Today, my secret was unleashed on the world. One of my college friends writes a book blog and, in today’s post, casually mentioned me. Not, much to my chagrin, as that up-and-coming writer or the girl who threw amazing Halloween parties, but as something altogether worse. I am the girl who gave her Twilight, pronounced it “SO GOOD,” and temporarily ruined YA literature for her in the process.
That’s right, chickens. I once liked Twilight.
A lot. I felt about Twilight the way Liberace felt about sequins: utterly beguiled. The story of Bella & Edward made my heart fucking jitterbug, y’all. Reading it, I laughed and cried and smiled over the triumph of vampy love. When I was done—less than twenty-four hours after picking it up—I loaned it to every girl I knew. Since these were the Halcyon days before “Robsten” and “I Drive Like A Cullen” bumper-stickers, there were quite a few people to receive my fangirl gospel. I told them it was the best book ever, forced it into their hands, and waited to share in its glory.
I am totally mortified about this. I am, also, not. Have I since completely rejected the series? Yes, indeed. The feminist in me, much stronger than she was at age nineteen, hates wimpy wet crumpet, Bella. I think vampires should explode, when exposed to sunlight, and that there are only two reasons a 100 year-old dude marries a teenager: mommy issues or too many nights watching Deep Throat. Either way, not my dream date. Twilight is problematic on both a craft level—one more damned adverb, and E.B. White would have reanimated and gone on a head-bludgeoning rampage—and as a thematic representation of genre. I don’t like it.
And, yet…it seems disingenuous to malign Twilight the way I have in past years. Hype and hindsight have destroyed my love of it, yes, but there was once love. The writing isn’t wonderful and the characterizations put teenage girls back a good fifty years, but so many readers have responded to it for a reason. So, is it just that vampires are foxy? Or that young women like escapist fiction, because our brains are wee and mushy? Those are the easy (read: offensive) answers people like to argue. The more I think about it, the more I think there is something redeeming in Stephenie Meyer’s series, just as there is in all popular fiction.
Getting millions of readers to feel for your characters is no easy feat. People don’t stand in three-day lines or tattoo book quotes on their bodies for every vampire novel that comes out. Meyer’s strength is, perhaps, just that: triggering strong emotion. Similarly, Dan Brown really is excellent at plotting and James Patterson paces books brilliantly. I don’t think they’re the best writers ever, but they also aren’t as bad as most of us literary snobs make them out to be. Things aren’t popular because readers are weak-minded, they’re popular because readers care.
It shouldn’t be embarrassing to care. You can like popular fiction and still be an intelligent, thoughtful person. My own bookshelves are proof that pink covers can peacefully coexist with scientific tomes. Neither is inherently better. I sincerely don’t love Twilight anymore, but I do love what it once sparked in me. Passion for the printed word should be celebrated, not reviled.
Yes, my dear Mr. White, even if that word ends in –ly.