This week, I’m sharing what might be my MOST unpopular / controversial book opinion (we’re all agreed Dumbledore = bad now, yes?) If you haven’t instantly unfollowed me after reading the title, then stick around with a brew and let me explain why I love this book everyone else seems to hate.
The Coffee: This week, I am drinking the Ethiopian Kayon Mountain from Square Mile coffee roasters. In my creepy blood stained mug, because it seemed appropriate.
The Books: The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer.
For a series of books that was once INSANELY popular, it seems that it’s now commonplace to hate the series and dwell on its problematic aspects. I’m not going to talk about those today (although I may at some point because – surprise surprise- I have many feelings and opinions on that too). A simple google of “why is Twilight problematic?” will give you hundreds of articles that address this point. I want to share ten of the reasons why I love it:
- It got me into reading again. After a really bad reading slump following the birth of my son and resulting mental health problems, I wasn’t reading much at all, but a friend recommended Twilight, and I was hooked. I’m not going to claim it’s the most beautifully written masterpiece there ever was, but I enjoyed the story and it got me reading again. That’s a win in my book.
- It introduced me to reading YA for pleasure. YA wasn’t really a thing when I was a teen. We had “point” books: Goosebumps, Sweet Valley High etc but there wasn’t the selection there is now, and what there was was mainly horror. I studied the (then) emerging YA at university and loved what I read, but it wasn’t until many years later with Twilight, that I read a YA book purely for pleasure. Twilight led me into The Hunger Games and Divergent (it seems everyone hates those too, but I LOVE them) and from there into more and more YA. More YA can only be a good thing.
- I love me a vampire story. The myth of the Vampire, creature of darkness who attains immortality at the expense of drinking the life from other humans fascinates me. I especially love a twist on the original myth: Angel from Buffy fascinated me for his life with a soul, Spike from the same series for seeking out a soul, Anne Rice’s Vampire chronicles for their deeply introspective characters and complicated relationships between vampires and humans. The element of trying to be a “good” vampire, the concept of the soul as the centre of morality, being a “vegetarian” vampire: all things that hook me in. Twilight has this. It also has werewolves.
- The Cullens are a wonderful family. There are some interesting discussions to be had around the ethics of Carlisle cherry-picking his relatives, but for the most part, the Cullens are a great example of a family. They may not be related by blood (not all families are), but they are loyal, they care for each other and they protect each other. Their willingness to accept Bella as a person Edward loves, in spite of the obvious difficulties this will cause them, is a really admirable. It’s nice to see a family like theirs in a book.
- Alice Cullen. How could you not love Alice? She is sweet, kind-hearted, weird and wacky. She can see into the future. I have all the love for Alice.
- Jacob Black. He’s loyal, he would do anything for Bella, he is her voice of reason when she’s being a total idiot; he saves her relationship with her dad post-immortality (for his own selfish ends, but no-one is perfect) and puts aside ancient petty differences to do what he believes is right (protecting Bella and the Cullens). Oh, and he’s a werewolf. I love a werewolf.
- Bella and Edward’s relationship. This one comes under a lot of criticism for Edward being abusive and using sex to coerce Bella into marrying him. (I don’t want to get into defending the criticism of this being problematic: I can see how the story -particularly the film versions- could be read that way. I see it differently. Yes, Edward is technically hundreds of years old. Or he has been a vampire that long at least. But he was made a vampire at the age of 17, and it is not beyond reason to think that a vampire of that age would be perpetually mentally 17. If creepy child vampires stay as children, why wouldn’t a teenage vampire BE a teenager?) Those points aside, Bella and Edward show that it is possible to fall in love young, marry young, and still be happy. As someone who met my now husband at 17 (and has several friends in the same position), it’s not often I get to see that kind of relationship in books. I’ve seen it criticised for being unrealistic. News flash: it happens. It’s good to see that reflected in books. Bella and Edward also show that starting a family young isn’t the end of the world. Again, lots of people do this, but it’s not so often written about.
- Bella’s breakdown is realistic. It’s fair to say Bella loses her shit when Edward leaves her. I didn’t have many teenage breakups (see the aforementioned meeting the love of my life at 17), but I did have a long distance relationship for 2 years where I only saw my then boyfriend (now husband) during holidays. I remember wailing and sobbing my heart out, before taking to my room and quietly breaking down. I stared at the wall. I pulled away from my friends. I played the same awful emotional songs over and over again. That intensity of emotion is a thing a lot of people experience, and Twilight shows them that it’s ok to lose your shit every now and then. I love the book’s ability to evoke those emotions.
- Bella survives a really traumatic birth and it doesn’t ruin her life. I had a traumatic birth with my son, but it doesn’t define who I am. And seeing that reflected in a book I read is one of the things that pulled me out of the worst of my depression.
- It ends happily. I am all for a heart-wrenching tale, but I loved that this ended happily. When I read this I NEEDED a happy ending and it gave me that.
Are you a Twilight fan or a hater? What do you think of my reasons for loving it? Do you have any unpopular book opinions of your own?