I am on a quest to understand the whole Stephanie Meyer thing, or at least feel justified in having a strong opinion about it. But before I give you my opinions, these are some of the things I've heard others say about the series:
"My heart belongs to my boyfriend, but Edward can have my neck." ~seen on a t-shirt.
"It's all about Edward." ~several (married) female friends of mine.
"Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good." ~Stephan King
And my personal favorite:
"Her books are brilliant, but they're crappy." ~the young daughter of a friend.
So, after reading the first two books, I can tell you this:
1. It is not all about Edward, and he wouldn't get anywhere near my neck
2. There are things to be learned from Stephanie Meyer.
*sound of incredulous gasps*
Yes, I'm serious. So here's the breakdown of the good, the bad, and the ugly for the first two books in the Twilight series.
(There are spoilers coming, just so you know)
Pacing: It's all about the pacing. Whatever crimes against language Meyer has committed, she knows how to pace a story. It wasn't so obvious in Twilight, which is slow for the first half, but once the actions starts, it's on. And New Moon rarely slows down. (Which was rather impressive considering the main character is in a serious depression for much of the book.)
Depth: Okay, so Twilight didn't have much of this. It was mostly just Bella/Edward/vampire the whole way through.
New Moon on the other hand was much fuller. You have Bella and Edward and Bella and Jacob. You have Jacob discovering he's a werewolf and complications thereof. You have evil vampires and neutral vampires. You have the werewolf/vampire enmity. All these things play off of each other, making a more interesting story.
Character: So far Jacob (New Moon) is my favorite. And I think that's because he's the most complicated. He starts out as a nice, friendly kid with a crush on Bella. Then he begins to think something is wrong with his friends, as they pull away and join a group of older boys. Then he finds out the reason: they're all werewolves. So now he's not supposed to talk to Bella anymore, and he doesn't like being a werewolf, and he REALLY hates the Cullens, who Bella wants to join. Poor kid.
(Bella was better in New Moon as well. She tries some dangerous stuff and does some self explorations and actually develops a bit of a spine at the end.)
Language: Not bad language, just messy craft. The books are full of vague adjectives, (Edit- they are also full of adverbs, which are way worse for me, but I 'inexplicably' forgot to mention them. Heehee... ) a major stumbling block for me. I still can't picture certain characters, like Edward, clearly. I didn't feel like I had enough space as a reader to imagine things for myself and so a lot of the description fell flat for me.
Character: Bella doesn't have one, at least not in the first book. She doesn't have a single hobby, all the music she listens to is stuff given to her by someone else, and the only thing we know about her likes and dislikes is that she likes her old truck, she faints at the sight of blood and she hates to dance.
(Because she's a klutz, which is the focal point of her character.)
Also, not to speak blasphemy, but I don't get the whole "Edward" thing. He doesn't seem like a real person to me. The book focuses so much on how perfect Edward is, how strong and talented and smart and tortured, etc, etc, ad nauseum.
I'm sorry, but perfect people are boring. Boring with a capital B.
And all that sweet stuff he says? It didn't resonate with me. It's just vague "I'll love you forever" crap. I like it when romances have people sacrifice things for the other person, when love is more than easily saving someone.
Besides, if we must have sweet nothings, can't they be specific? My husband might tell me that I have gorgeous blue eyes. Or he'll say nice things about my hands or my hair. All Edward can come up with is "you're not ordinary at all", and "I like watching you sleep". Which is kinda creepy coming from a guy you don't know all that well...
(Oh, and lets not forget the "You're exactly my brand of heroin" comment. Who wouldn't melt?)
"I went meekly to the desk, my face white for once instead of red, and handed her the signed slip." ~Twilight
Seriously? Could you see your own face? How did you know? Most of the craft issues I just ignored, but this one made me laugh out loud.
"How could I let him give me things when I had nothing to reciprocate with? He, for some unfathomable reason, wanted to be with me. Anything he gave me on top of that just threw us more out of balance." ~New Moon.
If I hated anything about these books, it was this attitude. I wanted to kick Bella for most of the first book and some of the second.
It was all "Edward is so gorgeous and I'm so ordinary", "Edward is a god and I'm unworthy", "Edward is my life, but he can't possibly love me or value me because I'm a worm from the ground".
It was so annoying.
(She gets over that at the end of New Moon, which is good 'cause I don't think I could have sat through any more of that dribble.)
If you're getting the sense I liked New Moon better than Twilight, you'd be right. If the second book had been along the same lines as the first one, I probably wouldn't have finished it. But like I said, I learned something:
1. (Almost) Everyone wants a great love story. I've read some awful fiction in the romance section, but it sells because people want to believe they can be loved, no matter how unlovable they feel.
2. You can get away with murder if you keep the story going. Great prose, deep character development, breathtaking description, resonant themes, none of these are about STORY.
To quote Stephan King, (don't tell him) "Only story is about story."
I prefer my stories with more realistic characters and better writing, but in this case I'll take what I can get. And I do intend to read the next two books. I've been hooked enough for that.