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Twilight: What You Need to Know

by Donna Jefferson

Hearing that there is a series of books that moms and daughters have not only been reading together but actually devouring, I was curious. Pairs would pre-order the next book, stand in line at midnight to receive their latest installment and rush home to spend the next few days together totally consumed in the story. I had to learn more about these books.  (OK, I know that if you have already read the books you will be rolling your eyes with my choice of words, devouring and consumed. I just couldn’t resist.)

My daughter Janet and I like many of the same books and authors. Barbara Kingsolver has held us spellbound with her detailed stories about life and nature. Marley and Me had us laughing out loud and later sobbing at the end of the story. Three Cups of Tea inspired us to wait hours in line to meet author Greg Mortensen and hear him tell his story in person. Another series of books to share would be a treat. So with great enthusiasm I bought the first installment of the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer. I was further encouraged when the sales clerk, with a great forlorn kind of sigh, told me how much I would enjoy the book.

I read all four books of the series over the course of three months and now, here’s the truth: I really dislike these books and I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone much less a teenage or even worse, preteen girl. I shudder when I think of all the hype this book and upcoming movie have received. I’m having a hard time trying to figure out why moms feel compelled to encourage the reading of these stories.

If you haven’t heard the details yet the Twilight series by author Stephenie Meyer is based on the story of Isabella “Bella” Swan, her divorced parents; police chief father Charlie and newly re-married mother Renee, and Bella’s boyfriend Edward Cullen. Bella had been living with her mother in Phoenix since she was six months old and her parents separated. Renee remarries and, at seventeen, Bella feels like a fifth wheel so she moves from Phoenix to live with her dad in Forks, Washington — giving the newlyweds their space.

Bella meets Edward in school and it just so happens that he’s a vampire although Bella seems to be the only one in Forks who figures this out. Vampire code forbids vampires from disclosing the fact that they are vampires. Spoiler Alert: If a mortal learns the truth about vampires, the mortal either has to be killed or turned into a vampire. This creates problems in future books.

It’s pretty much love at first sight except for the week or so when Edward tries to avoid Bella since she smells good enough to eat and he’s afraid he will. Of course that’s a problem; not only for the obvious reasons, but especially since Edward and the family of vampires he has been living with for the last century or so have sworn off humans and only eat wild animals.

Bella figures out the truth about the “cold ones,” which include Edward, from her Native American friend Billy when he tells her some of his tribe’s ancient legends. One legend claims that the Quileutes, Billy’s tribe, descended from wolves and there is still another legend about the “cold ones,” natural enemies of the wolf – “well, not the wolf, really, but the wolves that turn into men, like our ancestors. You would call them werewolves…But this pack that came to our territory during my great-grandfather’s time was different. They didn’t hunt the way others of their kind did – they weren’t supposed to be dangerous to the tribe. So my great-grandfather made a truce with them. If they would promise to stay off our lands, we wouldn’t expose them to the pale-faces.”

A large part of the book dwells on Bella learning about Edward and his family and the uniqueness of being a vampire. It’s pretty typical character development if you overlook the vampire thing and their special talents.  During a midnight baseball game with Edward’s family, Bella is exposed to a pack of human-eating vampires and for the remainder of the book Edward is kept busy protecting Bella from a renegade vampire who is out to get her.

Now for some of the things that many moms aren’t going to like. This is Bella describing herself, “it wasn’t just physically that I’d never fit in. And if I couldn’t find a niche in a school with three thousand people, what were my chances here? I didn’t relate well to people, period. Even my mother, who I was closer to than anyone else on the planet, was never in harmony with me, never on exactly the same page.”

Despite Bella feeling like an outsider, which probably half of all teens do, Bella had three potential boyfriends the first day she went to school as well as a number of girls to hang out with. If you are a geeky outsider how do you fit in so quickly and land the most handsome mysterious boy at school? How is this going to make the reader feel?

Bella is supposedly very close to her mother. She says of her mom, “She’s more outgoing than I am, and braver. She’s irresponsible and slightly eccentric, and she’s a very unpredictable cook. She’s my best friend.” But Bella rarely speaks to her mom on the phone and only occasionally emails her since she has to use a slow dial-up land line. She keeps Edward a secret from her mom for a long time. What mom is going to go without talking to her seventeen-year-old at least on a daily basis? And it is NOT okay to keep secrets from mom.

Then there is Bella’s dad Charlie. He is the chief of police and about the most clueless dad in the state of Washington. Bella takes care of his dinner and washing his clothes like he is the child. She also hides her relationship with Edward from Charlie. She often lies about where she is going saying, “With Charlie, less is always more. I was definite about that.” Both of Bella’s parents are portrayed as complete imbeciles that Bella has no problem deceiving.

Early in their relationship Edward uses the key under the front doormat to break into Bella’s house, “I was curious about you,” he said. Then Bella discovers that Edward had been looking through her bedroom window watching her sleep. Her biggest concern was that Edward overheard her talking in her sleep and that she had said something embarrassing. Most parents would find this very creepy and call the police to have Edward put in jail.
After Bella discovered that Edward had been peeking through the window she decided he should just start spending the nights with her and at one point she “regrets not packing the Victoria’s Secret silk pajamas my mother got me two birthdays ago.” Bella is seventeen and in eleventh grade, deceiving her parents and having her boyfriend spend the night on a routine basis. The only reason they don’t have sex in the first book is because Edward is afraid he might get too excited, lose control and kill Bella by accident.

If this isn’t enough to make a parent cringe, Bella is supposed to be an honor student taking AP classes, but she routinely makes poor decisions and Edward is constantly swooping in to save her. Much of the time she follows Edward’s lead without question. 

If your kids want to read the books, then by all means read with them so that you can explain to them that they better not ever behave the way Bella does. 

By Donna Jefferson 

Chesapeake Family serves parents and families in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore, Bowie, Calvert and Prince George’s County and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

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