Ok, this post is mostly a diatribe about what I didn't like about the books. But I found this post with 89+ comments at Twitarded about what women in their 30s DO like about the series. And I have to say I agree with a lot of them. Mostly, they agree that it's not Shakespeare, and not an earth-shattering plot, and not even great characters. They're perfectly aware that there are weaknesses in the story and storytelling, in the characters themselves.
But what they do say (that I respect) is that they like the books because of the books remind them of those powerful feelings they had at 16, 17, 18. Intense emotions that didn't make much sense back then, and still don't, but that are delicious to experience again. I totally get that-- the thrill of first love, the ridiculous obsession that can accompany it, the terrible heartbreak when it is (or seems) over.
Many of these women are in their 30s, many in stable relationships, many with children, many who haven't thought about feeling like that for a very long time. Ripe for a fantasy like this. And I can appreciate hungering for an awakening like that.
So, that said, here's a quick dirty list of what I'm not feeling in the books:
1. I can't get over the writing. I know, we all know, it's not meant to be the Next Great American Novel. But still. The writing style is perfect if you've ever dreamed of reading the Very Private Thoughts of an angsty teenager in love. It reads like a junior high school student's journal that she thought would be kept secret forever, but no, her mom has PUBLISHED it and now it's on the NYT Bestseller list and it COULD NOT be more embarrassing... oh wait, except that it's raking in tons of money.
2. Way too long. These books are 700 pages long, but could be 250 if you skip over every time she says describes glistening hard marble perfect white skin, lips, hair, chest... of course, that's probably what's selling the books.
3. I'm sorry but-- eh, I'm not sorry-- the "TwiMoms" phenomenon creeps me out. It really does. I'm not talking about the people who acknowledge what's wrong with the stories and accept the whole package. I'm talking about those who creep me out lusting after the young actor who plays Edward, who think the stories are the greatest thing ever. Some actually think these books are full of good role models for their children.
WHA--?!! No. That's just a huge NO. I will say that, as in life, there are good and less-good traits of each character, and it's good to talk that through with your kid. But there's are a couple overarching themes here that are really disturbing:
A. First disturbing theme: The male characters are constantly trying NOT TO KILL the girls and women they love. This is a GOOD thing? Hooray, congratulations, you managed not to give in to the worst of yourself-- you're a hero! ??? Ladies, please PLEASE raise your standards. Because that sucks.
I was especially disturbed by the relationship between Sam and Emily. (And I'm not the only one, thankfully: AMEN for a sensible, well-thought out article from the Hartford Courant on this topic.)
Emily has major disfiguration because he turned into a werewolf near her once, presumably because he lost his temper. That really sounds like domestic violence to me. "I hurt you, baby I'm so sorry, I'll never do it again, how can I live with myself every day knowing I did this to you?" I'm not exaggerating-- that's pretty much what the text says. And Emily not only seems to be ok with this, understanding that it's just "the natural order" of things, but continues to be gorgeous, cook of the year for all the boys (but we never get to hear about what SHE eats), and all around Good Wife-- if you like your spouse like you like your doormats.
That is not a family value I hold. I DEFINITELY part ways with people trying to defend that behavior. I wouldn't want that for my daughters or for me, not ever.
B. Second disturbing theme: The women in this book are not the coolest role models I've ever seen. There's been plenty written about that already in other blogs, but I just want to say Amen to everyone who has their eyes open to this. Yes, there are good aspects of Bella, Alice, Esme and others, but I just can't see myself saying I would want to be like them, would want my daughters to be like them, or even to read this to learn something about what NOT to do. I'm just sick of stories where there's no really smart, stylish, fabulous female.
C. Third disturbing theme: Love is all you need... except when it's not. Bella has one sentence where she argues that if he weren't the world's most exquisite man, without piles of money to infinity and back, she would still love him because he's just so darn good. But happily, we don't have to REALLY deal with that, because guess what-- he IS that good looking! He DOES have infinite amounts of money! It totally reminds me of all those Disney princess stories. We still haven't grown up, looks like.
But I will say, I look at my husband and totally think he's as great as Bella's descriptions of her perfect man. It's nice to know he can compete with fantasy fiction. :)