Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Seventeen-year-old Bella wasn’t expecting any sort of excitement at all in the perpetually rainy town of Forks, WA. When her mom remarried, she’d willingly left sun-drenched Phoenix behind to move back in with her dad, making it easier for her mom and new husband to travel. This isn’t a story about stepfamilies, though–Bella genuinely wishes her mom the best– if you’ve read the back of the book, you know it’s all about VAMPIRES.
Which is why, when Bella first encounters the exotic Cullen family clan in the cafeteria her first day of school, we all know why they’re dazzlingly beautiful, intimidate everyone around them, and oh yeah, don’t eat. Remember, VAMPIRES! (Bella, however, has not read the back of the book and doesn’t know this yet.) Edward Cullen in drop-dead gorgeous, and initially, seems to hate Bella on sight. They are paired up as biology lab partners, and his rapid mood swings and sudden class absences have our heroine very confused. But, as an almost-fatal accident in the icy student parking lot tips her off to the fact that Edward is very strong, and very, very fast, eventually the whole vampire bit comes out. Which brings a whole new level to emotionally-charged high school romance, as predator and prey have fallen in love with each other.
This… was a remarkably tame vampire story. There’s a lot of high tension between Bella and Edward, but his entire family of vampires? Are GOOD vampires. They only drink animal blood, and in Edward’s rebellious youth, he went all vigilante and the only humans he killed were bad people. I think my suspension of disbelief faltered right at the beginning when all these vampires are willingly attending high school. (I mean, c’mon, even if you were seventeen when you died, why would you do that? It’s not like they even EAT people.) However, the plot moves along nicely, with good levels of emotional tension and physical danger. The vampire mythology is consistent and not overly complicated–although the bit where they sparkle in the sunlight is a bit much, in my ever-so-humble opinion.
I think my biggest reservation is the relationship between Edward and Bella. There’s a whole lotta wish fulfilment going on here. She has this amazing, indescribable specialness that draw him to her. (I’m going to be horrible disappointed if there’s not a big, mystical reason for both this and her clumsiness in a later book.) He is pretty darn flawless, and always thinking of what’s best for her. Which is not to say Bella can’t think for herself; she is quite capable and independent. But the whole “I am powerful and experienced, yet still seventeen, let me take care of you” vibe really hit a wrong note with me.
I can see why the series is popular (the second book, New Moon, has come out recently), but I like my characters more flawed, and my vampires scarier with more moral ambiguity and less… sparkle. I’ll just be over here, re-reading Robin McKinley’s Sunshine instead.