Monday, November 24, 2008


Title: Twilight

Series: Twilight Saga #1

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Genre: YA (13-16) Vampire/Paranormal Romance

Excerpt from the Preface of Twilight:

I’d never given much thought to how I would die—though I’d had reason enough in the last few months—but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.

I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly back at me.

Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something.

I knew that if I’d never gone to Forks, I wouldn’t be facing death now. But, terrified as I was, I couldn’t bring myself to regret the decision. When life offers you a dream so far beyond any of your expectations, it’s not reasonable to grieve when it comes to an end.

The hunter smiled in a friendly way as he sauntered forward to kill me.

A high school junior moves to a small Washington to live with her divorced father, where she meets and falls in love with a vampire.

The Craft: Wow. The writing of Twilight is good.

No, more than good. Amazing. Once you get past the somewhat long descriptions and uneven cadence of the first chapter, the story, the characters, the words themselves pull you deep into this completely believable world.

The characters are dynamic, with a full range of human emotions and mixed motivations. Their arcs of growth are real, logical, and complete. The plot is well-paced, though its style is more of a romance than a horror. Plenty of tension exists internally and externally. The dialogue moves the story forward while being often, witty, playful, humorous, and a delight to the ear.

Not only is the story strong, but so is the writing—the very way the words are used. The description provides enough information without overwhelming the text. Bella’s narrative voice is unique and vivid, though it is sometimes weakened by her self-centered perspective on life. But it captures place, people, relationships, and Bella’s perspective on them all in surprisingly few words. To top it off, the words themselves are lyrical and the flow so smooth that you glide over the printed words as if they are made of ice.

In short, every element in Twilight is so strong that you are irresistibly pulled into the story until the words cease to exist. Only the images in your mind are real—just the way it should be.

The Content: The core of Twilight can be summed up in one word—forgery.

Much like a student’s copy of a master’s painting, Twilight closely mimics the truth in color and texture. But the “truth” portrayed in this story is not the truth of the Bible, no matter how much the values and morals may look like it.

Of particular concern is the relationship between the protagonist, Bella, and her vampire suitor, Edward—especially since this relationship is one of the biggest draws among female teenage readers. But Edward is not the protector/knight in shining armor that so many girls, including me, want. He is a predator—and I’m not talking simply about his vampire tendencies.

It is so hard to tell at first, for like the line separating hero and villain, the line between protector and predator is razor thin. In many external ways, they mirror each other. But the outcome, like hero and villain, is vastly different.

So what are some of the characteristics that make Edward a predator? First, he’s arrogant and egotistical. He carries a disdained for human limitedness, is far too sure of himself, and pushes the boundaries between him and danger until no margin remains.

Then there is how he acts toward others. He manipulates to get what he wants. He has a vicious temper and a tendency toward vengeance. He shows no scruples invading other’s thoughts if it suits him. He shows little or no protectiveness toward anyone beside Bella, including their families, for even a predator will “protect” his prey from another predator.

Yes, Edward can be charming and chivalrous, like opening doors for Bella. But he stalks her on her shopping expedition to another town, watches her consistently at her home without her knowledge, spies on her through other’s thoughts, and nearly kidnaps her against her will. He makes no attempt to enter her world, but draws her away and isolates her from friends and family. And trust is not a two-way street: he compels her to answer his questions while keeping his own secrets. I don’t know much about abusive relationships, but all these things seem to point to such a relationship for Bella. But her obsession and willingness to excuse any and every fault in Edward keeps her from seeing the warning signs.

And teenage girls are pointing to this book and saying this is the type of relationship they want with a guy?

I know. It is so easy to justify Edward’s behaviors alongside with Bella. His anger was toward the villain’s predator thoughts toward Bella. His stalking saved Bella’s life. But resulting good does not make the original behavior good, which leads me to the second major problem with Twilight: desensitization.

Desensitization simply means the systematic removal of the normal barriers we protect ourselves with and is a bigger topic than I can discuss here. (I will soon begin a series on it during my normal fiction and faith posts.) However, Twilight uses the flow of language, story structure, and point-of-view to destroy any defenses the reader might attempt to erect, creating a textbook on how desensitization works. For whether it’s the vampire thread or Bella and Edward’s relationship, the reader is quickly moved from “is this wrong?” (rationalization) to “how can this be wrong?” (calling evil good).

One quick example is the pervasive lying in the story. At the beginning, Bella feels guilty for lying to her mom to keep her from worrying. Then as her relationship grows with Edward, she starts lying to “protect” him (which, by the way, is another warning sign their relationship isn’t quite right). By the book’s middle, she lies to her friend Jessica and her father Charlie about an upcoming date with Edward so she can avoid uncomfortable questions, and at the end she lies consistently without a flicker of conscience.

These are only two of the biggest concerns. There are other flaws in the content as well: Bella’s self-centeredness and defiance of authority (parental or other), her obsession with Edward, her belief that all her worth is tied up in Edward, and of course the whole problem of “good vampires.” (This topic is also too large to address here, but in short blood is sacred in Scripture—both animal and human—and drinking blood is one of the few things forbidden even for Gentile Christians.)

There are some positives in this book, too. Some sweet teasing is exchanged between Edward and Bella. Edward encourages her to tell her dad about their relationship. Edward’s family is tight-knit—I especially loved the baseball game. Bella’s relationship with her dad grows in some positive ways in the book. The violence occurs off the page—we never see the vampires feed, for example. The sexual content in this book is kept mostly to hand-holding, kissing, Edward holding her, and couple milder such elements—clean by the standards of many secular YA books. Edward exhibits some of the benefits of restraint. Bella willingly puts herself in danger to save her parents.

However, the love depicted between Edward and Bella is, overall, the love of obsession, idolatry, and lust, exhibiting few qualities found in First Corinthians 13.

Summary: Great writing is a pleasure to the mind and soul, but great writing comes with its own set of problems: Ideas that would cause only concern under normal circumstances become unusually potent and dangerous, able to slip around normal barriers we place around our hearts as readers and Christians.

Therefore, I highly recommend that Twilight should not be read, especially by its target audience (preteens and teens). Let me emphasize this again: this book is very persuasive and powerful, influencing even those trying to read with caution and discernment, and should be avoided.

Rating: Craft—5, Content—0, Overall—0.5

Note: If you wish to see my detailed footnotes of specific content problems (too extensive to include here), please email me at the address listed on my sidebar or contact me through my main website.

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