Shiny Shelf


By Steffan Alun on 26 March 2010

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

TwilightI’m not female, and I’m not a teenager.  I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the target audience for ‘Twilight’, the first novel in Stephanie Meyer’s vampire romance saga which has become a phenomenon, spawning movies, mangas, board games and even a shower curtain.

That said, I must admit I quite enjoyed it.  The first four-fifths of the novel focus almost entirely on the tension between Bella Swan, our teenage human heroine, and Edward Cullen, her teenage vampire crush.

But that’s not the only focus.  We also meet a host of other students in the school, many of whom fancy the wrong people, and hate other members of the group – the friendship politics spice up the dynamic considerably.

None of these characters are particularly deep, but of course, our real interest is in Bella and Edward.  The development of their relationship works well, and once they start seeing each other, the added complexity of Bella’s friends and Edward’s family keep things interesting.

Where Meyer’s vampires excel is that some of them have special powers.  Edward can read minds – but Bella is immune.  It’s nice that Meyer makes Edward vulnerable – he’s not used to being unable to understand exactly what’s on someone’s mind, a neat metaphor for real life relationships.  He must learn to communicate properly for the relationship to succeed.

In the final fifth of the book, with the relationship established, the plot proper begins.  Evil vampires come to the area, and begin a spiteful hunt to kill Bella.

Here, Edward’s sister Alice is a great asset to the plot.  She can predict the future, an ability which is handled well – the future she can see is that which will occur if nobody changes their minds.  This is a constantly changing vision, and Alice can take steps to control it.   As the action unfolds, the characters must guess how to get around the predicted future, a good source of tension.

There’s no great depth to the novel, but it functions well as a romance, and the shift at the end works well for readers hoping for more plot.  It’s an odd structure, certainly, but perfect for its intended audience.

The main problem I have with the book was that at times, the relationship between Edward and Bella can be unconvincing.  Before they get together, and as they get to know each other, everything’s fine – but it never seems to evolve from there.  They go through the motions of being in a relationship – serious conversations, neurotic concerns – without ever feeling like they have much fun.  Every moment they spend together is tense, and in the end, it’s difficult to accept that this is a particularly wonderful relationship.

Then again, as I said in the beginning, I’m not the target audience.  I know what successful relationships are like, which may well put me in a minority within this book’s readership.  As a fantasy school romance for teenagers, it offers a very full portrayal, with plenty of different scenarios for the main characters, from dinner dates to picnics in the forest.

Finally, we have to consider the fact that this novel is now part of a series.  It doesn’t feel like one.  Unlike the first Harry Potter novel, which set up a lot of threads to pick up later, ‘Twilight’ has so little story that it’s difficult to see what a sequel could deliver, particularly since this book’s main selling point is the heavy focus on the formation of a relationship.

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