Vital Signs

Cutting Our Teeth On Twilight

To date, Stephenie Meyer’s young-adult novels about a teenage girl (Bella Swan) and her vampire boyfriend (Edward Cullen) have sold well over 100 million copies worldwide, and the movie versions are still coming.  When a phenomenon is of this scale it doesn’t matter what a book is, artistically; you have to take such a cultural behemoth as seriously as an ocean liner takes an iceberg.  What, then, is the meaning of the Twilight series?  And why should you—who are probably not a teenager—care?

Mrs. Meyer has no declared high literary ambitions and few pretenses.  She says she wrote the first book of the series with no thought of publishing it, but to entertain herself, and she shows gratified astonishment at her success.  It is evident even to some of her fans that her ability to entertain millions of others as well as herself does not mean the Twilight books are very good.  They are not well written, not richly inventive and imaginative in the world they create, and the pacing of the plot jerks from peace to chaos and back again.

Mrs. Meyer does have two strengths, which I think explain the series’ enormous appeal as much as any sunspot is explainable.  First, she is tirelessly willing both to maintain the sexual suspense between her two main characters and to describe their hunger for each other, for hundreds of pages.  This is not done skillfully, but no matter—it’s...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here