For those who are unaware, this post is a part of a new series that I am going to be doing on this blog that I explained here. It’s basically a “Julie and Julia” type exercise except instead of remaking recipes, I am re-reading and reviewing books from my bookshelf instead.
This is this official first post of this new series! Sure, the introductory post is one thing. But when you’re depressed, motivating yourself to fulfill goals and actually do the things you say you’re going to do is fucking hard. So honestly, I’m proud of myself for following through, even if this is the only one I do (but I don’t think it will be).
I hinted at the first book in my last post, but for those who were still confused: I started with Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.
I’m still not 100% sure how I am going to structure these posts, so hopefully this goes well.
Let’s get right into the post!
Why I started with Twilight
I’m not really sure why I wanted to start with this one, but ever since I came home from my last year of college, I have had a craving for Twilight like Edward has a craving for Bella (I just died at that simile. That’s the only time I’ll do that lol).
The explanation I have come up with relates to my nostalgia I mentioned in the first post of this series. I started reading these books right around the Twilight heyday of 2007-2008. I would read the entire series over and over and over without getting tired of it.
So reading it now brings back memories of middle school and high school. While those were far from my favorite years, I do have great memories from that time of my life.
I made my very best, lifelong friends. I was actually considered to be above-average intelligence wise. I was playing softball competitively. I could eat anything I wanted and not gain weight or feel like shit after.
My idea of a great Friday night was sitting in my friend’s house eating Gyoza and listening to TGIF.
My concerns were small and unimportant, like whether a boy liked me (he didn’t lol), if my outfit was cool (uggs and basketball shorts ftw), and whether I would dance with anyone at the all-school dance (does swaying awkwardly with my friends as we all tried to look like we were quirky and fun for dancing with each other count?).
When you think about it, coming back from college for the final time and craving my childhood memories or the innocence of simpler times is not all that out of the ordinary.
Perhaps other people would flip through a photo album or talk about old times with high school friends, but I opted for reading Twilight.
Why I Bought the Book In the First Place
Let’s get into the background of this book. We all are aware of the Twilight obsession that swept the nation. Being around 12-13 when this occurred, I was no exception in the craze.
To put my own obsession into perspective, I went to the midnight premiere of Twilight and I also got the DVD the day it came out to have a Twilight viewing party/sleepover at my house. I tried to find a picture from that night but I couldn’t, although I’m sure it was a rager.
Just to give you an idea of who we are talking about here, I’ve included a couple of pictures of me and my middle school friends (sorry to all of them for rehashing these lost images).
I basically followed the trend of the time and really enjoyed it. It was an easy read, I was ‘boy crazy’ (meaning I would constantly pick out random boys in my grade that I “like liked” and my friends and I would create nicknames like “Milky Way” and “Eggwhites” so we could talk about them in public), and it was a generally fine book.
What I Would’ve Rated It Then
Solid 8/10. Would, and did, re-read. As I said, at the time it was a generally OK book with romance and teen angst, both of which I craved. I was not informed on gender and feminist issues, and I had not really read any “good” books besides ones I had read in school.
I was mostly reading dystopian young adult novels where there’s some mysterious illness people named Kai get when they’re born before they go through “The Trials”.
This means that I was blissfully reading through an abusive relationship with a completely unrealistic storyline/love-timeline and taking it as fantastic literature that was normal and acceptable. More on this later.
What I Rate It Now
A reluctant 5/10. The reluctance is that I wish I could rate it lower knowing that it is a shitty message given to young people, but I can’t because of the memories and nostalgia attached to it.
Explaining My Rating
Abuse and Sexism
Let’s get into the reasons for the low rating.
Twilight takes us through an abused teen girl’s relationship with her abuser. Now, obviously it is not said that this is what it’s about on the inside cover, but Edward’s manipulation and verbally abusive statements make it hard to see their relationship in any other way besides an abusive one.
The constant descriptions of Edward as perfect seems to gloss over the fact that he controls Bella’s life in almost every way (“Don’t be difficult, Bella”, Edward says in response to Bella not wanting to do something he never even asked her if she wanted to do), that he is insecure, and that he is manipulative.
Emphasizing his perfection places the importance of a person on their looks, telling young people it’s ok if they’re being abused by their partner, as long as they are attractive.
There are many more well-written articles on this topic, so I won’t go into too much detail. But part of the rating reduction is because this book teaches teenagers to not only accept abuse, but to see it as romantic and how real relationships work. That is fucked up, Stephenie Meyer.
I also came across a GEM of a sexist comment right near the end of the book:
“A man and a woman have to be somewhat equal [in a relationship] […] they have to save each other equally” (473-474).
OK WHAT THE FUCK STEPHENIE. First of all, relationships aren’t about SAVING EACH OTHER THAT IS FUCKED UP AND PROMOTES ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS.
Secondly, what the fuck is this “somewhat equal” business? Like, they should just be equal??? Not somewhat equal???
Also, Bella at one point asks Jacob if he, “see[s] anything [he] likes” in reference to women. Women are not objects, Bella.
