Without the love of books the richest man is poor, but endowed with this treasure the poorest man is rich. –Leon Gutterman

Monday, November 10, 2008

Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn--Review

Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

***Spoilers included in this review.***

(Smashed all four books into one review, so get a cup of coffee if you want to read, ‘coz it got long.)

I, of course, got off the Fall into Reading Challenge track. And once off track it is hard to hop back on board. And I am very easily distracted. But a young friend of mine wanted me to read and loaned me the first three books of Stephanie Meyer’s very popular and very controversial Twilight series. I finished her three and went out and purchased the fourth. I never do that.

Honestly some days I think I live under a rock. I was vaguely aware of these books, but they were somewhere on the periphery. But they are out there and “all the rage” with the teen crowd, and pre-teen crowd to be honest. There are reviews and websites and forums galore out there. These books are “hot.” The movie is creating quite a buzz too.

So, why bother writing a review if there are so many out there? I don’t know for sure. I know I didn’t find very many opinions like mine. I always feel like an odd consumer and it sometimes washes over into my reading. The other thought for writing a review was so that another parent might have an opinion if their teen or pre-teen is asking about this book. Anyhoo…I’ll give it a shot.

First of all, I flew through these books. The writing is not difficult; Meyer’s style is easy and smooth. Almost…hmmmm…seductive. Yes, that is the right word for these books, seductive. Maybe addictive.

Welcome to the boring town of Forks, where the weather is almost always dreary and rainy and nothing exciting ever happens. Isabella Swan leaves sunny Arizona and her mother to live with her dad in a place she really never wanted to return to. But now she’s back, going to high school, trying to fit in and finding her desk mate in Science hates her. Or seems to. Until he saves her life.

Welcome to a world where some things are not as they appear. The creatures from horror movies, vampires and werewolves live here. Only they aren’t what you’ve been led to believe they are. Well…not all of them.

Isabella, “Bella” for short is both a typical and atypical teen. She cares about how she looks, whether she will fit in, she wants to do well in high school, but she’s not a genius. She is awful when it comes to sports and is very self-conscious. She is a total klutz. At the same time she is also very mature for her age, she’s spent a good part of her life parenting her ditzy mother who has remarried. Bella comes to live with her father to give her mother some room with her new husband. There is nothing wrong with the new husband—we don’t see him much, but there are not icky factors about him.

Bella is attracted, mesmerized by the dazzlingly handsome, Edward Cullen, of the slightly odd Cullen clan. Edward at first seems to loathe her. Well…that doesn’t last long.

Guess what? Edward is a vampire. Guess what again? So is his whole family. But they are good vampires. They’ve learned they don’t need human blood to survive. They are “moral,” if you will, vampires. Most of them remember their own humanity and don’t want to kill or change humans into what they’ve become. Oh and they are rich. Stinking rich. Of course if you had forever to live and had already been around a few centuries you would manage to come up with a lot of money to have around.

And to make it a better story, Bella’s best friend, a younger teen from the nearby Native American reservation—he’s a werewolf. Yup. And so are a few of his friends. And they are the good guys too. And know for certain, if there are good guys that means there are bad guys. Very bad guys.

Bella dates Edward, in a very warped way. Bella is very lucky Edward is moral in more ways than keeping his vampire-ness away from humans. Bella is also attracted to her friend Jacob and finds herself very emotionally conflicted.

Well…now what to do with all of this? It’s a good story, very exciting, plenty of romance and teen angst. Even though it was targeted at a teen/young adult audience, this old mommy blogger was easily drawn along by the story.

But is this a book I want to share with my boys? My young friend is waiting for my verdict. I don’t think she is going to be happy with it. My youngest is waaayyyyyyy to young--that's a no brainer. And my oldest, who is really the one she's campaigning for me to allow to read these, is still too young for it. Personally, I think she might have been a bit young for it, but then again, that might just be wishful thinking. There is just a lot of mature content. There are a lot of hormones, pheromones and poor choices floating around Forks.

Is this a harmful book to read? If you want your child to focus only on very moral and upright subject matter, I’d say steer them clear of Bella and Edward. If the thought of vampires and werewolves makes you upset and goes against your conscience then by all means don’t read it. If you don't want your children to read about others who make some pretty questionable choices, this is not the book for your family. If you don't want what I feel is mature content read by your family, by all means pass it by.

If your child is easily obsessed with characters from books, movies, gets lost in fantasy vs. living in reality, these books might offer some unhealthy fodder, but no more so than any prime time television show or soap opera.

Is this a must read book? No, life will go on if you choose not to read, or let your child read this series. Oh there may be some peer pressure and some, “But everyone else is!” thrown your way. But stick to your guns!! You are the parent.

Was it a fun read? Yes it was. I almost feel guilty in saying so. It was exciting (in a soap opera way) reading material. Can your child read it and come away with a positive experience? Certainly. And I think, even more so, if a parent will read and discuss the books with their child.

Sometimes I think it is difficult and awkward to talk about all the feelings and situations teens find themselves in. Their hormones have changed quickly, maybe are still changing. They are attracted to members of the opposite s3x and popular culture offers them many possibilities to express themselves. With a book like Twilight and all of its subsequent story additions, there are numerous openings that could be discussed between parent and child.

Some points to make. These books are not religious in nature. Souls are discussed, life after death is worried about, God isn’t denounced, but no one bothers to pray and ask for guidance. (Might have been a good idea many times, though.) But these books are not Christian fiction.

