I'm sure I'm not going to put this well, but I feel like I have to try. Before I start I want to quickly address the Harry Potter/Twilight comparisons. I just don't see it. Sure, they're both fantasy but to me that's like saying apples and oranges are both fruit. Or maybe like chocolate and tofu are both food. I just can't get my brain to compare the two sets of books. So, I'm not going to. Now on to the reason for this post.
Ok, here's the thing.
I understand most of the criticism about Twilight. Really, I do. Stalker boyfriend, not always the best writing, viral teen series, distortion of real love, contrived plots, bla bla bla. It's all there if you look for it, if you want to see it that way. With the series being so popular, naturally people are going to scrutinize. Check out this post at Busted Halo. (H/T Nancy Brown) And I love some of the comments on Hey Lady's review.
But what I want to know is, don't some of these people remember what it was like to fall in love as a teen? Or at least, what you thought was love then? It's a teen book, people. Cut the story a little slack already. I remember how it was for me, and I think Stephenie Meyer nailed it pretty well. And I think that is why the books are so popular. I don't know. Maybe if the critics didn't date much or know any cute boys or were always angelic, maybe then it would not resonate with them. Maybe they had such a pure and snowy upbringing that certain feelings or thoughts never crossed their minds. Maybe they did not experience any teen angst. Maybe they never saw Sixteen Candles or Better Off Dead or Say Anything or Some Kind of Wonderful. Maybe they lived in a protected world. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, but in looking for reasons to pan the books I think they're brushing over a vital point. This is first love. In high school. In a secular world.
I don't want to go all true confession here, but I'll do a little. What I can say is, I do remember. I remember being so nervous to take a phone call I almost couldn't walk across the room to pick up the receiver. I remember the confusion I felt when I could not understand what some wonderful boy saw in me, why he came over to talk to me, and not the gorgeous girl across the room. I remember trying to act cool and collected when my insides had turned to jello. I remember seeing a lot of forgettable movies just because it meant spending time with "that guy", not because I wanted to go to that movie but because he asked me to go with him. I remember cruising around with my boyfriend in his car just because it wasn't time to take me home yet, and then missing curfew after all. I remember my first date, my first dance, my first kiss. And I think Stephenie Meyer nailed that. When I read her stories I get some of those butterflies back. They make me sigh and smile, and remember a part of me that was important.
Minus the vampire-thing and the gorgeous-as-a-god thing, Edward is a lot like my old boyfriends. (Don't tell Mom.) I've had boys compliment my eyes and gaze into them, tell me how good I smelled (Salon Selectives and Touche perfume circa 1988), even (gasp!) sneak into my room at night. (Really, don't tell Mom. It's ancient history now anyway. And it will only make her feel guilty about the sketchy parental supervision I had as a teen. Too late to fix that.) And you know what? It can be a heady thing to be "stalked" , especially if you're in love with your stalker. Does that mean I want my daughters to be hounded like that some day? NO WAY. IT IS STILL CREEPY. But I think my girls should have their crushes and their firsts and their fluttery feelings. I don't think passion needs to be quashed, just directed. How dull if life was only logic and reason all the time. I also had boyfriends who protected my virtue by their own choice. Gentlemen. Yes, they do exist.
And now that I am married and love is deeper and more mature, it doesn't mean that that other kind of love has gone, just that it has grown. It has added dimension - from flat to 2D, then 3D and on. Sometimes the layers change places, taking turns covering each other, but they're all still there. Maybe the whole Edward/Bella thing is less of a stretch for me because I believe in love at first sight and fate. Well, God's plan for my life in my case, but fate in the book. Destiny by choice. Happy endings.
Like I said before, I think kids should be at least in their later teens before they read this stuff. The characters are high school juniors, and the readers probably should be, too.
I don't know where to tie this in, so I'll just tack it on:
Please quit picking on Bella already. She isn't shallow and she isn't selfish. If you look for depth in her character, it is there to find. Edward doesn't fall in love with her only because she smells good, and not only because he can't read her mind. He sees how she sacrifices for her mother, how she takes care of her father, how she sticks up for her friends. She is strong and yet needs protecting. And of course Edward's looks are the first thing she notices. She doesn't get a chance to get much closer to him. But when she really meets him, she does look deeper. And what's all the waffle about them only knowing each other a few days? There is some time passing in the book. More than Romeo and Juliet, that's for sure. And if you still don't get Edward, read the bit of Midnight Sun on Meyer's website. Once he falls in love with Bella it becomes part of him and won't change. Vampire thing.