Monday, April 20, 2009

Breaking Dawn: Stephanie Meyer

In this finale of the Twilight series, Bella's world changes forever, and all the things that avid fans have been hoping for, finally happen. New characters are revealed, old characters are revisited, and yet another war is waged. Worlds collide when wolves and vamps are again tied to each other, and I can't help but feel that I have liked the wolves best all along and that this finale only confirms my admiration.

First of all, I have to say that I was anxious to hurry through this book just to be finished. My feelings about the Twilight series have waned considerably since cracking that first volume. I was told exactly what happened to all of the characters before I even picked up the first book, so this climactic novel was...well, anticlimactic.

The introduction of new characters in the final installment was unsettling. While I recognize the necessity of the characters for the sake of the plot line, as a writer I disagree with pulling in quite so many brand new faces with individual stories at the last minute. It seems obvious to me that Meyer didn't know how her series would end or she might have introduced these characters over the span. Which is not a flaw so much as a lack of forethought. I was once told that a good author never sets a gun on the nightstand unless they intend to use it--meaning no detail goes without purpose. In that line of thought, I find that Meyer puts a lot of guns on a lot of nightstands and then neglects them. I find myself questioning what happened to so-and-so character or such-and-such prop. Likewise, things tend to pop up in her stories that seem to appear from nowhere. While I knew that Meyer had to tie up her series neatly with all loose ends answered to, there were flaws with her conclusion.

For one thing, Meyer supposes that her reader is simple enough to unquestioning believe the incongruent actions of a character who has been steadfastly consistent. When Alice takes leave in an act of self-protection, none of the characters question it. An intelligent reader will spend the following 500 or so pages asking why the sudden change of character and suspect that there is a secret plan which will surely unravel in the final stages of the plot to help things wrap up neatly. It is predictable and placating--two qualities I despise in my reading.

All that said, there were parts of this novel that I enjoyed immensely. There is something inherently pleasing about seeing a beloved character get all that she wants. Also, Meyer has a subtle humor that presents itself through cranky characters and unexpected situations. Her characters grew flat throughout the series, but there were flashes of personality that appeared here and there to keep the story moving.

Now that I've read all four books, I can put Stephanie Meyer and her Bella, Edward, Jacob, Alice, Charlie, and all the other misfit characters to rest.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Body Surfing: Anita Shreve

Anita Shreve writes like a poet. This was a rich, decadent novel to read simply because of the writing. Shreve has the ability to invoke so much of the story through tone and language. From the very first words I was swept into a very specific time and place. The writing is such that I instantly felt as though I was finally reading a book written for adults.

Sydney is the hired tutor for the "slow" 18-year-old daughter of a well off family. The family is summering at their New Hampshire beach house where Sydney is expected to tutor Julie and otherwise stay out of the way. Shreve sets up a fascinating family dynamic that grows convoluted with Sydney's presence.

Body Surfing has something for everyone--romance, fraternal warring, mystery, and even a coming out story when Julie exposes herself as a lesbian. It's not the best story line I've ever read, but without a doubt, Shreve is one of the best writers I've read in a very long time. It was reminiscent of A.L. Kennedy, who is one of my favorite poets-turned-author.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Eclipse: Stephanie Meyer

In this third installment of the Twilight series, Stephanie Meyer makes a grand return to the drama that had readers riveted for the first volume. Heroine, Bella, is torn between her loyalties while a nearly-full-scale war wages. Though mortal enemies, the werewolves and vampires in Bella's life are forced to cooperate and face a new challenger head on. Meanwhile, a similar war wages within Bella as she considers her options: werewolf, or vampire?

When I read Twilight it was almost by accident. That first book had me hooked. Not because the writing was so amazing, or because I became so rapt with the reality of vampires living as close as Forks, Washington (I admit, Meyer puts a lot of energy into covering all of her tracks where the vamps are concerned, explaining away all of the stereotypes and various vampire lifestyle circumstances). It was the characters that drew me in to that first story about awkward Bella and the perfect Cullens. Without all of the drama, New Moon held my attention only briefly, but Eclipse is a return to the fast paced conflict I've been waiting for.

When I say that the characters are what keep me interested, I don't mean that I find them terribly empathetic or realistic. Truthfully, there are a lot of character flaws (and I don't mean character traits) that distract from their reliability. Alice with her un-ending cheerfulness, even in the face of Bella's moodiness. And Bella's undying passion and love for Edward, who often times guards himself to the point of coldness towards her. It's not a perfect puzzle by any means, but somehow, Meyer manages to make me like her cast. I find myself thinking of them when I'm not reading, wondering how they would relate in my real world.