Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Twilight -- 50% Progress Report

So I kind of see where this teenage romance fluff would be appealing to younger girls. In fact, the fifteen year old in me has been making some commentary alongside my twenty-seven year old commentary and they are sort of playing "good cop, bad cop" with this book right now. Twilight, if anything, is first and foremost a romance set in a fantastical world: Girl meets boy; boy is good looking (in this case, boy is "dazzling"); girl falls for boy almost immediately; boy is also drawn to girl; let the romance ensue. But one little factor stands in their way -- boy is a vampire who may or may not be able to control his urges to suck all of girl's blood. On the other hand, something about girl draws vampire boy to her and so while he keeps telling her to stay away from him, he doesn't exactly hold up very convincing arguments by constantly catching her attention.

To be totally honest, I'm starting to think that the only appeal about Twilight is the fact that a supposedly "ordinary" high school girl falls in love with a god-like vampire boy and he reciprocates those feelings. It's the standard Cinderella story... Just like EVERY OTHER ROMANCE written for a target audience of young, hopeless romantics (much like myself). It just so happens that Cinderella is an "ordinary" high school girl and Prince Charming is a not-so-ordinary vampire boy. The stakes have changed a little bit; and you know, something like this would really only fly in the face of hopeless romantic girls (myself included).

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy a good romance every so often as well. In fact, I've probably got the biggest appetite for romantic-comedies, romantic-dramedies, melodramatic romances... you name it, I've seen it romances... and so on and so forth. I spent an entire six to eight months just perusing Japanese shoujo genre manga (if you don't know what that is, don't ask, but I can assure you, it's no different from teenage romance fluff).

So you would think I'd be more forgiving of Twilight.

HOWEVER, I'm really only buying the fact that this is a standard romance story set in a high school full of raging teenage hormones. I've been there (so many years ago), and my inner fifteen year old probably would have enjoyed this book. It probably wouldn't have been worshipped on a pedestal and ranted and raved about like the best thing since cellular phones, but I get it. It's a cute little love story.

But that's it. And maybe that's why it's not working for me as well as any other love story would. With all the fluff I've been exposed to in recent years, I've been looking for things with more substance for a change. So... probably not the best time to pick up Twilight as an act of "I'm going to prove that I didn't pre-judge this book with my pretentious prejudices" stubbornness. Yes, that was the MAIN reason I chose to read Twilight -- I got tired of everyone telling me to read it before I make "false" judgments.

Is it too early, still, for me to say the words "I'm sure I was right"?

I've quit condemning Bella for her personality, but damn if that girl isn't the most one-tracked moronic kid I've ever read about. Maybe I'm just too biased against the weak-willed female protagonists who let boys push her around just because she's supposedly in love with him. Bella Swan is supposed to be a smart, witty, strong, and level-headed girl; supposedly she's independent and had to care for her mother all these years and now feels that she's obligated to care for her father. We are trying to present her as the responsible adult teenage daughter to the flighty, child-like mother and the clueless workaholic father. I see it... in narration. But I DON'T see it in the actual story itself. I mean, sure, Bella does the cooking, cleaning and whatnot around the house. She's responsible and has some self-proclaimed "I'm a police officer's daughter and must be an upstanding citizen" mentality going. But her actions show us differently sometimes, and for a girl who is supposed to be so strong-willed, I don't see how she can so easily bend the rules when it's convenient for her and the sake of her "love" for Edward.

Bella Swan isn't unique or an outcast nor is she misunderstood. She is simply the standard teenage emo-wannabe who feels like her world is a nightmare just because she had to uproot from one city and move to another city she doesn't like. She now has to live with a doting father who cares too much while her frenetic mother blows up her email mailbox always asking about her well-being. And she has the balls to say things like she's used to being the adult so all of that extra love and care kind of disturbs her? (On a side note, I've found myself blurting the words "Ungrateful twit" a few times during my reading of this book.) Her father buys her a vehicle and she's all "Oh my god, why did he have to go and buy me a truck" about it until she sees the truck and finally decides that she actually likes it. She's typically always irritated whenever her parents show worry about her, and she thinks that it's a given that she shouldn't have to answer her mother's emails all the time and that Mom should understand that. And I swear, if she doesn't start addressing her father appropriately as "Dad" or something similar, I might really want to deck her. Because what good is it to call your father "Dad" to his face, but use his name everywhere else? I don't even understand the necessity of that stubborn distinction. WHY is it necessary for her to keep referring to her father so informally as "Charlie"?

But it DOES all come down to one conclusion in the end. Bella Swan is simply nothing more than the typical high school emo-wannabe drama queen. She outcasts herself by not caring to have real friends (she's always under the impression that the girls befriending her have ulterior motives). In order to have true friends, you have to sincerely WANT to be friends too -- in which case, I don't feel that Bella is interested in having Jessica or Angela or Lauren as true friends at all. She doesn't give her father a chance to be a father and get to know her better. And what was the point in her moving away from Mom anyway just because she got remarried?

