Bella Swan has decided to move from Phoenix, where she has lived nearly her whole life with her mom, to the tiny town in Washington state where her dad has lived his whole life. She’s not doing it for the fun of it: she hates Forks. Hates, hates it: the constant rain and wet, the mushy green, the lack of sun. But she’s doing it so her mom can be freer with her new husband, a minor-league baseball player trying to find a good job. So she grits her teeth and bears it.
The life she has so dreaded becomes far more interesting when she meets classmate Edward Cullen, a strikingly handsome but strange young man who keeps to himself. He and his adopted siblings are all oddly pale, gorgeous and smart — and never eat. The two would likely never have struck up a friendship except for a weird series of events set off by his bizarre reaction when she sits next to him in science class.
Stephenie Meyer’s series of vampire novels have been read now by millions, and the series has been adapted for the big screen, with the films viewed by millions. The plot of Twilight is hardly secret with all that exposure: teen vampire boy falls in love with “normal” human teen girl. He is irresistibly drawn to her potent aroma and must struggle moment to moment with his deepest animal desire to drain her of the blood that would taste to him the best that he has ever had. But because he loves her, the higher part of him, the “human” part, must resist. Edward tells Bella she should run as far away as possible from him to keep herself safe, and she knows logically that would be wisest, but she can’t tear herself away from the only boy she has ever loved. And as hard as Edward tries to keep her safe, his very existence leads her into extremely dangerous situations.
No doubt about it, Meyer’s book is addictive, just about as irresistible to female readers as Bella’s blood is to Edward. It is a heavy-duty romance novel, cloaked in supernatural robes, but at heart a love story that is, admittedly, cheesy at times. For some teen girls and adult women, it might be a little embarrassing to admit that we love this book; luckily, since there are so many others in the same boat, at least we’re not alone. Go ahead, just read it already.
Rated: Mild. Language use is very minimal: there might be four or five occasions of very mild language. This first book in the series is lowest on the violence and bloody details, with most of the violence occurring just close near the end. Sexual references are also minimal. The sexual tension is just high; the talk of kissing gets frequent, and Bella goes into great detail about how much Edward’s kisses are affecting her physically, how she has a hard time not wanting to stop kissing him. They talk briefly and obliquely about vampires and sexual desires/behaviors.
Some readers may be wary about this book because it has supernatural creatures who are typically evil. For those who don’t like horror novels or supernatural creatures like these, this book could go either way: it could be the “horror novel” for non-horror readers (since it’s really mostly about the romance), or it could still just turn them off entirely. But in terms of message, the vampires who are the main characters in this novel abstain from drinking human blood, living instead off animals. They desire to be better than their animal natures would lead them to be: they do not want to be monsters. Although some professional reviewers consider Meyer’s moralizing in this way to be clunky and obvious, I find it admirable. In a world in which we are encouraged to just “be ourselves” and to give in to our basest natures, it is refreshing to have a set of books that say otherwise: The characters could easily excuse base behaviors on just “what they are;” instead, they work to rise above those base natures and be something better. Sure, the message sometimes seems a bit clunky and the books could be better examples of great literature, but the truth and goodness of the message are still admirable. Thanks to Stephenie Meyer for making the message of restraint one that has been read and watched by millions.