The Twilight series, written by Stephenie Meyer, has become a smash hit all over the world, selling 25 million copies worldwide and 20 million in the United States alone. Twilight, the first book in the series, has been named a New York Times bestseller and Publisher's Weekly Best Book of the Year. Quite a shame, considering the substandard quality of these novels. In asking fans what precisely they loved about these books for the purpose of trying to discover exactly how such novels have become fabulously popular, it seems to boil down to three reasons: One, Twilight is entertaining simply for a fun read, with a rather unique plot line. Two, the fluffy love story appeals to the inner romantic in many, many girls and women. Three, Edward Cullen.
Twilight in a nutshell: Isabella(Bella) Swan moves to Forks, Washington and meets the Cullens, the impossibly beautiful vegetarian(meaning they only suck the blood of animals) vampire family. Edward Cullen, the only single vampire out of the lot of them, can read everybody's mind but Bella's, and thinks Bella's blood smells utterly scrumptious. They fall hopelessly in love. While playing baseball with his family, vampires who eat humans come and see Bella, making them want to eat her. James, the enemy vampire, lures Bella to a dance studio, but is thwarted by the Cullens. Happy endings ensue.
While this certainly is an extremely abridged version of the plot of Twilight, not much else happens, really. When looking at the raw ingredients for the plotline, Twilight seems somewhat promising. The interpretation of vampires is unique and potentially appealing. Admittedly, Ms. Meyer's decision to make the reason that vampires cannot go out in the sun the fact that their skin sparkles in sunlight seems rather questionable, but the idea of making them the perfect predators by using their physical beauty to lure their prey in, then their superhuman speed and strength to kill is an interesting concept. However, the idea is squandered in Twilight, and in its place, a shallow, illogical romance is written in. The section of the book where the enemy vampires come to Forks, incidentally, the only section where there seems to be an actual plot, gives the impression of being hastily tacked on to the end of the novel on the realization that one can't properly end a book with just a groundless love story.
The romance in Twilight is not only very, very cheesy, but also incredibly shallow. Edward and Bella fall in love based solely on Edward's looks and Bella's smell. It seems that half the book is dedicated to describing how stunningly attractive Edward is, with Bella marveling at his smooth, hard skin, his perfect muscles, his Adonis-like body, his more-glorious-than-an-angel's face, his beautiful crooked smile, his captivating eyes, his velvety voice, his disconcerting movements, and of course, his mouth-watering breath. All of this, of course, is made even more spectacular when he sparkles like a diamond.
Okay. Maybe half the book is an exaggeration, but hearing again and again about how perfectly god-like Edward Cullen gets extremely tiresome. Stephenie Meyer makes full use of her thesaurus for Edward, using every possibly adjective to accentuate his gorgeousness. Twilight manages to make Edward so beautiful that Bella actually is in anguish about it. Direct quote from the text: "He was too perfect, I realized with a piercing stab of despair. There was no way this godlike creature could be meant for me."
Of course, if Bella is pained by Edward's magnificence, there is no shortage of fangirls willing to take her place. However, other than his glorious beauty, there doesn't seem to be any truly desirable trait in Edward Cullen. In all honesty, his only distinguishing personality trait is his abrupt and often violent mood swings, clocking in at an astounding 37 inexplicable changes of attitude throughout the novel(Note, this does not take into consideration any of switches that were deemed explainable, regardless of whether or not they were a completely unnecessary overreaction. Otherwise, the count would be at something around 60 or 70.). Even Bella, utterly infatuated as she is, notices this, asking him if he has a multiple personality disorder. In addition to this, Edward seems rather stalkeresque. After seeing Bella for three days(not accounting for the approximate week where he went to Alaska in order to not smell her dangerously appetizing scent), Edward breaks into Bella's house and watches her sleep for months. Amazingly, Bella, rather than be creeped out and take a restraining order on him, is flattered by his spying, and only gets upset when she realizes he heard her talking in her sleep about him. He is also excessively controlling. When James decides to hunt for Bella, Edward throws her into his car, orders his brother Emmett to restrain her by strapping her to the seat and grabbing her wrists, and refuses to listen to anything she has to say until forced to by his sister, Alice. Clearly, Edward Cullen is every woman's dream man.
Of course, if Edward Cullen appears rather flawed, he doesn't even come close to Bella Swan. Bella cannot stand Forks's obscurity or weather patterns, making one wonder just why she decided to move there. She says that she did it for her mother, Renée, and her new husband, Phil, who would be moving quite a lot with his sports career. However, this assertion is at odds with her mother's repeated pleas not to go and her own concern of leaving "my loving, erratic, hare-brained mother to fend for herself". Despite her own negative attitude towards Forks and her high school, every single student at her high school is interested in her. She doesn't consider herself to be attractive, and yet, within her first day, she gains two admirers, Eric Yorkie and Mike Newton. She of course resolutely ignores the both of them in favor of the beautiful Cullen family. The only things about her that could be considered flaws are her clumsiness and her bad luck, although seeing as all these characteristics do is portray Bella as a damsel in distress, they aren't really flaws as much as they're opportunities for Edward to swoop in and save her. In one such incident, where Edward stops a van about to crash into her and kill her, she is taken to the hospital for head injuries. In spite of only knowing Bella for a week, the entire school comes to visit her, and instead of acting touched or at least somewhat grateful of this extremely kind gesture, Bella acts embarrassed and rather irritated, repeatedly stating that it wasn't a big deal. Her ungratefulness and tendency to be easily embarrassed, in any other character, could be considered character flaws, but in Twilight, everyone seems to be completely unaware of Bella's terrible attitude towards all of them, and she becomes remarkably popular without lifting a finger. This kind of perfect characterization is called a "Mary-Sue", and never has there been such an embodiment of this concept such as Bella Swan is. Bella also seems to be very unintelligent, as she could care less whether or not the Cullens could all potentially be her killers, or indeed, if any of the enemy vampires could easily eat her. When the Cullens take extensive measures to make sure Bella is safe from James, she disregards all of their hard work by escaping them and going to meet James by herself instead of trying to help plan with other vampires how to defeat him. All in all, an incredibly irritating character.
The other vampires of the Cullen family seem much more interesting than Edward or Bella, but Meyer doesn't seem to find it necessary to include very much of them. Carlisle's background is probably the most interesting story in the entire series, making for a possibly excellent subplot, but it is never really expanded upon. Alice and her power to predict the future, in tandem with her eccentric personality, makes her one the best characters in the book, but she is used only to predict Edward and Bella's future and James's movements. Jasper's power to control emotions is, to be blunt, just plain awesome, but in the entire series, it is never used except once or twice to calm down Bella. The humans in Twilight are basically portrayed as subordinate to the vampires. Bella readily ignores them all in her obsession over Edward, and looks down on things she associates with humans, scoffing at prom and calling it a "trite, human thing". This disdain makes one wonder exactly what kind of message Meyer is attempting to send out to teenage girls, the typical demographic of the Twilight series.
The amount of fans garnered by this shoddy piece of literature is still ridiculously huge, despite not actually having a particularly thrilling story, or romance, for that matter. If Twilight can be commended for anything, it would be the ludicrous amount of money raked in by it, at which it has far exceeded the requirements of success. To the fans who realize Twilight is not a very high-quality piece of literature and simply read it for fun, more power to you. To those who don't, just try reading Twilight again after reading this article. Perhaps nothing will happen, or perhaps you will become one of the former class of fans, or even one of the dreaded critics, such as I. Either way, just make sure this isn't the only book you ever read. Quality literature exists in a form other than Twilight.