The author goes to great pains to try and distinguish her as "different" from the rest of the high school kids (which she succeeds in doing all too obviously through narration as well as making the supporting characters complete stock cardboard cut-out dribble). The author goes to LOTS of great pains to not ONLY distinguish Bella as different, but to make her special and ALMOST akin to "vampire-like" with the girl's pale skin, affinity for the smell of blood, and a subtle beauty that apparently attracts EVERY male high school student in the whole damn book. Yes, we've also got a standard trope going here in that every boy Bella Swan crosses falls for her; and she is continuously trying to convince herself that it's not true and that she's "too ordinary"; so if she's not interested in them, I really wish that she would tell them bluntly rather than leading them on.

Of course, her world quickly begins to revolve around one Edward Cullen and THAT'S where I start to understand where her mentality is headed.

Because, as girls (especially the easily hopeless romantic type), we've all been there. Having a crush on a boy is easily the most heartbreaking phenomena that any pre-teen to teenage girl can go through. Because at such a young, delicate age, EVERYTHING to do with the heart is serious stuff. We all live in the now and we care nothing about the future. If your crush doesn't look at you at all throughout the day, you might die of depression. If your crush starts hanging out with other girls, you feel like the most unworthy, loneliest cretin in existence. All stakes are raised when a teenager "falls in love" and I hate to admit, but that's just the way of life. This is standard high school romance drama at its best (or worst, depending on how you stand).

I'm not trying to give Bella a justification for being the way that she is, for spending every single darn sentence of her first-person narration mooning over Edward Cullen. I'm just saying that this is how it is and that because of my new insight, I've found a reason not to resent her idiocy, monotony, and pretentiousness as much as I have been since Chapter One. I'm just saying that I see her point because I've been there before. But for the sake of my own sanity (as well as for clarity), just because I see her point doesn't mean I have to agree with it or like it. For one thing, having a crush on a boy doesn't mean that you lose sense of your own back bone or that standard of beliefs you've grown up on. Having a crush on a boy does NOT mean that your entire life revolves around his every action and every word.

Bella Swan was a character written for the sake of being easily relatable by most girls. We are supposed to feel for her and readily like her for her personality. Unfortunately, her personality is only narrated with words, but never truly shown by action. And also unfortunately, this girl who COULD have been an ideal female protagonist is cast in a world wherein the author has delusions of grand "damsel-in-distress" rescues by the "knight in shining armor" in order to fulfill that traditional sense of wanting to be able to fall for a man who protects you. I mean, yea, we all want a man who is secure and warm and all sorts of perfect... it's an ideal. But to be totally honest, it's not reality; when the guy is way too perfect and the girl is way too worthless, it doesn't balance very well and I start banging my head against the paperback book so that I can vent my frustrations somehow (and yes, I HAVE banged my head against the book multiple times already). At the very least, the girl should be able to fend for herself in some little ways and not need to be saved EVERY FREAKIN' TIME! And if Edward gets any MORE perfect, I will continue to bang my head against the book in frustration.

BUT, as I've said... I see the point. I see the author's direction. I see Bella's point. And I also see the hype (if only a little bit better than before). However, what I don't see is all the praise and all the glamor; it's an ordinary romance novel that just so happens to involve vampires and werewolves.

NOW, if the story line had also started off with some sort of epic adventure wherein it was necessary to have a vampire and werewolf paranormal presence, then I might see more eye-to-eye with this so called "Epic Saga". But as far as Twilight is going, it's JUST a love story (if even that) about an ordinary girl who falls for a vampire boy. And the narration goes on and on just like this short progress report, about the same things, over and over again.

Girl meets boy, girl falls for boy, boy pushes girl away, girl persists, boy comes around, girl is all googly eyes, girl moons about how pretty boy is, boy pushes girl away, girl persists, girl continues to fawn about boy's beauty, boy comes back around, boy warns about the dangers of being with him, girl persists, boy comes back around... I swear, it's never ending and until Edward can come up with a better reason not to be with Bella other than "I might want to feast on your blood" I think these two really should just make out and get it over with, because it's just driving me crazy, this whole "I love you but I can't be with you" wherein the stakes ARE high, but somehow the characters aren't exactly very convincing about them.

Oh yea... and also, "what supporting characters?" You mean those cardboard cut-out background scenery pieces that keep following the story around? Oh right, they're people in the story as well... but you know what, they could be cut out of the book completely and it wouldn't make a difference. Way to add substance...

This has been my half-time progress report on Twilight. As you can see, my opinions have changed only a little since the first "Review", or what I like to call "First Impression" of the book. If anything, let's hope that the last half of Twilight picks up a bit better and I have a reason to WANT to continue reading the rest of this series.

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