Twilight Book Review

I folded the letter carefully, and sealed it in the envelope. Eventually he would find it. I only hoped he would understand, and listen to me just this once. And then I carefully sealed away my heart.

-Bella

*Warning: The following review contains super-mega spoilers for the first Twilight novel. Failure to heed this warning will result in me sicking Jasper upon you.

I knew going into this review that this would be a hard book to rate. Part of the reason involves the subject manner. Romance novels aren’t exactly my forte I’ll admit, but being an English Major has forced me to read stories that have forced me to develop an open mind about plots that would drive most people
insane. The other reason is that Twilight is the introductory novel of a major series. As with other major series the first book mainly serves the purpose of introducing the major players, and then throwing in a conflict at the end just to keep things interesting. Twilight is no exception to this rule. Still, it is possible to have a first book in a series be unbelievably epic, so does Twilight fit this bill?

I promised myself I would be completely honest in this review, so I have to admit that in beginning the novel, the answer was a resounding no. The beginning chapters weren’t necessarily bad per-say; they just lacked the all-star quality that I would think makes the book so popular. However, in progressing through the chapters I realized that Bella’s otherwise normal teenage anxiety and accounts of high school drama were done for good reason. Yes, most of the characters that appear are pretty uneventful and static, yet they all serve the main purpose of helping connect Bella to that strange and mysterious Edward Cullen. Whenever one of the guys fails at asking her to the dance, Edward is right there to provide a moment of connection. When Bella nearly gets turned into a car sandwich Edward is there. Although I don’t necessarily agree with Meyer’s strategy, I can respect her use of throwaway characters as a plot device. After all, some people are horrible with character management, and the results can be disasterous.

Speaking of Edward, Meyer does a fantastic job of introducing his character. Edward and his mysterious family sitting alone at the lunch table provide a sharp contrast to the otherwise normal high school kids. Even if you somehow have no clue that Edward is one of the main characters and a vampire going in, you can tell that he stands out in a crowd. While his behavior around Bella might seem a little unusual by normal standards, I wasn’t expecting some of the twists that Meyer ended up pulling with his character. Sure his character disappears a lot because he needs to feed, but nearly attacking Bella over her scent? Like a good mystery novel, Twilight really deserves a second reading to catch all of the subtle details.

Edward aside, one of the few things I appreciated about the early parts of the book was Meyer’s ability to have fun with Bella and her circus of throwaway characters. From the start of the novel in which Bella describes the cloudy and sunless town of Forks, up until the point when the vampire secret is revealed, Meyer constantly throws in subtle vampire references. While saying things like “stabbed with a pencil” might be seen as foreshadowing, they end up having the purpose of providing fun comedy relief in an otherwise dramatic story. I had a lot of fun counting the vampire references in the early parts of the story.

My initial hesitation towards the book immediately started to change around the time Edward revealed his true identity to Bella. It felt to me that Meyer was able to remove a great weight off her shoulders, and move on to the actual meat and potatoes of the novel. Such details become visible when Edward introduces Bella to his family. Meyer clearly has big plans for the Cullen’s, even if you don’t know what all of them are right now. Carlisle in particular quickly became a favorite of mine. Not only does he have the coolest name ever, I found his character back story to be rather awesome. I’ve started the second book, and suffice to say I was pleased to see more love for Carlisle’s back story. Although not a member of the family, I ended the novel wondering a lot about Jacob as well. I’ve been told that he plays a major role in the second novel, so all is well.

While I dragged my feet through the first parts of the story, it really began to pull a 180 once vampires came into the picture. Gone are the boring high school kids, now we have vampires and unique abilities based on their personality. Of course, the Edward x Bella romance began souring here, and it was at this point that I realized why Twilight is so incredibly popular (and hated) among the female gender. Personally, I thought the romantic scenes at the forest and in Bella’s room were cute and well-written. On the other hand, I haven’t read many romance novels written after the 1800’s so parts of it might have been a bit cliché. Some of the dialogue (Edward’s in particular) was rather corny, but I thrive on silly, so it was all well and good.

