I’m going to review Twilight. Oh dear.
All right, so I’ve read a lot about the series. Mark Reads Twilight in the past, Das_Sporking, Dan Reads Twilight, Snark Squad, Cleolinda, and Ana Mardoll. Well, I’m still reading Ana’s but after that I won’t be doing any rereading besides Snark Squad’s reviews of Breaking Dawn (which I don’t have at this point) since the site is still doing them. And it’s virtually all negative. I did read Twilight and Eclipse back in high school.
I didn’t think much of them then, but I find it hard to believe that they’re as awful as so many sites claim. Except for the imprinting thing, that’s just wrong. I did try to read Life and Death a little over a year ago, but I couldn’t make it past the first chapter- not after having read about half of Discworld for the first time as well as Interim Errantry and Games Wizards Play over the past few months. The downgrade in quality was too steep for me to cope. I did read the epilogue, and Beau’s indifference to the funeral’s attendants’ grief unnerved me.
I’ll try to be fair and keep an open mind about things (ie, not let the other sites’ opinions influence my own). Though there might end up being unintentional influencings; sorry about that.
And the book opens with a Genesis quote. That’s… pretentious, especially for a vampire/human young adult romance novel. And evidently Stephanie Meyer doesn’t know the difference between a preface and a prologue. According to the Oxford dictionary, a preface is an “introduction to a book stating its subject, scope, etc.” while a prologue can be a “preliminary speech, poem, etc.”, it can also be an “introductory event”. The latter word better fits a brief ‘flash-forward’ to Bella being confronted by “the hunter”.
Yet… the opening line is “My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down”. That’s a very banal start to the novel. The third line has both a dash and a semicolon for some reason. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to put the “farewell gesture” snippet before the dash as remove the need for a semicolon? I won’t say that I’m the best at grammar, but this really jumps out at me. Maybe this will be my first count (credit for the idea goes to Das_Sporking, though I won’t reuse Mervin’s).
Glaring Grammar Problems: 1
I’m unlikely to catch them all, but I’ll note the ones that I do notice. I’m honestly surprised Bella didn’t say what color her parka is.
Then there’s a paragraph on Forks which grows increasingly bitter as it goes. It’s made somewhat clear why Bella hates Forks, but her love of Phoenix gets two lines. Telling her that Bella and her mom look alike doesn’t make sense when Bella hasn’t been given a physical description (besides it’s implied she has longer hair).
Evidently her mother can’t fend for herself, but has a new husband. Bella claims she’s a bad liar as she lies about wanting to go to Forks. I vaguely recall it’s a theme that Bella says she’s a bad liar, but the text never backing that up.
Bad Liar: 1
I have to wonder if Bella’s self-imposed exile is at least partially being upset that she’s no longer her mother’s caretaker. The fact that she’s only “probably” sure that the bills will be paid makes me wonder if Bella doesn’t think they’ll be making enough money to pay them- or that they’ll end up paying late fees.
Apparently, it’d be a “sacrifice” for her mother to go to Forks if Bella needed her. Okay then. The flights taking Bella to nearby Port Angeles are largely skimmed over, though a pair of paragraphs indicates that Bella spent most of the trip worrying about the hour-long drive with her dad to Forks. And Bella refers to her dad by his first name Charlie, which is odd, since Bella annually interacted with him up to this point. And surely there were phone calls and/or letters in-between visits? Just because someone isn’t chatty in person doesn’t mean they won’t write on a semi-regular basis. Going back to the name thing, her narration points out that she’s not “allowed to call him Charlie to his face”.
Was that because it (understandably) hurt his feelings? Did Bella’s mother warn her against it out of a fear that the habit could be used as evidence that she was turning Bella against her ex-husband? Is Bella merely aware that societal mores frown against it?
Also, the fact that Bella and her mother pooled their resources makes me wonder if Bella had a part-time job back in Phoenix. Or was it just referring to her allowance? However, for necessary clothing purchases parents generally pay for them when the kid is underage, don’t they? Is that a clue that their two-person household was a poor one? Also, did Phil offer any resources as the new stepfather?
They have a conversation in the police car cruiser on the way back about Charlie buying her a car from his friend Billy Black as a “homecoming gift”. Now, I’ve heard conflicting theories about it- whether it was a nice gesture, or presumptuous to not involve Bella in such an important purchase.
I think it’s part of A, some of B. Charlie is well-meaning here, wanting help settle in his daughter while she’s finally living with him again, even if it’s only until she leaves for college. But he doesn’t realize that as the one driving the car, Bella ought to have some input.
