***CAUTION: THE FOLLOWING POST CONTAINS SPOILERS***
I never heard of this series until I moved to Utah, where it's touted as the be-all-end-all of books because the author is Mormon.
I have a fascination for vampires and vampire stories so I decided to read the books. I wasn't very impressed.
Unfortunately, the most interesting characters were NOT Bella and Edward, but the characters of Jacob (and the rest of the Native American group) Charlie, Jasper and Alice.
The storyline itself was mediocre. In other vampire stories I've read, the vampires with a conscience sometimes *try* to exist on animal blood, but never make it for one reason or another...reasons that are fully developed and explained. It surprised me that nobody (like, say, Bella) ever really asked if there were any consequences to denying the craving for human blood and trying to satisfy it with animal blood. I expected a gratuitous explanation, at least.
Also, I know the Cullen family was attempting to keep up appearances, but don't vampires have better things to do than continuously attend high school?
Along with the Cullens keeping up appearances, Edward's explanation of why his family has to leave is because Carlisle can't continue looking like a late 20-something when, according to the townspeople, he should be approaching 40 soon. Yet, that excuse is thrown out the window when, in an attempt to have a "happily ever after" ending, the family moves back to town and Carlisle resumes his post as a doctor at the local hospital. What, the townspeople suddenly won't question Carlisle's age because Bella and Edward finally surmounted all the obstacles keeping them apart?
I also have a problem with Edward. He's way too controlling of Bella. He also continuously keeps secrets from her "for her own good." Considering this is a series geared towards a teenage audience, I'm not certain this is a very good example of a relationship to be promoting towards teenage girls. Personally, I felt Bella and Jacob had a healthier relationship, because Jacob INCLUDED Bella in any plans or decisions that had to do with her.
From a literary standpoint, it felt like Jacob and Bella had a stronger and more real relationship; they just interacted more naturally through their dialogue and their described action. Bella and Edward felt forced together. It was really an oversight on Meyer's part not to recognize this, but as a writer myself, I suppose I can understand the overwhelming need to follow an idea (ie. that you WANT two characters to be together) rather than let the characters speak for themselves. And yes, I understand that she "explained" Bella and Jacob's "connection" in the last book but that was just...well, I found it stupid and contrived.
Finally, I was VERY disturbed by Bella's attitude towards sex. First of all, it's perfectly ok to promote waiting until marriage to have sex. However, when Bella finally agrees to marry Edward (at age 18, no less) considering her feelings about marriage (her feelings being that she wishes to avoid it altogether) it feels like she's agreeing just so she can finally get bitten and laid. Again, how is this a healthy relationship?
And then, when Bella finally DOES get Edward to make love to her on their honeymoon, there is a lengthy scene in which Bella gets ready for the big night. In it she's going through several pieces of lingerie that were packed for her by Alice and gets embarrassed at the sight of them. She also starts to have a panic attack at the thought of the night to come (pages 82-83 of Breaking Dawn
"My breathing started to accelerate again and my hands trembled--so much for the calming effects of the shower. I started to feel a little dizzy, apparently a full-scale panic attack on the way."
A little while later, after they HAVE had sex, but Edward is reluctant to do so again because his strength left her with bruises, she goes on to describe this (page 101 of Breaking Dawn)
"I'd taken to to wearing some of Alice's lingerie collection to sleep in at night--which weren't so revealing compared to the scanty bikinis she'd packed for me when it came right down to it. I wondered if she'd seen a vision of why I would want such things, and then shuddered, embarrassed by that thought.
I'd started out slow with innocent ivory satins, worried that revealing more of my skin would be the opposite of helpful, but ready to try anything. Edward seemed to notice nothing, as if I were wearing the same ratty old sweats I wore at home.
The bruises were much better now--yellowing in some places and disappearing altogether in others--so tonight I pulled out one of the scarier pieces as I got ready in the paneled bathroom. It was black, lacy, and embarrassing to look at even when it wasn't on. I was careful not to look in the mirror before I went back to the bedroom. I didn't want to lose my nerve."
If you have to be embarrassed by sex or the trappings of sex (ie., lingerie) with the man you love, you're probably not mature enough to be having sex AT ALL. Again, considering that this series is geared towards a teenage audience, and mostly towards teenage girls, I think this attitude is deplorable. It's basically saying to these girls to yes, wait for marriage (which I DO think is a good message) but is also saying that even if they do wait for marriage, sex is still dirty.
All in all, this book was relatively well-written. Not prize-winning writing, but well enough to keep the story moving and to keep the reader's attention. Unfortunately, it felt like all the wrong aspects of the story were emphasized, while the interesting parts (like the werewolf situation) were de-emphasized. Personally, I just don't get how this book made it so far.
Oh yeah, and the guy they got to play Edward in the movie reminds me of Johnny Bravo with his hair.
(And just in case you're wondering, I have a degree in English Literature and applied various literary criticisms to critiquing this book.)