Literary legend has it that Mary Shelley's tortured Frankenstein monster came to her in a dream that inspired the classic horror tale. Twilight, a young adult novel by debut author Stephenie Meyer, has similar origins, but the otherworldly characters in her story are not lumbering monsters. Instead, they're beautiful vampires who make excellent use of their unusual abilities—while trying to fit in with the other students at a small high school.
"I never really thought about being a writer, but when I had the dream, the characters were ones I didn't want to forget," Meyer says from her home in Arizona, where she and her husband are raising three sons, all under the age of 10. Writing Twilight was "an unusual experience because I felt obsessive about the process. It wasn't like me to be so focused—it's hard to be, with all the kids around."
A neophyte in the publishing world, Meyer is truly an overnight success. Just two weeks after she sent her manuscript to a Manhattan agency, she was signed on. Soon after, Twilight landed in the hands of editor Megan Tingley, head of Little, Brown's MT Books imprint. And not long after that, movie rights were sold to MTV Films.
"It's been a real whirlwind—more like a lightning strike," Meyer says. "Sometimes I feel guilty. People go through so much [to get published], and I skipped over the bad parts. It feels like cheating, somehow." Despite the occasional pangs of guilt, Meyer kept up a furious writing pace. "I just kept going after the first one, and wrote four books in one year." Now, she's in the midst of editing her second book, a process she likens to labor: "It's equal in pain, and can drag on and on."
Despite all that editing, Twilight is 499 pages long, quite a tome for teen readers. "If it weren't for J.K. Rowling, I think publishers wouldn't be willing to put out lengthy books," Meyer points out. "It just proves that if a book is good enough, young people will read it. People say teens have short attention spans, but they are quite capable of reading [longer books]. There are tons of kids aged 16 or 17 who dig Shakespeare and Austen."
Meyer has no idea why she dreamed of vampires that fateful night, but she's always been fascinated by superheroes, and she reads science fiction and fantasy titles as eagerly as classics. In her house, J.K. Rowling and Orson Scott Card books share shelves with ones by Shakespeare, Binchy and Brontë.
And, Meyer argues, as monsters go, vampires are pretty appealing: "Vampires, while dark and icky, are attractive, sophisticated and intelligent. They're forever youthful, powerful—things people crave or envy. No one looks at a zombie and wants to be like that."
The vampires in Twilight are certainly worthy of envy. The lithe and beautiful Edward Cullen looks at protagonist Bella with loving eyes (even as he fights his urge to, well, suck her blood). His gorgeous siblings are athletic, drive great cars and are far less awkward than their classmates. Of course, they don't lead a typical teen lifestyle: instead of McDonald's, they subsist on blood. Since they want to live among humans, they force themselves to feed on animals rather than people.
Meyer also has a knack for developing her human characters, especially Bella, a troubled 17-year-old who comes to realize her own intelligence and strength. "Hopefully," says Meyer, "most girls who read it will find something in Bella they can respond to."
Through Bella and the vampiric Cullen family, Meyer conveys the importance of making one's own decisions, a value drawn from her Mormon background. "Mormon themes do come through in Twilight. Free agency—I see that in the Cullens. The vampires made this choice to be something more—that's my belief, the importance of free will to being human."
Twilight builds to a dramatic and suspenseful second half, not to mention a nail-biting conclusion. Fortunately for impatient readers, Meyer's next book is due out within a year. In the meantime, the author will embark on a book tour this month to cities such as Seattle, San Francisco, Milwaukee and Chicago, where there will be—appropriately enough—a blood drive.
