But middle-aged women?
I'll take Henry DeTamble instead. :)