Also, I’m side-eying Bella for not asking why Billy’s in a wheelchair, or even wondering why that was. Just a few sentences ago she was able to info-dump that “La Push is the tiny Indian reservation on the coast”, so she could have done something similar for Billy. But he- and the childhood fishing trips Bella went on with him and her dad- were blocked due to being “painful, unnecessary things”. Instead of pausing to express even internal compassion for Billy’s situation, she asks what year the car is.
Her description of the greenery is okay, but maybe better expressed if Bella was uncomfortable with how monochrome the area was. Weirdly, there’s no mention of how the plant life looks as it rains- no mention of ‘darkened with rain’ or ‘dripping leaves’ or puddles.
They arrive at the house, and there’s some decent foreshadowing in Bella describing the red truck as “one of those solid iron affairs that never gets damaged” in a car crash. Bella’s also pleased that she doesn’t have to walk or ride in the police cruiser. Does Charlie only use the cruiser for transportation? I suppose as a small-town sheriff he could, but it seems odd. Maybe it’s a salary-related issue, making Bella’s demands to vacation with him in California instead of Forks all the harsher.
There’s a paragraph describing the bedroom and then a smaller one expressing Bella’s discomfort about sharing a bedroom with Charlie. Surely Bella had to do so before, during previous trips here? And during the California trips, I can’t really see them getting separate suites for two people. Is this different because it’s a long-term situation? It definitely can’t be the thought of waiting a turn, given the limited resources Bella and her mom had as otherwise she’d have a much larger wardrobe for Forks. Also, wouldn’t it have made more sense to buy wintery clothes once in Forks? There’d probably a wider selection and then there’d have been less luggage.
After Charlie leaves to let her unpack, Bella starts to stress out over going to Forks High School tomorrow. And there’s the first mention of her clumsiness, although Charlie had to steady her as she left the plane. Her effort at self-deprecation fails as soon as she calls herself “ivory-skinned” and “slender”.
Rocky Skin: 1
It would have been shown her low self-esteem if she had called herself ‘pasty and scrawny’. The bit in the bathroom does do a better job of that, although she makes it out to be Forks’ fault. And then she mopes about how she fails to connect to people and how “maybe there was a glitch in my brain”.
Bella can’t fall asleep until the rain slows down that night and in the morning, she’s unnerved by the thick fog outside and claims that “you can never see the sky here; it was like a cage”. Um, cloudy skies are a phrase, right? So maybe clear or blue skies would have conveyed her intent better.
The breakfast is skimmed over (it’s probably bacon and eggs). In Bella’s eyes, “the police station… [is] his wife and family”. There’s a paragraph describing the kitchen and adjacent family room. What confuses me about the photos listed is that there’s only school pictures of Bella mentioned. Surely Charlie took photos of Bella during her childhood? Are those in albums instead?
Evidently the lack of change leads Bella to note, “it was impossible, being in this house, not to realize that Charlie had never gotten over my mom”. That… puts a new spin on why Bella refused to return to Forks as a teen. It wasn’t just because she hates Forks, it was avoid facing that her dad still loved her mom all this time later.
Wait. Surely after eighteen years the cabinets’ bright yellow hue should have faded? Has Charlie been repainting them in the same color? That might be further proof that Bella’s on the right track.
A jacket equals a biohazard suit in Bella’s mind. Uh. Have you seen the biohazard suits on television? They are nothing like jackets. This feels like unnecessary hyperbole.
Bella travels to the school and misses the “chain-link fences, the metal detectors”. It’s basically far too low-key for her. I would have thought a safer school would be a cause for happiness…?
Hang on. Bella is “sure” that the parking spot she picked was “off-limits” due to nobody being parked before the building labeled Front Office. Yet if that was the case, surely there would have been signage or spray paint on the spots? I think I’m getting a headache.
The interior gets a paragraph of description. I thought a general rule is that frequent settings need the heavy detailing initially so that readers have a grasp already when the characters return there. Why should this space get as much detail as the Swan house?
Bella assumes she and her mother are prominent figures of gossip in Forks. Really? After all that time? It would have become common knowledge and likely only brought up when somebody new asked about the sheriff’s home life or why he was on vacation.
And then there’s the thrilling tale of Bella following traffic to the student parking lot, noting that “the nicest car here was a shiny Volvo, and it stood out”. Um, the attached clause seems redundant to me. If the narrator specifically highlights a car out of the group, it can be assumed that it stands out somehow.
Before heading towards the school, Bella “lied to [herself] feebly” about how well the day would go. I’m not touching the horrendous foreshadowing of “no one was going to bite me”.
Bad Liar: 2
I’m counting it due to the adjective. Actually, I should retroactively count how Bella apparently faked being fine to both Charlie and to the receptionist.
