Hello my much neglected blog! Something about beautiful weather in the summer and my current revulsion toward sitting at a desk all day makes it difficult to spend any time typing at a computer that isn’t strictly necessary. But there’s a topic that’s rattling in my brain, so I might as well have out with it.
(Before I start, let me note that there are no direct spoilers in this post. I comment on my opinion of the plots without saying what those plots are. I do, in one case, say what the plot is NOT, and that is noted in case you don’t even want to know that much.)
I just finished reading Breaking Dawn, the last book in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. I picked these books up originally because I was impressed with the commotion they were causing in the press. I like to read books that are wildly popular, because I figure there’s usually a reason for the popularity. In most cases, I’m not disappointed, and in the case of Twilight, the first book in the series, I was absolutely delighted. Twilight is a perfect love story with all the right elements to make it really delicious: a girl who is just like I was in high school, a boy who is too perfect to be true, forbidden fruit, and creepy secrets.
I read the whole thing in one day, and Dustin asked if it was any good. I thought about the question for a minute, then replied, “I really liked it, but I’m not sure if it was good.” To clarify, I reeeeally liked it. I immediately reread it, which I haven’t done to a book since, well, high school. I will probably read it again in the future. Perfect escape fiction, with no deep themes or unpleasant ties to reality, beyond those which are necessary to keep it just this side of believable. And that’s what I meant by saying I didn’t think it was “good.” I wouldn’t rank it in the annals of literature. It is not Austen or Tolkein. It is not a book which will change your life or challenge literary archetypes. It is, plain and simply, a fun read.
And so I dove into the second book, New Moon. I did not enjoy it quite as much as the first, because some of those painful ties to reality, mentioned above, started creeping in. Fortunately, the conclusion was adequate to counteract these irritants, and I was satisfied.
Before I go on to books three and four, let me introduce the reason I’m writing this blog to begin with. After reading the first two books, I was very anxious to read the last two. Then a friend of mine who works in a bookstore (and apparently doesn’t know better yet) let slip that the last book really pissed some people off. “They’ve been asking for their money back,” she said. “Can you believe that?”
“Nooooo! Don’t tell me!” I wailed. I hate hints about how stories end.
“No, it’s not a big deal. I just mean, I can’t believe people can be that dumb about books,” she said.
I just sat there and grumbled. She’d tainted the story. There was only one thing I could think of that would piss off the rabid sort of mostly teenage fans that follow this series: a not-happily-ever-after ending. And that would piss me off too. But I couldn’t quite believe it would happen that way, so I went ahead with the last two books anyway, vowing (at least) not to try and return them if they did end that badly.
(Mini but not obvious spoiler about what doesn’t happen: my biggest fear was that Edward would croak and Bella would somehow wind up settling for Jacob. Or worse – Edward DOESN’T croak, and she STILL winds up with Jacob. Ew.)
Book three, Eclipse, exacerbated these fears. The three-way relationship tangle just got worse, uncertainty of every flavor enters the picture, and who wants to read about that? And puh-lease: who really believes it’s possible to be in love with two people at once? Nuh uh. No way. Especially the way Bella supposedly loves Edward. That doesn’t leave room for accidentally falling in love with another guy at the same time. Gross.
And so I began Breaking Dawn with trepidation. Halfway through, all my major fears (see mini-spoiler above) were relieved. Now, the worst that could happen was that EVERYONE ended up dead, therefore doing away with the happily ever after but at least no one was settling. I could have felt okay about that.
But I needn’t have worried; everything resolved into a perfect, fluffy ending with whipped cream on top. It was wrapped up so very neatly, in fact, it even erased my irritation with the plot of Eclipse, providing an elegant explanation to what I claimed was an impossible situation. I couldn’t have written it (much) better myself, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what could have caused people to be pissed off enough to try getting their money back.
So I did a little looking. It turns out that most people were tweezed off about the exact things that I loved: the story was shallow and predictable, the conclusion was rushed and not bloody enough, Renesmee: what the hell? Okay, so I’m ambivalent about Renesmee. I’d've been okay without her, but it would have needed to be a completely different story without her. As for the rest – isn’t shallow and predictable the very reason we read books like this? Attempting to write these books any other way would have robbed them of their easy appeal as tasty escape fiction.
Heart-wrenching tales of characters with depth who live in realistic worlds do not exist in the young adult fantasy-fiction section. Heck… they hardly exist at all. If that’s what you’re after, allow me to recommend The Grapes of Wrath or even Lord of the Rings. If you want polished and beautiful prose, I’d stay out of the young adult section and contemporary fiction all together.
It’s one thing to pick up a fluffy book, read it, and think, “gee, that was kind of twinkie and too unrealistic for my taste,” and then never read a book by that author again. But why read a whole set of books like that if you knew from the start that you wanted realism and quality?
The moral of this story is: don’t get yourself so worked up about things that are not worth the effort. If you’re looking for no-brainer escape fiction with an entertaining love story that’s not too difficult to follow and will occasionally make you giggle out loud or sigh with satisfaction, I’d give these books a read. Otherwise, let it go. You can’t have your money back regardless.