Friday, March 01, 2024

Karen S. Wiesner: The Hit List: Young Adult Series Favorites {Put This One on Your TBR List} Book Review: Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

The Hit List: Young Adult Series Favorites

{Put This One on Your TBR List}

Book Review: Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

by Karen S. Wiesner

In the first half of the 2000s, Young Adult series were all the rage, dominating the attention of teenagers and adults alike. Several that became household topics at the height of their popularity, enjoying fame as both book and movie series, seem to have fallen by the wayside since. Even still, I find many of those unique tales are well worth returning to for a fresh perspective. Over the next month or two, I thought I'd revisit a few series that would make any hit list of past favorites.

Although this series has been around a long time and, if people wanted to read it, they probably already have, in fairness, I'm including this disclaimer because some of the entries in the series that follow the first four might be unfamiliar to readers who may want to read them first: Warning! Spoilers ahead!

I resisted this paranormal series much longer than everyone else. I'm not sure why. I do remember for most of the years I'd lived in a town where almost no one reads. I was one of the very few. I wondered how the library survived. Given that, unfathomably I began seeing people reading these massive books in public around town, as if they simply couldn't be parted from them while devouring the stories. So I gave in. I quickly realized I was indeed missing something, and I spend mere days finishing all four books, though I can't say I loved the series from start to finish. The first one was the jewel in the crown and for the first half of Book 4, I thought the magic might return, but it never actually did.

By all rights, I think I should have liked teenage Bella. She's clumsy, a loner, drawn to odd things, never quite fits in anywhere, and she's the responsible, mature one especially compared to her mother. That she was a caretaker was right up my alley. Yet I never could quite get myself to like her, in large part because she starts out as an intriguing, unique character and turns into someone who seems to disintegrate rather pathetically whenever disaster struck. And it often did in this series.

I could completely understand why Bella felt drawn to Edward, a vampire. I even liked Jacob, who becomes a werewolf. It was a very cool concept. But when the author decided to make Bella fall in love with Edward and Jacob (though Bella ultimately--like me--came down on Team Edward), I found myself repelled. Edward wanted to love Bella for her lifetime. Though he would grieve when she died and he'd have to go on without her, he absolutely did not want to make her into a vampire. In the end, he agreed to it, but never willingly and he didn't actually go through with until there was no choice--Bella would have died otherwise. Jacob went all rage-wolf about the thought of Bella becoming a vampire because she would change. Not once was I convinced he cared what her opinion was about the whole thing. I found Jacob selfish and controlling. It was hard for me to like him when he decided he was in the best position to decide what Bella should do with her own life. But he ended up coming over to their side when he bonded with Bella and Edward's very strange, powerful child in a definitive way that meant he became her life-long protector, to the death.

The threat in the series was the Volturi, who made the laws for all vampires. This was an interesting, tense conflict, especially after Bella became a vampire. Ultimately, the four-book saga ended on a satisfying note. The movie adaptations were faithful. Kristen Stewart was about the only real problem I had with any of the installments. Something about the actress in all her films is off-putting to me. I wasn't crazy about Bella in the books and having Stewart playing her only compounded my issues. 

Also included in the series (though maybe it shouldn't be) is a novella, detailing basically little more than the title: a short second life of Bree Tanner, a newborn vampire who came and went, disturbing tragedy, 'nuff said. No, literally, the title was all we really needed. I'm sorry to say that I found this novella nothing short of painful to read. 

Unfortunately, tragedy didn't end there. To coincide with the tenth anniversary of the series, the publisher released a staggering, 400-page reimagining of the initial story with Edward and Bella's genders swapped as Edythe and Beau. I tried, I really tried, to read this but I died a little with each subsequent page. I never finished it. There are simply some things that should never be done, kind of like the whole Frankenstein debacle, and this is certainly one of them.

I remember when the Twilight Saga was at its pinnacle of popularity, someone illegally released a version of the first book written by the author in the perspective of Edward Cullen instead of Bella. I never felt right about reading it when it was available that way--in a forbidden way. So I never read it, but when Midnight Sun was officially released as a legit book in its own right, I tried to read it. I thought I'd love it because I loved him in Bella's point of view. Instead, Edward came off as the most frightening kind of psycho--and a vampire to boot. I never finished it because the Edward I'd come to love in the original books would have been ashamed for anyone to see him in this disgraceful way. I couldn't do that to him. I slammed shut the book, and it's stayed sealed ever since.

After Midnight Sun came out in 2022, the author announced she'd outlined two new Twilight novels. She planned on working on them after she'd completed an original book first (presumably The Chemist, released in November 2016). As of this review, nothing Twilight Saga related has appeared on the horizon.

Ultimately, I recommend this series, mainly for the first book and the first half of Breaking Dawn. Would I read anything new in the series? Probably, especially if it is actually something new, not shocking character swaps or alternate viewpoints, or not-short-enough tragedies that simply shouldn't be told. I give the author kudos most of all for a really cool concept that, though many tried, no one else managed to duplicate in terms of execution and success.

Next week, I'll review another favorite YA series published in the early 2000s.

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series.

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