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Bitten, Once & For All (A Brief Review of the ‘Twilight’ Book Series)

Posted by on 14 February 2009

Twilight series book covers

When ‘Twilight’ fever swept the world, I chose to ignore it as just another fad that will pass, like all other fads. I did read the reviews, just to get an idea of what it’s all about. Human girl meets vampire boy, they fall in love. Someone even likened it to a Sweet Valley High story with the addition of some vampires. So I chose to pass.

Then last week, over yee sang, a business associate talked about her curiousity over the book, given how it has converted her daughter into a bookworm who didn’t mind being grounded for a week just to read the books, how it was banned in her daughter’s previous (Chinese) school but is now required reading for English class in her new school in Singapore.  The reviews that I’ve read helped me put in my 2 cents’ worth during the conversation. But how I wished I’ve actually read the books so that I could comment something so much more original than “Imagine that! A vegetarian vampire!”

Thus, I decided that the time had come for me to read the books and find out what the hype is all about. I put my googling skills to good use and searched for pdf files of all 4 books. I got what I wanted in less than 15 minutes.

That night, I immediately started reading the first book, ‘Twilight’, with no expectations whatsoever. I breezed through the first chapters. Had I followed my usual criterion for picking out a good book, i.e. that I get intrigued right from the first few pages, ‘Twilight’ would have failed miserably because it started off real slow. But I was curious. I needed to know what the frenzy’s all about. I forced myself to plod on wearily.

In 2 1/2 hours, I finished the book, mainly because I skipped through some details and dialogue that I felt I could do without. And, at long last, I finally got it. I understood, once and for all, the world-wide frenzy over it — the pull of the forbidden. And, for this, I find the apple — portrayed since time immemorial as ‘the forbidden fruit’ — on the cover to be very apt indeed. Edward, the vampire who only feeds on animal blood instead of human blood, found himself so drawn to the intoxicating smell of Bella’s blood. Just as different people favour different flavours — chocolate for some, strawberry for others — Bella’s blood is the flavour for Edward, a knowledge which jolted him the first time he even met her. But the catch is, he was drawn to her, as well, but for entirely different reasons — he was attracted to her, like a moth to a flame. So every single encounter with her is a huge battle for him. Her blood sings to him but he wants nothing else in the universe but to be with her and protect her and would do nothing to hurt her. He even watches over her as she sleeps, listening to her heartbeat, watching her dream.

It all sounds very romantic and dreamy, especially to a hopeless romantic like me, finally making me understand why so many women are longing for their very own Edward. Never mind if it would never work in real life. I mean the constant watching and overprotectiveness. The idea of having a man who’d do anything to protect me and would never let me out of his sight sounds tantalizing at first. But I know it would drive me insane eventually. Because everyone needs ‘space’ away from each other every once in a while, even married couples. (I know so. And I dare anyone to contradict me on that!)

‘Twilight’ is not without its loopholes, like how easily Bella accepted the fact that Edward is a vampire. But Stephenie Meyer, the author, managed to show beautifully and skillfully how two individuals can feel so strongly about each other. Bella, for instance, would lose all reason at the merest scent of Edward’s breath.

Unfortunately, Meyer tends to go a bit overboard with the details, a lot of which I just skimmed over. But the premise caught my interest and made me read the second book, ‘New Moon’, the very next day.

I found ‘New Moon’ to be much, much better than ‘Twilight’. It started off a bit slow (but not as slow as ‘Twilight’) but at some point, things got so exciting that  I could not pry myself away from my laptop. (I was reading the e-book version, remember? I didn’t want to buy the books, in the fear that I’d end up not liking it and regretting spending money over it.) The pace was faster, the plot tighter. No more Sweet Valley High. I could almost imagine the movie in my head while I read chapter after chapter after chapter. Without revealing too much, let’s just say Edward’s life was at stake, after a huge misunderstanding about Bella. I found the section involving the Italian Volturi particularly fascinating.

