The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
I found the first part of this novel engaging. Stephenie Meyer’s deceptively simple style quickly draws the reader in and the story proceeds at a brisk pace. However, once the principal love interest, Edward, is introduced, the writing very soon becomes repetitive. Edward is endlessly described as god-like in his perfection; Bella, the protagonist is continually on the point of swooning at his mere proximity.
The characterisation is extremely limited. Meyer gives her characters one or two signature traits and leaves it at that. So Bella is clumsy, her father is easy-going, her friend Jessica is talkative and so on. But there is next to no character development.
After the unveiling of the book’s premise – that Edward is actually a vampire – the plot is predictable. Bella falls in love with him, despite the danger he represents. He falls equally in love with her and resists the almost overwhelming urge to drink her blood. When another, less scrupulous, vampire threatens her, he rescues her from a fate worse than death.
Where the book scores is in its treatment of vampirism as a metaphor for sexuality. Edward is overwhelmingly male – powerful and dangerous. Bella is overwhelmingly female – attractive and submissive. Though facing the almost unbearable temptation to bite her and drink her blood, a temptation which is even greater because she really wants him to do it, he must learn self-control. She must learn to trust him and also not to respond too passionately, thereby leading him on.
These are very conservative values and very old-fashioned ideas about gender roles but Meyer is a Mormon and perhaps she feels that this is an appropriate message for the modern teenager. In one brief speech near the end of the book Bella protests that both partners in a relationship should be equal, but this statement seems so clearly tacked on as a gesture towards the contemporary world, and has so little impact on how anyone actually behaves in the book, that it’s frankly laughable.