So what was good about these books—from a mom’s viewpoint? If my son wants to read it in a few years, will I let him and what will we talk about? Required reading either before of after Twilight in my opinion should include Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights. Meyers draws directly from them and refers to them in the story often.

Yes, I will likely let Roo read these when he is older—think freshman year.

Questions I would want to bring up and have my child answer would include:

What happens when we are attracted to unhealthy choices? When we allow ourselves to be ruled by our emotions or hormones? Are relationships based on obsession healthy?

Can God make a good outcome even when we have chosen poorly? (Again, these are not Christian books—but I will be asking from a Christian perspective.) Just because He can, does that mean He always will?

What happens when we break good rules our parents have put in place to keep us safe? What happens when we lie or sneak around? Is omission of truth a lie or just conveniently slanting a story to reach a desired outcome? Some answers I will bring to the discussion are that these behaviors lead to the hurt of other people, guilt and depression.

Topics in the series include: self-sacrifice, putting other’s needs ahead of ours to make them happy, possibly keeping them healthy. Family ties are important in this story. Families are made up of traditional families and extended or friendship based families with a clear “father figure” and “mother figure” Although sometimes families are split apart by death or divorce. Waiting for marital intimacy until after marriage and fidelity are dealt with.

In the fourth book there is a baby. Oh yes…and one thing I was pleased about was that Bella fights for the life of her child, although it might be more “prudent” for her health and from a worldly belief to terminate her pregnancy. Remember she and Edward are married at this point. So you aren’t dealing with a child out of wedlock, but still mature content.

What did I dislike or would I not like that my child would be reading? The mature content—while not a b0dice ripper, it is certainly steamy. Edward and Bella “sleep together,” even if they don’t “sleep together” in the first three books. And when they do get married they sleep together as married people are wont to do. I’m not a prude, but I approached this book as a parent first, so what might be fine for me…not ready to share that with my children.

The contrasting series that came to mind were Anne Rice’s vampire books, which I read eons ago. Twilight and its successors were certainly not full of evil or as brutal as Rice’s stories. Those works were adult only content. Rice’s work was much more intricate, studied, darker and deeper. Meyer’s work is “vampire lite.”

I also related them to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Both controversial in subject matter and both acquired massive followings. I thought the Harry Potter books were much more complex and researched. HP was definitely the object of much obsessing by many children, but I think the characters were definitely characters children could understand. Twilight is definitely teen and above material.

I’ve seen trailers for the movie. I’ve chosen not to go to the theaters and see it. Really, what I saw did not fit my image of the characters and I was not impressed with the special effects. I may cave and get the DVD when it comes out.

Meyers has decided to release the fifth book in the future. I think I’m going to pass on reading that. It is the same story from a different view point. I’m not sure I want to invest more time into the series. As always I reserve the right to change my mind for no reason other than. I want to.

Whew! That was long! So to sum it all up--Vampire romance, not bad, pretty good, in fact. While the outcome is somewhat “happily ever after” and expected there are many surprising twists and unexpected turns—enough to keep me turning pages. Not child appropriate. At my house someone would have to be at least 15 to read with adult discussion following.

2 comments:

Lpellet said...

My 15 year old daughter wanted to read Twilight, and after reading the back, I decided that I would read it first. I read all 4 books hoping to find some redeeming quality, but decided not to let her read them. I think she can make better use of her time reading something to teach her to set her standards high. To not give up everything and deceive her parents for a boyfriend, even if he is a good vampire. Our children are only in our home for a few years, and we need to do everything we can to make them feel confident and to set high standards for their mate. The world is doing everything they can to tear them down. Unfortunately parents are not staying on top of these things. If everyone else is reading it, it must be ok. I know 7th grade girls who cannot wait to get the next book.........if only their mothers really knew the influence a book can make!

Joyful Days said...

Lpellet, thanks for your comment and stopping by. Good for you for pre-reading, it certainly is hard to keep up with children who are voracious readers.

As I said, "you are the parent." It is definitely every parent's perogative and duty to make the best decisions for their family. Part of why I did this post was that another parent might be looking for someone who had read the book.

"Is this a harmful book to read? If you want your child to focus only on very moral and upright subject matter, I’d say steer them clear of Bella and Edward. If the thought of vampires and werewolves makes you upset and goes against your conscience then by all means don’t read it. If you don't want your children to read about others who make some pretty questionable choices, this is not the book for your family. If you don't want what I feel is mature content read by your family, by all means pass it by.

If your child is easily obsessed with characters from books, movies, gets lost in fantasy vs. living in reality, these books might offer some unhealthy fodder, but no more so than any prime time television show or soap opera.

Is this a must read book? No, life will go on if you choose not to read, or let your child read this series. Oh there may be some peer pressure and some, “But everyone else is!” thrown your way. But stick to your guns!! You are the parent."


I certainly won't judge someone for choosing not to read it, I can certainly see why it won't fit into some families' view. By the same token, I won't judge people who let their children read it, either. I would hope for the same courtesy, especially from someone who doesn't know me or my family.

Some people are able to learn from others' mistakes, even fictional characters. Some people aren't. So we need to know our boundaries, and our children's boundaries.

It would have been nice to visit you if you had your own blog or at least a profile with a little more than an incomplete name.

Best wishes as you navigate this journey of parenting.