There's been attention lately on "Breaking Dawn," the final installment in Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" saga. I noticed the book was highly recommended by the Wall Street Journal, touted for promoting abstinence and presenting young girls with a positive and healthy modern relationship.
This was not the first time I had heard of Meyer's work: For weeks, there was news about the expected midnight release of "Breaking Dawn," the coming cinematic rendition of the "Twilight" saga, and various reports dubbing Meyer the next J.K. Rowling.
Despite the lauding media coverage, I was skeptical upon beginning "Twilight," the first book in Meyer's series.
"Twilight" centers around 17-year-old Bella Swan, who after moving to the rainy and rural town of Forks, Wash., falls madly in love with the gorgeous, charming and heroic Edward Cullen — the only problem being that Edward is a vampire. Of course, many obstacles ensue, but the love between Bella and Edward proves to be stronger than anticipated.
While I applaud Meyer's minimal use of sexual encounters in the book, most of my initial qualms were disappointingly confirmed by the tired plotlines in "Twilight." The idea of a wallflower moving to a new town only to discover that she is the object of every male's desire is silly, and used too often in cinema and literature. The first half of "Twilight" is filled with similar cliches, as it revolves around Bella and Edward's budding romance. However, their love seems to be fueled by physical attraction more then anything else, which contradicts Meyer's obvious promotion of the non-physical nature of their relationship.
The second half of the book manages to improve, showcasing Meyer's talent and creativity as a writer. While Edward's perfection is tiring in the first half, the second half presents a deeper version of the vampire, whose beautiful face is merely a facade for his deeply troubled soul. The plot twists, especially in some of the final scenes, are grand and captivating, proving why "Twilight" has been such a commercial success.
Meyer certainly does succeed in authoring a truly well-written novel. However, her skill is overshadowed by many uncondonable ideas promoted throughout "Twilight." Time after time, Bella is represented as merely a damsel in distress, continually saved by Edward from her clumsiness, naivete and poor decision-making.
And "Twilight" far from promotes healthy teen relationships. If anything, it fosters unreal expectations about love. Most of Edward and Bella's problems seem to come from external sources. Together alone they have nearly perfect chemistry, and their few fights are petty and short-lived. Real relationships are far less effortless, and while they may be just as happy, they are the product of commitment, not lust.
My biggest problem with "Twilight" is Bella's absolute lack of reluctance to give up nearly everything (family, friends, home, future) for Edward. As a 17-year-old who has never been in a relationship, I question Bella's judgement with a guy who she has known for six months, if that. While others may declare Bella a role model for teen girls, I cannot agree.
I give "Twilight" a 6.5 out of 10. Meyer is a great writer, and while I don't see "Twilight" as an equal to "Harry Potter," the story is original. And while I have many problems with the books' backwards themes, at the closing lines, I couldn't help but feel hopeful for Bella's future. Perhaps it is just wishful thinking, but I have this desperate desire to see Bella grow and learn; she is a character who is easy to root for.
This may have not been Meyer's intention, but it is possible I will continue to read the "Twilight" saga, not to follow Bella and Edward's romance, but in the hopes that Bella will overcome the naivete of her puppy love, and become the independent woman and strong role model she ought to be.
Mari Miyachi is an Andover resident and student at Phillips Academy who reviews books for young adults.