A few weeks ago my friend Nicole, The Book Bandit, mentioned a strange conversation when she was getting her nails done. During her manicure another woman in the nail salon told Nicole that she thought Twilight was the greatest piece of literature ever written.
Now, I’ve already worked through my rather complicated feelings about that book here and here and I’m not going to support or deny the above statement. BUT the anecdote did get me thinking.
I hadn’t really planned to write anymore about Twilight because, really, what else is there to say. But then I also saw this blog post over at The New York Times about an article from a “Christian reader” about the sorry state of modern books for young adults. I’m not linking to that article because I don’t want to promote it per se, but the NYT post does and quotes it.
I spent a good portion of my time in grad school writing about the value of graphic novels and their import as fun books for readers of all levels and interests even though a lot traditionalists see them as lacking in literary merit. Which drives me nuts because anything can be a valuable piece of literature if it is used properly.
So I felt compelled to kind of defend Twilight which I do below:
I don’t consider myself much of a Meyer fan. I don’t get the hype or the hysteria and, frankly, I’ve read better books. (Full disclosure: I feel the same way about the Harry Potter series. I get why people love them the way they do, but in both cases it’s because I read different books that evinced the same feelings in me.) Anyway, that’s not really my point.
Say what you want about Twilight being brilliant or awful, either way, I’m glad it’s here and I’m glad that of all the books that could have been this crazy phenomenon that it was this one.
I’m glad that Twilight has so many people picking up books or significant length and reading with joy and excitement (or just zeal if they want to bash the series I guess).
I’m excited that the series is bringing attention to young adult novels both the good and the bad. It’s about time more people realize there is a spectrum of quality in YA.
I’m thrilled that the series features vampires because it’s a great way to work other fantasy titles that I adore into reader’s advisory interactions and lists like this one.
And I’m ecstatic that Twilight is so popular while simultaneously riddled with issues. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but what other book could get readers of all ages thinking about things like feminism; what makes a good, healthy relationship; the attributes of an abusive, unhealthy relationship; the difference between being passive and proactive; and the oddity of vampires sparkling all at once. Even better, because Twilight is so universal, people can think about these things and talk about them with each other.
Meyer may have had her own agenda when writing the books (after reading the plot summary for book 4, I strongly suspect she did) but in a way I like the transparency too because that’s another talking point. I like being able to dissect with fellow readers why a character essentially saying “you smell really good, I want to eat you” can turn into one of the most widely known fictional romances of the decade. And, even if I didn’t love the books, I like that Twilight is opening the door to all of these conversations (and more) as well as presenting legion teachable moments for anyone who already has been or will be willing to sit down and see what the hype is about.
So, dear readers, what deep thoughts have YOU derived from reading Twilight or some other allegedly sub-par book?
I also urge everyone to chime in at the NYT blog post with their own thoughts on the importance/value of YA Lit today. (Also I’m sure some of you will notice my blog is mentioned, thanks to a dear reader, in the first comment but promotion aside I encourage you all to comment and show that YA matters and that it makes a difference!)