Linda M. Castellitto writes from North Carolina, where there is a Transylvania County. Hmm. Copyright 2005 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2006 Spring
Isabella, just moved from sunny, warm Phoenix to dismal Forks, Washington, meets the mysterious, aloof Edward Cullen. Drawn by his irresistible good looks and animal magnetism, Bella finds herself falling in love with Edward and determines to unveil the true person behind the impenetrable facade. For older teens, this is a predictable love story laced with adventure and vampirism. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2005 September #2
Sun-loving Bella meets her demon lover in a vampire tale strongly reminiscent of Robin McKinley's Sunshine. When Bella moves to rainy Forks, Wash., to live with her father, she just wants to fit in without drawing any attention. Unfortunately, she's drawn the eye of aloof, gorgeous and wealthy classmate Edward. His behavior toward Bella wavers wildly between apparent distaste and seductive flirtation. Bella learns Edward's appalling (and appealing) secret: He and his family are vampires. Though Edward nobly warns Bella away, she ignores the human boys who court her and chooses her vampiric suitor. An all-vampire baseball game in a late-night thunderstorm-an amusing gothic take on American family togetherness that balances some of the tale's romantic excesses-draws Bella and her loved ones into terrible danger. This is far from perfect: Edward's portrayal as monstrous tragic hero is overly Byronic, and Bella's appeal is based on magic rather than character. Nonetheless, the portrayal of dangerous lovers hits the spot; fans of dark romance will find it hard to resist. (Fantasy. YA)Film Rights to MTV Films/Maverick Films Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection - March 2006
When her mother remarries, Bella moves herself to her father's home for her senior year. Bella is resigned to a bored and overprotected existence with her police chief father, but to her surprise, finds herself noticed in the small school where everyone has known each other since childhood. The person she notices though is the mysterious and mercurial Edward Cullen. Topaz eyes, ivory skin, and the grace of a large cat all give off dangerous signals, but Bella is drawn in and even Edward's warning that he is dangerous will not keep her away. Bella knows it is crazy, but could Edward be a vampire? Meyer has written a story that will appeal to teens from the lush romanticism to the action-packed finale. As a heroine, the klutzy Bella embodies the girl who has been "average" for so long that she no longer sees anything remarkable about herself. Without considering the supernatural aspects, it is a classic story of the star-crossed lovers who can only be separated by great tragedy. While there is nothing more explicit in the story than a couple passionate clinches, Meyer is painfully accurate in the emotional and physical responses to being in proximity of the object of your desire. First in a trilogy, readers will be anxiously awaiting the release date of the second volume. Recommended. Melissa Bergin, Library Media Specialist/NBCT, Niskayuna (New York) High School Â© 2006 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 July #3
Isabella Swan, 17, narrates this riveting first novel, propelled by suspense and romance in equal parts. The story opens with a cryptic scene of the heroine "facing death," then flashes back to Bella's departure from Phoenix, where her mother lives with her new husband, as the teen heads off to live with her father, the police chief in Forks, Wash. From the first day at her new high school, she finds herself magnetically drawn to Edward Cullen, whose behavior towards her is erratic ("I'd just explained my dreary life to this bizarre, beautiful boy who may or may not despise me"). Then she finds out why his interest in her runs hot and cold: he is a vampire-but of an unusual variety. Edward, his siblings and their adoptive parents have disciplined themselves to feed on animals rather than humans; and Edward is obsessed with Bella. Other elements factor into the plot, including a rival group of vampires who are not as disciplined as the Cullens. This plot twist (which includes a subplot about one of the Cullens' past life) contributes to a rushed denouement (much of it takes place offstage) that is perhaps the novel's only weakness. The main draw here is Bella's infatuation with outsider Edward, the sense of danger inherent in their love, and Edward's inner struggle-a perfect metaphor for the sexual tension that accompanies adolescence. These will be familiar to nearly every teen, and will keep readers madly flipping the pages of Meyer's tantalizing debut. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2005 October
Gr 9 Up- Headstrong, sun-loving, 17-year-old Bella declines her mom's invitation to move to Florida, and instead reluctantly opts to move to her dad's cabin in the dreary, rainy town of Forks, WA. She becomes intrigued with Edward Cullen, a distant, stylish, and disarmingly handsome senior, who is also a vampire. When he reveals that his specific clan hunts wildlife instead of humans, Bella deduces that she is safe from his blood-sucking instincts and therefore free to fall hopelessly in love with him. The feeling is mutual, and the resulting volatile romance smolders as they attempt to hide Edward's identity from her family and the rest of the school. Meyer adds an eerie new twist to the mismatched, star-crossed lovers theme: predator falls for prey, human falls for vampire. This tension strips away any pretense readers may have about the everyday teen romance novel, and kissing, touching, and talking take on an entirely new meaning when one small mistake could be life-threatening. Bella and Edward's struggle to make their relationship work becomes a struggle for survival, especially when vampires from an outside clan infiltrate the Cullen territory and head straight for her. As a result, the novel's danger-factor skyrockets as the excitement of secret love and hushed affection morphs into a terrifying race to stay alive. Realistic, subtle, succinct, and easy to follow, Twilight will have readers dying to sink their teeth into it.-Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library[Page 166]. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.