Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ciao Bella

Oh, Twilight, you crazy phenomenon you. The romance! The longing! The glittering vampire skin! The unbearable yet somehow strangely engaging dialogue and prose! Kerry's excellent review of Stephenie Meyer's novel aptly points out all Twilight's flaws and good qualities so well that I feel my review will pale in comparison, as it will consist mainly of ranting. But, if you've read this blog at all, you know I can't resist a good rant.

Let's get one thing out the way. Twilight is set in Forks, Washington. No offense to the good people of Forks, but Forks is in no way a romantic setting. It is always wet. The novel's title also holds double meaning, as it perpetually seems to be overcast twilight in Forks. Obviously, this is the perfect place for vampires to dwell, but may induce a severe case of SAD in humans. Bella would probably have been too busy taking Vitamin D to get involved with anyone.

Plausibility of Forks as a romantic setting aside, I really enjoyed my first reading Twilight. I viewed it as pure, mindless entertainment, but the more I thought about the characters and plot, the more disturbed I became. This book is aimed at young adults, and certain actions which may seem romantic to a young adult seem creepy and weird to adults, namely breaking into someone's house to watch them sleep. This is not romantic, people, this is a call-the-cops-stalker-alert activity. Edward, while a brooding hunk of handsome vampire, is a tad too intense for my liking, and worst of all, Bella is boring. There, I've said it. (Typed it? Anyway, it's out there.) Bella is such a boring, anti-heroine heroine. The entire novel she generally waits for things to happen to her rather than being proactive, and she's a bit of a wimp. Yes, I was a wimp when I was a teenager, and I still am in lots of ways (namely when I encounter clowns or the only time I rode a moped), but young adult novels are meant to inspire teens, not encourage them to lay about the house, anxious and a-flutter.

The Seattle Public Library's Teen Blog, Push To Talk, created a fabulous post, Better Than Bella, specifically about novels with more gutsy, realistic heroines than Bella for teen girls to relate to. All the titles the librarians recommend are good reads, especially Vivian Vande Velde's Companions of the Night and Annette Curt Klause's The Silver Kiss. In this vein, I have offered up vampire-themed book suggestions with heroines you'd want with you on a dark and stormy night. Say ciao to Bella, and read these titles instead of the Twilight Series:

Sunshine By Robin McKinley

Sunshine was recently republished, no doubt because of the current vampire craze. If you were lucky enough to read it when it was released in 2003, you'll know that Sunshine is a bit of a departure for McKinley, who is known for her award wining fantasy and retelling of fairy tales. The classic McKinley prose and character development are present, but Sunshine is (I apologize for the irony here) dark and modern. Set in the near future in which a magic-based war has devastated most of the world, Rae enjoys her simple life as a baker in her stepfather's cafe. . .until she is kidnapped and imprisoned by a vampire. Her escape and subsequent realization of her own magical powers is enthralling reading. Here's to hoping that McKinley will publish a sequel.

Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse Series

The Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire novels start off with Dead Until Dark, in which the eponymous heroine Sookie, a telepathic bar maid in Bon Temps, Louisiana, is looking for her life to change. Vampires have recently "come out of the coffin" with the development of synthetic blood, and Sookie, not exactly normal herself, is pretty excited about meeting one. She's even more excited when she realizes that she can't read vampires' thoughts (telepathy is apparently a serious impediment when dating normal men), and before the reader knows it, Sookie is in a steamy relationship with Bill the Vampire, as the locals call him, while simultaneously trying to stay out of the way of a serial killer and simply living her life.

Harris manages to infuse realism in the magical; Sookie's telepathy is more troublesome than helpful, and you sympathize with the vampires for having to deal with the grating political aftermath of their "revelation" while realizing that the majority of them see humans only as snacks. Sookie is one of the most likable heroines I've come across in ages, and she's sassy to boot. (Just thinking about this book makes me start using Southern terminology.) If you're looking for something funny yet occasionally dark, the Sookie series are for you. Just prepared to become addicted--Harris recently published the ninth book in the series and, of course, there's the new HBO series, True Blood, which is based on the series. Enjoy!


  1. How did Vampire Academy not make the cut? Rose totally kicks a$s as the heroine!

  2. You're right! Ack, a horrible oversight! Shadee--I think you should be a guest blogger, my friend. . .

  3. Elizabeth you are a book recommending genius! 'Sunshine' is fabulous. Rae is such a better heroine than Bella. Sunshine's only flaw is that the descriptions of Rae's cinnamon rolls always make me want to eat baked goods in bulk.

  4. I LOVE that you both reviewed Twilight for the blog. Even though I'm something of a stick-in-the-mud in terms of reading it, if anyone could entice me into reading a novel I had previously (and perhaps prematurely) scorned, it would be you!