I am a fresh convert. I recently started tutoring an eleven-year-old girl who speaks fluent ‘Edward,’ and little else. Upon first meeting my young charge, I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Her mother informed me that her daughter really likes ‘Twilight,’ and can talk about little else. As a result, I am halfway through book four, and “Edward” has become a common topic in my apartment, much to the chagrin of my three roommates. He has also become my screen saver. My favorite of the quartet is the bestselling ‘New Moon,’ book two of Stephanie Meyer’s menace. ‘New Moon’ tells the continuing story of Bella’s tempestuous romance with the undead, an eternally seventeen-year-old named Edward Cullen. In this book, Bella, the young moral heroine, struggles with Edward’s decision to leave her, for her own good, and also embraces a new friendship…with a werewolf. The story is chock full of teen angst and plot twists that do not disappoint.
A strength of this book is the development it lends to the character of Bella. She is shown without Edward, and therefore the reader is able to make better sense of her, without his overshadowing presence. It also brings in new characters and takes the reader to Italy, which is never a bad place to go. Meyer is something of a fantastical being herself in her ability to draw the reader into her world. A weakness of ‘New Moon’ is it’s hyper focus on Bella’s depression, as a result of Edward’ departure, and her insistence on physically hurting herself in order to bring him back. It gets old quite fast. The descriptive style of ‘the Twilight Saga’ can hardly be classified as good, but Meyer sneaks by winningly with her commitment to Bella’s voice, an expression that she writes extremely well. Despite my acceptance of these books, I am still semi-baffled by their popularity. I am also currently reading ‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell, whose discussion of “social epidemics’ has been quite illuminating in my quest to understand the “why” behind the popularity and success of Meyer’s work. Obviously, the books are doing well. ‘New Moon’ was recently made into a film, one that the girl I tutor for has seen five times, that grossed 140.7 million in its opening weekend.
Obviously I have seen the movie too, and it does not disappoint. It is as chock full of angst as the books, but it comes in live color. Miss Kristen Stewert is the queen of the suffering sideways glance and Robert Pattinson is the epitome of human ( or non-human?) perfection. The film manages to retain all the twists of the book without loosing much in the way of plot, which is good because fans of 'Twilight' are so die-hard that to mess with plot lines could result in mass rioting. The most shocking aspect of the film, for me, was how amazing the soundtrack is. The New Moon soundtrack features tracks from the likes of Grizzly Bear, OK Go, and Thom Yorke. This is indeed a big step up from the 'Twilight' soundtrack that boasted mainly Linkin Park and such. I cannot help but be overjoyed that Lykke Li has replaced Taylor Swift as my eleven year old friend's favorite singer. How cool is that?
Despite embracing the Twilight mania, it has also been my mission to steer my eleven year old pal towards other works of young adult fiction that retain the fantasy element without compromising the quality of the writing. Three titles that go nicely with the ‘Twilight’ vibe are Madeleine L'Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, Tamora Pierce’s ‘Alanna’ series, and my favorite, ‘Sabriel’ by Garth Nix. All three books showcase a young woman who feels like an outsider in her own world, and chooses a different path than the one presented to her. They each also throw a little romance into the mix, which I know is a vital element of any young girl seeking a ‘Twilight’ rebound. I think the young adult market is ripe with less than admirable fiction, and it would be wonderful to guide kids towards titles that can stimulate their imagination without depleting their verbal score on the SAT.