Hey hey, I’m reading “Twilight,” baby.
I got the first three in the series from my friend Genevieve (her relationship with the novels is another story), and lemme tell you boy…they are not that bad.
The structure and dialogue are stilted, but I’m still on the first book, so I’m giving Meyer the benefit of the doubt about trying to find her voice. On a Serious Writer Note, I know how hard it can be to get into the grove of basically making up stuff and making it sound not shitty only usings words.
Yes, the facts and Tumblr essays speak for themselves about how the relationship between whatshisface and whatshername mirror key elements of classic domestically-abusive relationships, how it’s a modernization of helpless female character waiting around for a man with perfect hair and perfect fucking teeth and a perfect chest chiseled from pure white marble to…wait, where did my pants go?
How…how did I get this erection?
Part of me wants to laugh, as I read this, but part of me wants to be 110% honest in giving it a chance. You know what? It’s a book, and someone’s reading it. It’s not a David Fucking Foster Hippie Wallace novel, but it’s a book. It’s a book that’s probably sold a lot more copies than he has. Or had, I hear he killed himself.
I mean, let’s be real. Teen fiction is not always written that well. When I was a teenager, the last fucking thing I wanted to read was stuff that I could tell was “aimed at teens.” In fact, to put the critical writer/English teacher/former academe/journalist hat back on for a while longer (Spoiler Alert: It looks like a dunce cap), I recently read a piece criticizing the structure of Young Adult books, romance, and just how cliche and 2-D their casts sometimes seem to be in the name of “realistic.” I think the term they used was “carefully constructed to be perfectly flawed” or something like that, I guess in building romance for Very Serious and Very Unique 15-year-olds so that somehow their first love/sexual experience isn’t the bland five minutes or total fucking trainwreck it usually is, but rather some kind of magical serious experience.
It’s a slippery slope from there to the wrong side of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, hustling to get that latest dimebag of glitter and knitting yarn before the shakes make it impossible to dance in the rain or repeatedly tell me just how much you love reading a good book with a cup of tea, not coffee, by the window on a rainy day when I have to go to fucking work like the rest of society.
I read my mom and dad’s cop and lawyer books, John Grisham talking about lawyers drinking during the day and popping pills is probably what made alcohol sound so cool. William Heffernan and Tom Clancy are what I’m blaming my fascination with violence, that’s the story and I’m sticking to it.
I was a young kid craving literature and a literary challenge of sorts, and god-fucking-damn it, I wanted something adult. Something cool with so much sex and violence it’d permanently scar me. I mean granted, I feel that unlike other teenagers I didn’t read to find voices similar to mine but rather to escape through new voices, and I think that that also played a part in why I was reading about laywers and cops and spies and explorers and doctors and whatever instead of other sensitive bookish teens who were experimenting with bad hair and Sharpie tattoos, huffing paint, alcohol, and loud music.
We all make mistakes.
The point was, I was a fucking snob as a kid when I read, I liked black-and-white comics over color because for some reason I thought that all the good violent and sex-filled stuff was only printed in B&W. I know, I was an idiot. But in a similar vein, I thought that kid and teen books were beneath me because they sucked.
Turns out I was sort of right about them. The majority of the young adult stuff I got my hands on as a kid wasn’t that memorable except for the real tearjerker crap. Uninspired dialogue, stock characters, vaguely-religious and feel-good endings that made very little sense. I was a teenager craving something else, and I looked for it outside of the Books For Teens world that was pre-selected by the publishing industry.
I’m sure nowadays kids have better fare. My students all talk about Percy Jackson and know Harry Potter and Twilight as cultural staples. I’m genuinely curious as to how they sort of stack up against what I had, and hey, who knows, they could get better.
Believe it or not, I have actually read much worse. Like, this is not even anywhere near the far end of Absolutely Fucking Terrible.