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*Twilight* by Stephenie Meyer - young adult fantasy book review


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by Stephenie Meyer
Grades 10-12 544 pages Little, Brown September 2006 Paperback    

In Stephenie Meyer’s debut novel, Twilight, Isabella Swan is the new kid in school after coming to live with her father in the dreary town of Forks on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. The sun rarely shines in Forks, nothing at all like the warm, sunny Phoenix she’s left behind. As Isabella tries to acclimate to a new home, a new school, and a new town, things become increasingly more interesting for her. Isabella’s first day of school starts off relatively uneventfully, but all of that changes at lunchtime when she notices a table of “devastatingly, inhumanly” beautiful teenagers sitting on the opposite side of the cafeteria. Their pale marble-like skin, dark eyes, and sculpted features captivate Isabella, and she seems to take a particular interest in the youngest looking boy with the bronze-colored hair.

Schoolyard gossip quickly reveals that these beautiful students are part of a foster family and live with a Dr. Carlisle Cullen and his wife. An intrigued Isabella is assigned Edward Cullen as her lab partner in her afternoon biology class. Edward is the boy with the bronze-colored hair, and his reception of Isabella is hostile at best. His rigid posture, coal-black eyes and furious expression leave her feeling bewildered and fretful. As the week progresses, Edward’s failure to show up for class eases Isabella’s anxiety. When Edward reappears, his appearance seems different somehow, and he is visibly less tense. He surprises Isabella once again with a more cordial greeting and addresses her as Bella, a nickname only her father knows. Playful banter ensues between the two of them as they become more acquainted with one another. Bella continues to be confused and mesmerized by Edward, and her attraction to him grows stronger every day.

After several brushes with disaster and Edward’s habit of always showing up at the right time to rescue her, Bella begins to ask questions. She implies that Edward is something other than human, or at least someone with unique powers. Edward denies her suspicions at first and warns her stay away from him for her own good. Bella’s persistence prevails, and Edward finally reveals to her that he is a vampire, and therefore dangerous to her, but it is too late. Bella and Edward have fallen in love with one another. Bella’s feelings for Edward have become so strong she is willing to overlook the danger she puts herself in by being near him. Theirs is a forbidden love if there ever was one.

Unlike more traditional portrayals of vampires throughout literature, Meyer’s vampires are graceful, compassionate creatures. Edward is a vampire with morals and a conscience, as are the other members of his foster family. Dr. Carlisle Cullen has carefully “chosen” his family members over time, only choosing those whose human lives were on the verge of extinction. Edward was born in 1901 and found by Dr. Cullen at the age of seventeen while lying near death in a Chicago hospital bed.

The Cullens have trained themselves to feast on animals rather than humans to quench their thirst for blood. The reader soon learns that the color of Edward’s eyes revolve around his feedings. His eyes are a warm gold color when he is satiated, but coal black when he is at his most dangerous. Despite his animal feedings, Edward’s turmoil becomes obvious as Meyer powerfully describes his struggle to maintain control in Bella’s presence. The bloodlust Bella inspires in Edward is great, but not greater than the love he feels for her.

Meyer skillfully creates a realistic environment in which vampires would choose to inhabit by setting her story in Forks, where the weather is usually dark and rainy. However, Meyer adds her own twist to the age-old fable of why vampires avoid sunlight. Edward and his family members actually become even more beautiful in the sunlight, and their skin literally sparkles. This beauty must be hidden, though, so as not to expose them for what they really are, explaining why Edward and his foster siblings are never seen at school on the rare sunny day in Forks.

Although Bella’s feeble attempts at independence and her continued damsel-in-distress routine get somewhat repetitive, it is easy to see how Edward’s protection of her is integral to Meyer’s story. When a group of traveling vampires arrive in town, the Cullens must band together to keep Bella safe. Not all vampires feel the affection for humans that the Cullens do, and Bella quickly becomes prey for one interloper in particular. The traveling vampire’s frightening and climactic chase of Bella culminates in her mother’s hometown of Phoenix, where Edward is faced with a heartbreaking decision. Wise beyond his eternal seventeen years, Edward must choose between saving Bella’s human life and allowing her transformation into vampire, which would unite them until the end of time.

Twilight is a spellbinding love story of a mere mortal and her vampire boyfriend. Meyer’s ability to depict such raw emotion in her telling of Bella and Edward’s gothic version of Romeo and Juliet is superb. Teens and adults alike will love this heartrending fantasy novel and will be engrossed from page one. Teens will relate to the intense emotions felt by Bella and Edward, and adults will grow nostalgic for their first love and the feelings that Meyer evokes. Meyer leaves her readers wondering if Bella and Edward’s relationship will stand the test of time. Will Bella move on into adulthood while Edward remains ageless at seventeen for all eternity? We’ll have to pick up a copy of Meyer’s second book in the series, New Moon, to find out.

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