I understand that realism might not be what you get with a book about vampires. I understand science fiction and fantasy, and that is not what I’m referring to when I say this book is unrealistic.
Their relationship timeline is just complete bullshit. I’m totally unconvinced about their being in love. They basically talk twice before they declare their love and all they talk about is how he is a vampire and how she is a clumsy idiot. Their ‘love’ and relationship just escalate so quickly.
How did I ever think this timeline was normal? Perhaps it was because I was an impressionable teenager who was being taught that this manipulation and rapid infatuation was not only normal, but also desirable! Who knows!
God awful Writing
I’m obviously no George Eliot, but as a writer and a reader, I can spot bad writing when I see it. As I’ve gotten older, written more, and generally become more well-read, I have also come to realize that the writing in Twilight is just awful.
For example, Stephenie cannot seem to find other descriptive words besides “perfect” and “godlike” when it comes to Edward and his vampire squad. Yes, we get it, he’s hot. Move the fuck on Stephenie.
The dialogue is also unrealistic trash that can be summed up in the following interaction:
“”I love you,” [Bella] whispered.
“You are my life now,” [Edward] answered simply,” (314).
WHAT THE FUCK LOL. But seriously who would ever talk like that besides characters on Shonda Rhimes shows after they’ve made a large, unnecessary, metaphorical speech?
Why My Rating Isn’t Lower
Even though this book is awful for many reasons, I still love it. Besides the memories it holds, the ridiculous plot, horrible writing, and atrocious dialogue makes it fun to read. I’ve certainly read worse books and there’s still something great about reading a bad book.
To sum up my reading experience, here are most of the notes I took during this re-reading:
- This is so cringe it’s awful
- I’m still enjoying it???
- Bella is an idiot with no personality besides ‘clumsy’
- Bella thinks she is hot shit for knowing the fucking cell cycle and having already read “Hamlet” and “Wuthering Heights” she is the definition of a “I’m not like other girls” girl
- Stephenie Meyer is fucked up
- But I’m still enjoying it?? what the fuck??
- Describe Alice as a “graceful gazelle” or Edward as a “lion” one more time Stephenie I dare you
- Bella’s life revolves around Edward which is so appallingly unhealthy
- Now I want to watch the movie lol #kstew
- Bella’s decision-making skills are those of a five-year old
- This book includes the trope of the villain discussing their whole evil plan ultimately resulting in their downfall because they took too long lol
- I feel bad for laughing at the torture scene but all I can picture is the scene from the movie that was just not well done and involved weird dog noises coming from kstew
- Why would they make Edward suck out the venom?? Like Carlisle could’ve done it??
- Describe Edward as perfect one more time I swear to god
Am I Keeping This Book?
In the end, I still like this book. It is definitely a problematic fave of mine. Kind of like how I know the show Friends is homophobic, transphobic, and fatphobic, yet I still like it. I think we all have those books and shows that we both love to hate and hate to love.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. Despite the awful writing, the plot holes, and the sexism, I found myself happier when I was done reading. Perhaps I didn’t learn any life lessons or discover a new philosophy, but while I was reading it I laughed and smiled, which is a triumph considering I’m depressed and anxious almost all of the time.
This re-reading taught me that you’re allowed to have favorite things that aren’t what people consider “smart” or “intellectual.” You can have things you like that you don’t have to call your “guilty pleasure.” It’s just something that makes you happy instead of something that makes you happy and ashamed simultaneously. I actually think it is good to have those things in your life.
As someone who studied gender, sociology, and sexuality in college, it is easy to analyze everything to a point where most things are not enjoyable because of the rampant sexism and homophobia.
And obviously it’s important to call out things that are sexist/racist/awful and create new entertainment that doesn’t rely on these things for humor or plot lines.
But sometimes it’s ok to have a problematic fave. Whether it’s Twilight, or Family Guy, or The L Word, let yourself have a pleasure that isn’t a guilty pleasure. Something that you can laugh at and that brings back memories from a different time of your life.
So crucify me if you want for liking this stupid book. Sue me. But I’m sure you can all relate on some level to liking something that is just so bad it’s good (looking at everyone who still thinks Grey’s Anatomy is good after 13 fucking seasons).
All of this being said, I am going to keep this book (I probably won’t keep the rest of the series, but having Twilight lying around is something I’m not ready to give up quite yet). Even though it is problematic and ridiculous, it added (and adds) value to my life.
I know I can return to this book when I need a laugh or to escape from depression, even if it’s just for 20 minutes.
This book was important to me for a long time, and it brings back so many good memories when I read it. It’s a book I’ll likely re-read many times just like I did as a ~tween~.
All in all, I feel like this exercise is actually helping me the way I wanted it to. The reason why I started doing this series in the first place was because of my drive to live as a minimalist.
But living as a minimalist doesn’t mean having 2 shirts and no furniture. It means living with less and having items that add value to your life.
So even though I am keeping this book instead of giving it away, I’m keeping it for the legitimate reason that it adds value to my life (I just remembered that I’m talking about Twilight and died a little bit. Oh well.).
With that, I’m onto the next book. Stay tuned.