About a year ago, before “Vampire Fever” struck the nation, I wandered into Barnes & Noble looking for a light read. That’s when I stumbled across “Twilight,” a campy looking paperback with a pair of pale hands holding a blood red apple on its cover. Vaguely remembering that this was the vampire book with a small faux-Goth cult following that I’d heard whispers about, I thought it looked perfect. Twenty-four hours later, I was hooked and in love with a vampire. I promptly devoured the next two books in the series. I became a Twilight-aholic, displaying the classic symptoms of restless nights spent thinking about the novels and feverish days where it was the only subject about which I could speak intelligently, as paradoxical as that may seem. What I was not prepared for was the persecution I would suffer from my peers who balked when they heard that I was reading (gasp!) vampire fiction. For the sake of my ego and my self-preservation, I closeted my love and quasi-respect for the series.
For those of you living under rocks, “Twilight” is your typical teenage love story about an average young girl, Bella, who moves to Forks, Washington. There she meets a breathtakingly gorgeous vampire named Edward, who, after overcoming his initial impulse to feed on her, falls madly in love with her. Apart from stealing from Shakespeare and Ann Rice, “Twilight” sports a handful of original elements. It boasts “vegan” vampires who do not sleep in coffins (in fact they do not sleep at all) and are fully capable of going outside in the daytime — provided it is overcast.
Although it has been deemed the next “Harry Potter” and compared to “Romeo and Juliet,” I think I can safely say that “Twilight” does not hold a candle to either work. Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that it lights an entirely different candle. A friend of mine who chooses to remain anonymous put it best when she said: “It’s like you’re in a bakery and you see an éclair, and you know that the éclair is really good, but you just want a Twinkie.” “Twilight” is the Twinkie of literature, something that is not good but so satisfying that it compensates for any lack of literary merit. With generally bland characters, who are carried by a less-than-original but still exciting plot line, and romance novel-esque dialogue such as “You dazzle me” as the norm for the novel, “Twilight” is simply deliciously bad.
The most mystifying aspect of “Twilight” is the power it has over its readers. My slight obsession was severely mocked by my friends, but months later, after buzz surrounding the movie emerged along with the fourth and final book in the series, they too were infected with vampire fever. The books are impossible to put down and completely mind-occupying. “Twilight” has the power to intoxicate its readers with its overt romanticism while simultaneously making them feel awful about themselves and their lack of vampire suitors.
What is perhaps more disturbing about the series’ appeal is the millions of smart, capable women becoming engrossed in blatantly anti-feminist books about a girl who is willing, even begging, to throw her entire life away — literally and figuratively — for the person she loves. Perhaps it is this forbidden fruit — the desire to have a romance that is life-consuming combined with the knowledge that this is not practical or realistic — that has so many hypnotized by the romance of Bella and Edward. Regardless, the millions of books sold, not to mention the thousands of catch phrases and Facebook bumper stickers spawned by the series are testaments to the story’s mass appeal.
“Twilight” is not a book for people who take life or themselves too seriously. It is a book for people who understand that bad things can be good and utterly fun. Now with the hype surrounding the movie (which perfectly captures the sheer stupidity of the novel and in my opinion is worth the $10-plus ticket for its entertainment value), I think that I can safely come out of my closet — or more fittingly, emerge into the sunlight — as a Twilight fan.