This summer I noticed that you couldn't really carry on a conversation with a teenage girl unless you had read Stephanie Meyers' Twilight series. My daughter accompanied me on a business trip to Nashville in June and read the three that were available in four days. I got such a kick out of watching her actually grinning while she was reading it.
In August, when New Dawn came out, she and her friends all met at the bookstore for the midnight release. The place was packed.
We visited friends in North Carolina later in the summer and their daughter was also up to speed. Later, my daughter's friend from San Antonio joined us at the beach, and she devoured the series during our week there.
Now the movie is in theaters. My daughter and I went on the opening weekend to watch this much anticipated event. We had approved the choice of Robert Pattinson to play Edward (He was Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter movie, Goblet of Fire). I wasn't familiar with Kristin Stewart, who played Bella, but my daughter said she was Lisa in Zathura.
To sum up the story, Bella is a young girl who has decided to come to the Pacific Northwest to live with her father. She is unsure of herself and is not looking forward to standing out as the new kid. Little does she realize that she soon will have much than that to worry about. She just happens to have moved to a town that unwittingly hosts the Cullen family, a family of vampires. They eschew the traditional vampire lifestyle, choosing instead to feed off of animals rather than humans. They are exceptionally beautiful (I wonder if anyone has ever written a vampire story that involves ugly vampires). Bella is immediately drawn to Edward although he seems to loathe her on sight. This does nothing for her self-esteem. It turns out that he is afraid of her because he is so drawn to her.
Their love story develops from there and Bella slowly learns the truth. The first book focuses a great deal on discovery; the rest of the series revolves around her desire to join Edward's family, and all that entails, and his desire for her to lead a normal human life.
Back to the movie--we loved it! It was beautifully filmed, and I think that the romantic tension between Edward and Bella maintained an innocence that was refreshing in a teenage love story. I read a review recently by a psychiatrist who maintains that all girls want is an Edward Cullen to love them--she praised the movie. The article generated a lot of chat; several readers scoffed that a vampire story shouldn't be called wholesome or something for girls to wish for.
We talked about it, and my daughter and I think that the success of the Twilight series is due to the fact that it is a love story first and a vampire story second. Bella and Edward are in love and he just happens to be a vampire. He is older and more experienced than Bella and rather than press his advantage, he does everything he can to protect her and take care of her. That is what girls are responding to, I think. (For those of us who have not been teenagers for, ahem, a while now, the story works too.)
While reading the books, I will admit that I found Bella irritating on more than one occasion. Her tendency to run herself down at every opportunity got old fast for me. I would have preferred her to evolve a bit more as the story developed. My daughter said that didn't bother her and didn't find it as pervasive a habit as I did. A great deal of the book is spent telling us what's in Bella's head (she tells the story), so I found the movie actually an improvement because the emphasis was more on what is happening than what Bella is thinking. I also found myself worrying that Bella was losing her sense of self and couldn't define herself in any way other than loving Edward.
Some of my daughters' friends liked the movie, but not as much as the book. While this is not unusual for a book that you love, I was curious as to why. Generally, the feeling is that too much gets glossed over. For example, Jacob, a Native American friend of Bella's family, tells Bella the legend between his people and the vampires. This is key to the development of a main story thread that runs throughout the series-many of my daughters' friends felt that this scene wasn't treated with the importance it deserved. Ditto with the development of some of the other members of Edward's family, who play larger roles in future books/movies.
We haven't encountered anyone who hasn't liked the movie, but I don't know any guys who have seen it. My son is quite dismissive of any vampire movie that isn't a gore fest--he views Twilight with a why-bother attitude. I suspect that many men feel the same way. My daughter does know some girls who have chosen to not read the books precisely because they are popular. I know that mindset and have been there myself, but sometimes things are popular because they are really good, and then you miss out.
While I wouldn't recommend this series for tweens--it deals with some pretty heavy topics--I think most teenage girls will really respond to it. If you know any teenage girl who hasn't read the books, they would make a good Christmas present.
The book titles are Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. I'm sure a movie for each book is in the works, so teenage girls will be discussing these for quite some time.