Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An Awful Book I Can't Shut

This summer, I thought I was going to take a seminar in literacy. Part of that class involved reading YA fiction, which excited me. Some of those books are award-winning Good Books. Some were merely popular to teens and fit the purpose of the unit. Thus, I picked up Twilight with the intention of seeing what all the fuss was about.

From the beginning, these books have bothered me. Meyer's style hearkens back to romance novels, punishing kisses and all, and her descriptions are heavy-handed and dull. The style is such that it calls attention (for me at least) to the language, something that it shouldn't do. The narrative should be the focus of the reader's attention, not the language; I had a hard time concentrating on the story at first because Meyer's style got in the way.

But I can't seem to NOT finish the series. Part of it is my obsession with knowing the end of stories, no matter how horrible. Part of it is the stories are strangely compelling, even with all their narrative and character flaws. Now I'm embarking on the final book in the series, knowing how it's likely to end, but I have this need to finish it, even if the end will annoy me.

The Twilight series has captured the imaginations and hearts of thousands of readers. It's hailed as the "next Harry Potter" due to its popularity. However, they can't touch that series because they lack the depth and complexity of Rowling's work. Rowling carefully spins tales with complex characters and mythological allusions. Part of reading Harry Potter is playing "spot the myth". Meyer's books lack that depth and richness.

I purchased the first two books out of curiosity, and checked the other two out from the library because they were only available in hardback, and my desire to know the end of the saga wasn't enough to justify paying for two books that will end up on Paperback Swap or Bookmooch. I'm into the last book, and I just want it to be done so I know how it ends, and then I can go on with life.

I read these books with nose wrinkled slightly with disgust, but obviously Meyer creates something that's compelling enough to overcome my distaste for her writing style. How can an awful book still be good enough to keep me turning the pages, eliciting anxiety and hope? I always feel the need to justify why I'm reading these books, yet the reason is simple: I've been sucked into a story against my will and better judgment.

I can see the appeal for teenage girls who can't imagine a world beyond high school and age 18: Bella Swan aspires to halt her life right as its beginning. She can't imagine passion and love greater than what she's found at 17, while those of us who are a bit older know that she's a teenage idiot. She wants to give up humanity because she doesn't understand what being human and having a beating heart means--her "soulmate" is more important, and what teenage girl doesn't want to believe they can't find their soulmate at 17? It's silly and awful. Still, I can't look away, and I can't shut the book.


Amanda D Allen said...

I agree completely. I resigned to finishing them as audio books. In the end I won't be able to regret it too much because I'll know that I also got the dishes done and the laundry folded and I 'read' them.

Jenn said...

I didn't think about looking for an audio book! Hmm...

bockstark.knits said...

Heeheehee, got sucked in too, eh? ;) I certainly agree that it doesn't come close to Harry Potter, but I just enjoyed it for what it was - a teenage romance series. And ya know, if it gets more kids to read then I'm all for it!