Liar, Liar: 2
This will count all the times nobody calls Bella out on lying. Anyway, she’s relieved that her “plain black jacket didn’t stand out”. What?!
I didn’t want to degenerate to James McAvoy Therapy so early on, but… how could her jacket stand out?! HOW?! WHAT?! A rainbow-hued or neon-hued one would, but a regular black jacket? I can’t even.
Also, there are apparently sentient “unisex raincoats” in Forks, as Bella follows two of them into a classroom. I get the symbolic language, but would have saying ‘two students in raincoats’ really have been that harder? Hang on, I need to Paint this. I suspect that somebody else pointed this out and/or did art too (it was probably Dan).
I’m aware that my art skills are awful. You’re still welcome for this image. And obviously, the unisex raincoats have to be purple, because pink and blue combined make that hue. Duh.
Okay, so a later paragraph reveals that the raincoat-wearers are “two girls, one a porcelain-colored blonde, the other also pale, with light brown hair”. That makes it worse that they were previously just unisex raincoats to Bella- yes, they were only seen from behind, but surely something of their builds could have been deduced. And besides, the narrator cheats all the time- why not this time?
Rocky Skin: 2
And of course, the English teacher has to gawk at her name. But points to not forcing Bella to speak to her new classmates and letting her sit at an empty seat in the back. I think her feeling her classmates’ eyes on her is largely symbolic of her being on their minds, since it cannot be literal.
Huh… Bella has read “everything” on the class reading list. Including all of Shakespeare? Now I’m wondering what she made of Titus Andronicus. I’ll admit I haven’t read all of Shakespeare’s plays, but I know enough about them to wonder what Bella makes of them. Despite it being her first day, she ends up preparing arguments for her mother about sending her old essays to use here.
After class, poor “over-helpful” Eric offers to show Bella the way to her next class. Their conversation is… bland. The rest of the morning is basically skimmed over (there’s a hatred of math). Bella lies “a lot” about how much she likes Forks, and presumably no one called her out on any of them.
Liar, Liar: 3
A petite girl with “wildly curly dark hair” walks with Bella to the cafeteria. And Bella claims she’s bad with names when she’s introduced to some of the other girl’s friends… but she remembers Eric’s name when he waves at her. It looks like Bella has an easier time remembering boys’ names than girls’, which is definitely odd. Furthermore, she explicitly doesn’t “try to keep up” with the other girl’s commentary on the way over. I would have thought learning more about the school would be a priority on day one.
And then Bella spots the quintet at a table of their own, inducing multiple paragraphs describing them. I refuse to go into depth because… no. First Bella describes all the ways they’re different and then claims “they were all exactly alike”. Their skin is described as “chalky pale” and a certain one has “bronze-colored hair”.
Rocky Skin: 3
Metallic Attributes: 1
A new count gets introduced as their faces are described in the fragment as “or painted by an old master as the face of an angel”. I have no idea why it and the preceding sentence weren’t merged together, because they’d fit together perfectly.
On the Side of Angels: 1
Glaring Grammar Problems: 2
The petite girl is asked about their identities by Bella, causing more unsubtle foreshadowing that basically hammers in that the bronze-haired teen has telepathy. There’s a brief info-dump, leading Bella to think they have “strange, unpopular names”. Look, they’re not exactly common ones, but they’re not really that odd. Mildred, Ethel, and Gertrude are old-fashioned names for girls, while many old-fashioned boys’ names are still acceptable. In fact, my baby name book indicates that Edward didn’t leave the top twenty-five until the 1960s.
This does lead into recalling that the petite girl is named Jessica, which as a name evidently exploded in popularity in the 1970s and hasn’t left the top twenty-five yet. Bella initially disapproves of Jessica’s disapproval of the stepsiblings dating (Emmett/Rosalie and Alice/Jasper) before backtracking that even in a big city “it would cause gossip”. The story is that Rosalie and Jasper (the fair-haired ones) are fostered twins while the others are ‘just’ adopted. I have no idea why they didn’t just claim they were ALL adopted.
Jessica continues to be somewhat petty about the Cullens, though she does reveal that they only “moved down two years ago from somewhere in Alaska”. Bella feels both pity and relief- she’s sorry they’re outsiders but glad she’s not the most interesting newcomer around.
Bella and Edward seem to be mutually curious about each other. Jessica is dismissive about the odds of her dating him, as according to her “apparently none of the girls here are good-looking enough for him”. Bella thinks it’s just “sour grapes” but I have to wonder just how bluntly Edward turned down Jessica and how many other girls.
As Bella hides her smile, she notices that it seems almost as if Edward is smiling as well. This is NOT subtle at all. After lunch, Angela walks with Bella to Biology II “in silence”. Evidently Bella is under the impression that she herself is shy. Huh, she’s been coming across as antisocial to me.
