So for my Creative Writing class, one of our assignments was to actually read Twilight and then write a paper on it, telling why (or why not) it "works." Naturally, I chose the affirmative. I started off tying in religious undertones, but that got too preachy. But maybe as a follow-up... Anyways, here's what I wrote. Then tell me what you think...as a whole and as a piece of Young Adult literature, did it "work"?
It is hard to pin down what exactly makes a particular novel good or bad, accepted and loved, or rejected and reviled. However, when certain aspects are addressed, when bases are broken down, it becomes a little bit clearer as to why a work of fiction does well or not. Twilight, in all of its vampiristic glory, “works,” especially for the age group it is marketed toward. It is a piece of young adult fiction and serves all of the purposes of just that. It is a coming-of-age novel, it is a romance, it contains the super-natural elements the market is eating up right now, and it is creatively written.
In any good coming-of-age story, the main character undergoes adventures and inner turmoil in his or her growth and development while dealing with family, friends, or community issues. Bella Swan is a typical character in this respect. Only this creative novel adds in another twist in which the main character of Bella, as well as the reader, is able to get swept away in the world of vampires. One of the more interesting aspects of the book is that we never get a sense for how unique and beautiful Bella is, until we start to see her through Edward’s eyes. This being a first-person narrative, it takes a while for the reader to understand how Bella- so awkward that she can trip while walking on a flat surface- could have fascinated such a magnificent being such as Edward. This is yet another reason why the story “works”; it surreptitiously helps the reader (especially when placed in Bella’s shoes) to realize the world and other people around them see them in a different, and sometimes better, light than they see themselves. Meyer’s deft hand is able to bring the realization of how special Bella actually is, very slowly and deliberately.
The second reason Twilight seems to work and speak to such a vast audience is due to the romantic element. However, this is where some of the novel’s greatest critics take issue. Edward Cullen, the vampire, is perfect - and we are reminded of exactly how perfect nearly too often. While reading the book, it is easy to become frustrated with the never-ending descriptions of his perfect body, perfect hair, indescribable model-like looks, but the reader has to realize this is not written in the third person. It is a first-person narrative, so the reader is getting the story as Bella tells it, and how Bella sees it. His burning black eyes, or warm topaz/butterscotch eyes, are magnets to her, as are every single movement he makes. It is not difficult to step back into high school and remember a first love (or crush) and recall similar feelings. Their eyes never ceased to captivate you; their smile melted you; when they kissed you, you felt faint. And you felt these things every single time you saw that person. Perhaps that is also why the “flat” character of Edward works for the general readership of the Twilight saga- everyone wants their own perfect love and it becomes all too easy to find those qualities in Edward.
The third reason that seems to make this particular novel work in the world of young adult literature is the super-natural element that is so popular in today’s market. Not only was Meyer able to incorporate the fantastical, but she was able to create a different view of a genre that has been done countless times before. The representation of the vampires, their unique talents, and the exceptional way in which they blend into society is marvelous, and provides a firm backbone to the story. While this is a story that is decidedly told in our world, and while this is more of a coming-of-age story than a vampire story, there are still vampires in it, and they needed to be believable. If not, the entire story, no matter how well told, falls apart, and the reader is left wondering why the vampires are even in the story. Meyer’s vampires, and their lore, are distinctly drawn and magnificently add one more aspect to the book that makes it work as a whole.
Twilight is a wonderful example of a piece of young adult fiction that “works.” Not only is it a coming-of-age story, a romance, and a fantasy, but it is creatively written. All of these things came together in one nice, neat package that, love it or hate it, created a fan-base that has kept it on the best seller list for the last 97 weeks(1).