My appetite stoked by the second book, I immediately proceeded with the third book, ‘Eclipse’, the following day. If I thought ‘Twilight’ had many irrelevant details, ‘Eclipse’ was just as bad. Or maybe worse. I believe the author could have spent less time explaining the werewolf angle. True, it was an important aspect of the story, but she dwelt too long on too many details. Again, I skimmed over a good number of paragraphs. But the plot still kept me captive, especially with the love triangle element thrown in this time.

This time, the novel centred around the mysterious creature/person who was after Bella, with a few subplots added in for good measure — her increasingly complicated friendship with Jacob, her impatience at being ‘changed’, i.e. becoming a vampire herself, her relationship with Edward going into an entirely different level. The ending was written in such a way that it took all of my self-control not to read the fourth book yet because (i) I needed to sleep; and (ii) I had to go to work the following day.

Edward & Bella

Edward & Bella

I went to bed very reluctantly that night, my head filled with images of Robert Pattinson as Edward and Kristen Stewart as Bella in my imagination’s version of the movie. It was kinda like how I felt when I read ‘Jurassic Park’ for the first time and immediately thought of how it would be like as a movie, produced by Steven Spielberg himself. I ended up right about the Steven Spielberg part ;) But I digress…

So last night, with DH away on a business trip, the twins asleep, and the other kids staying up late watching cartoons, I finally managed to sit down and read the fourth and final (for now?) book of the series, ‘New Dawn’. The author went waaaaayyy overboard with the details this time, with the book reaching an unbelievable 836 pages. But it gave me the happy ending I so desperately wanted and portrayed as skillfully, more than usual, the intensity of the relationship between Edward and Bella. (I’d like to mention a few more details about the plot but I don’t want to spoil it for Lola, whom I’ve persuaded to read the books, as well.)

I’m no expert, but I felt that the books could have used a bit more editing — chopping off, to be more precise. The plots, however, were all very good, good enough for me to recommend to hopeless romantics like me. (Although I wouldn’t allow my pre-teen kids to read them just yet.) I just hope you can read fast and can skim over (what I feel are) irrelevant parts, otherwise you’d spend days, maybe even weeks, reading, as each succeeding book is longer than the previous. Meyer’s writing style is a far cry from, say, J.K. Rowling, whose Harry Potter books merely mention small bits and pieces of information along the way which turn out to be key elements in the finale. But Meyer is still a good writer, despite her propensity to go into the tiniest detail.

For a series of vampire books, I didn’t find the four Twilight books in the least bit scary, as the vampire theme was presented in a light tone. They’re nothing like Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ (the stuff for nightmares) or Anne Rice’s bestsellers, ‘Interview With The Vampire’ and ‘The Vampire Lestat’ (which remain as my benchmark for stories of the vampire genre). But the ‘Twilight’ books will definitely make fantastic movies, as they have everything that all bestselling movies need — an intriguing storyline and a riveting love story, with lots of action and suspense in between.

I also feel that Robert Pattinson of ‘Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire’ fame is the perfect choice as Edward, even though I haven’t seen the movie yet. He was charming as Cedric Diggory in the fifth Harry Potter movie, but he is smouldering as Edward Cullen, at least from the trailers I’ve seen on YouTube and the photos that are all over the internet. With Pattinson’s image as Edward ingrained deeply in my mind, the story became more tangible, almost real, as I found myself hopelessly lost in the world that Stephenie Meyer so skillfully crafted from her imagination.

I can’t wait to see how the movie would show how Edward’s skin would sparkle in the sunlight “like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface”! It would be interesting, as well, to see the fight scenes involving the werewolves and the vampires. And naturally, I can’t wait to see Bella and Edward together, whose story is at the heart of all four books.

Yup, that’s topmost on my agenda now — get hold of a DVD of the movie and lose myself in the visual feast of an improbable but compelling love story that will stay with me for a long, long time.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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