Obviously, the only available lab spot is the one by Edward, he of the “unusual hair”. Okay, Bella referred to it as “reddish-brown” when asking Jessica about him. That’s not odd. It can be pretty, but not odd. Unusual hair would be more of an unnatural hue, like pink or purple or blue or green. I would have accepted ‘striking’ or ‘tousled’ or some other adjective. This is not okay.
Bella trips over a book in the aftermath of Edward’s “hostile” reaction to her, making a girl giggle. Evidently his eyes are “black- coal black”.
Rocky Skin Eyes: 4
I’m counting it because, well, it’s not ‘pitch’ or ‘midnight’ or anything like that and due to the emphasis. The sentence gets to be on a line by itself.
Mr. Banner (who’s promptly Mark Ruffalo in my head) has “no choice” but to sit her by Edward. On the one hand, I get not wanting to mix up the lab partners when there’s already an odd person out. On the other… how noticeable is Edward’s reaction to others?
There’s more on Edward’s reaction to her and Bella’s reaction to his reaction. Evidently, Bella doesn’t need or want a refresher on “cellular anatomy”, which Mr. Banner is lecturing on. There are two long paragraphs on Edward’s behavior followed up by this pair of sentences: “It couldn’t have anything to do with me. He didn’t know me from Eve.”
I’m almost grateful that Mervin had unsubtle foreshadowing and dead herrings as two of her counts, because it would have been exasperating to try to keep track of them. Note to self- find a way to send cupcakes to Mervin. She clearly deserves some.
And what is Bella’s internal monologue when a supposedly disgusted Edward bolts from the classroom as soon as the bell rings?
“He was so mean. It wasn’t fair.”
Um, what? That sounds like a young kid, not a teenager. And it turns out that Bella tends to cry when angry, apparently.
Mike makes his appearance and walks with Bella to the gym, where their next class is. Bella’s narration points out that them sharing another class “wasn’t that big of a coincidence in a school this small”. Then why do Bella and Edward only share one class? I call authorial shenanigans.
And at least Mike noticed Edward’s odd behavior, which means other students might have. Evidently Mr. Banner didn’t notice or didn’t care. Okay then. Bella admits that Mike’s “clearly admiring” attitude isn’t enough to “ease [her] irritation”. And for some reason those two facts were put in separate sentences.
Glaring Grammar Problems: 3
Bella apparently got to sit out today, only receiving a uniform, but spent it panicking over future disasters in gym due to her clumsiness. All right then…?
After the final class (which might have been gym- it was unclear), Bella heads over to the front office to return the slip with her teachers’ signatures on it which confirms she did attend all her classes today. Although windy, it has stopped raining. Within, however, is Edward with his “tousled bronze hair”.
Metallic Attributes: 2
Despite her supposed anger at him, Bella describes his voice as “attractive”. Bella promptly goes into denial about being the cause of his desire to switch classes. Another girl briefly visits to drop off a note… and somehow only then does Edward notice Bella’s presence.
I’m confused. Wasn’t her scent carried over when she entered the office? I can’t even.
And the sentence about Edward’s furious reaction to Bella has this bit framed by dashes: “his face was absurdly handsome”. Don’t people tend to look less attractive when angry, let alone “hate-filled”? He then retreats both from trying to switch classes and from the physical space.
Somehow knowing “[her] face white for once instead of red”, Bella goes to hand over her slip. The receptionist checks on how her day went. For once Bella’s lie isn’t believed, but as she’s not called out on it or asked any further details, I’ll give it a count anyway.
Liar, Liar: 4
There’s a final paragraph about Bella already seeing her truck as a refuge and trying not to cry on her way home.
I’m already retreating this endeavor. Bella claims she’s a bad liar, but repeatedly does so within this first chapter. And the chapter title is supposed to be a reference to ‘love at first sight’ but it comes across more like ‘hate at first sight’. And already the descriptors for Edward and the other Cullens are over-the-top.
Now I understand the schedule slips that sometimes happen when people review this series. You literally can’t endure more than a chapter at a time. Detox is needed, and maybe a shower. I will try to review a chapter a week, but… no promises.
I haven’t noticed anybody point out the Doylist reason for Bella forcing her father to visit her instead of the other side around. Maybe because it’s so obvious, but it’s clearly done to ensure that Bella and Edward don’t meet until they’re the same physical age. Which is annoying, given how the werewolves aren’t allowed the same authorial courtesy.
“But I find it hard to believe that they’re as awful as so many sites claim”. Clearly, I was wrong, going by this first chapter. I’m not going to make this alone.
Next time in Twilight: Bella isn’t an open book to Edward.