Romance novel or not, I knew that a storyline this complex would have to have some kind of action or drama before the end. We are dealing with vampires after all. Well, suffice to say that the action and suspense eventually did hit, and when it did, it occurred in a completely surprising and unexpected way. It occurs to me that it is a bit difficult to explain. I mean, you have a friendly game of vampire baseball turning into a friendly game of baseball between two vampire groups turning into a dramatic chase across the western half of the United States…which don’t get me wrong is quite *awesome*.

While the middle part of the book was quite good, the ending ended up being fantastic, even if it only lasted for about 100 pages or so, the sudden goodbye to Charlie, Bella running for her life and subsequent charge into death at the hands of James was perfect. When I throw in a quote for a review, I tend to pick one that captures one of the most powerful moments of the novel. Bella’s suicid-err goodbye note to Edward followed by the line “And then I carefully sealed away my heart.” …call me a romantic floozy if you must, but I really liked that line. Everything about the hunt was perfect. Bella thinking fast to escape Mary Sue vampires, the resulting double-cross of James’ not actually having Bella’s mom (which I admit I didn’t see coming, but it makes sense in more ways than one) and the self-fulfilling prophecy that the preface alludes to as Bella is about to die, it was brilliant.

And then, everything fell apart.

Okay, so I understand that the novel takes place entirely from Bella’s point of view. As a result, we are naturally going to be robbed of what could only be described as an epic save of Edward beating the tar out of James if Bella is unconscious. But I honestly I feel kind of robbed that we, the reader, got to miss out on it. Sure I’m a guy that loves a token action scene, but I really felt like Meyer cheated in the ending. James, badass manipulating hunter, is suddenly tossed on a bus that promptly explodes, and the reader is left with a rather boring medical scene. Okay, so I’m being a little harsh here. Edward did get faced with a tough decision that he fortunately managed to be rescued from making, and the resulting scene provides an important plot point in the story to come (based on what I’ve read of the second book so far anyway). I just really disliked the way Meyer dealt with James’ demise. You know deep down that Bella was probably not going to die (at least, not at the end of the first book) and that someone would rescue her, but as far as I’m concerned Meyer utilized some extremely poor execution here. Here’s to hoping the movie gives me an epic vampire battle. 🙂

So what did I think of the book? Overall, I admit I liked it. Yes, there was more than one part I really disliked, but overall the good outweighed the bad. The first book in the series tends to be one that mainly serves to establish characters, with the action picking up fast from there. Meyer has proven in the last half of Twilight that she can develop a solid story once she puts introduction out of the way, so I can only hope that the fun manages to continue. While I’ve been warned that the second book has a lot to be desired, I’ve also been told that it is Jacob heavy, so I think I can see patterns from the first book re-emerging with more exposition coming forth. And who knows? By the third and fourth book Meyer might actually treat the reader to an action sequence. 😉

With the review done, I now throw in some random theories and predictions about what might happen in the books to come. No clue if any of them are correct, but I like to try.

*Isn’t it strange that Bella can smell blood? On that note, how come Edward can’t sense her thoughts? I originally thought that Bella was a half-vampire (from her mother), but dismissed that notion pretty quickly. I think the Cullen’s would have figured that out pretty quickly if that was the case. Still…

*Vampires seem to have a tendency of bringing in a powerful quality from their human self. I have no clue if Bella ends up becoming a vampire or not by the end of the series, but I fear her clumsy nature will end up being the dominant vampire gene. 🙂

*There’s something special about Bella’s mother. No clue what, but Meyer has given subtle hints that at least one of Bella’s parents has something unusual going on, and I’m saying it’s the mother. Bella: “I got X trait from Y parent.”

*Jasper will die by the end of the series, and it will involve a self-sacrifice in rescuing Bella from someone or something. Perhaps rescuing her from himself, after reading the first few chapters of book 2.

*Bella will either convince Rosalie to like her, or Rosalie will end up joining the major villain, and probably die.

*Speaking of which, there has been a decisive lack of a major villain from what I can tell. Though early mention of the Volturi in New Moon might cause that to change quickly.

*Although handled poorly, James death will have repercussions that involve someone close to him. Probably Victoria (she is still alive I think?), and if that’s the case she will probably become a future villain, if not the major one.

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