"While sales at most stores plummeted last month, the teenage retailer Hot Topic enjoyed a 6.5 percent gain, thanks mostly to brisk sales of gear inspired by Twilight, the teenage vampire movie." [NYT]
So there’s that. And then there’s this:
“Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people …. The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.” -Stephen King [USAT]
I have to say that I agree - though not as vehemently - with Stephen King on this one. I just finished Breaking Dawn, the 4th in the series, and I’m not chomping at the bit for her elusive 5th book to come out.
That’s not because the fourth was so awful that I never want to read Meyer again. It’s because Breaking Dawn seemed to wrap up the story. Anything after this runs the risk of feeling like a gimmick to make more money. Like unplanned movie sequels and remixes of best-selling singles. Some things should be allowed to come to their natural end and then everyone should move on.
I started Twilight purely due to peer pressure and the fact that I like Kristen Stewart and have a strict Read The Book First Whenever Possible policy. I closed Twilight with a resounding “MEH” and made my way to the movie theater -- where I ranted about misused budgets and lost potential.
I picked up New Moon based on many many assurances (from friends and strangers) that the SECOND book is where it gets really good. And they were mostly right. It got “good.” Where Meyer’s literary prose falls short, she makes up with an intriguing plot and characters with whom you become truly invested. The second book fleshes out myths and histories and sets the stage for the third and fourth installments.
Book Three, Eclipse, gives us the “where they came from” stories that we did not get in the first two. This technique for catching up those who might be coming to the story in the middle is refreshing. That necessity, the “I’m Bella Swan and I’m in love with a Vampire,” is one of the few ways that Meyer shows her potential. There is also much more action in Eclipse...although I have to admit that by reading them marathon-style I’ve gotten foggy on where books pick up and leave off.
Breaking Dawn leads us down the path to the inevitable. I was warned (by thirteen year old girls, no less) that this book has parts in it that are “very inappropriate.” By this they mean sex. And lots of it. It is worth noting, however, that Meyer is MORMON. And since this is one aspect of herself that she has made clear from the beginning, it’s more a case of Sex Which Is Alluded To. Harlequin will not be knocking on her door any time soon. In fact, you get more racy sex - both in description and friendly teasing conversation - in most teen dramas.
Meyer has an emotional pull with her characters - her use of first person for Bella (and for Jacob in a section of Breaking Dawn) allows us to skip over the broken sentences and the stilted dialogue to focus on the action, of which there is plenty.
If you are looking for Young Adult fiction that is going to enlighten you, educate you, and make you wish you were a better writer...I can think of a dozen authors off the top of my head who will deliver better than Meyer. If you are looking for a fun, safely suspenseful, emotionally involving series of what I like to call Brain Candy - pick these up. They are certainly worth reading, even if my opinion leaves them somewhere short of great literature.