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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is it Just Me?

Is it just me, or does Bella speak like a 40-year old woman? Now, I know I am going to anger a few of you Bella fans out there. So, please forgive me ahead of time. I am only on page 91, but I have strong feelings about what I've read so far and I just don't see what all the hullabaloo is about. I certainly cannot think of comparing Stephenie Meyer to JK Rowling like so many have - calling her the USA's version of JK Rowling. She does not have JK's business sense and she is not equal to JK as a writer either. Maybe she has a tangled web she weaves that will all be tied up in the end - whether you like the end of not. I'll have to wait until I get there. IF I get there...

If you're wondering what I'm talking about, it's Stephenie Meyer's first book, Twilight. As most of you know, I just finished reading all seven Harry Potter books, one after the other, and I just loved it. My friend Suzie (hi Suzie), just reminded me how in Harry's early days, I refused to read them, basing my opinion solely on the movies, saying it was predictable. I never realized how much the movie versions left out from the books. I am glad to admit, I was wrong. I am converted and a true JK and HP fan. So, while I am reading Twilight, I am trying to put JK and Harry out of my mind. I am trying to be open-minded, but it has been hard.

First, Bella, has moved in with her Dad so her Mom can be happy following her minor-league-baseball-playing husband around from city to city. Bella, at 17 and in HS, goes grocery shopping without being told, or without having a list made prior by an adult. She cooks meals for her and her Dad for dinner and has them hot and ready when he walks in the door. (I don't even do that most days!) AND she has a repertoire of meals she knows how to make. And I'm not talking about Kraft Mac and Cheese, folks. I mean difficult ones like steak and enchiladas - and no, not the kind that comes in a box. She is nice to boys who annoy her by asking her to the spring dance. She considers their feelings, uses words like... he grimaced... you're utterly absurd... and a host of other phrases that sound more like a 40-year old woman than a 17-year old girl. I have a 17-year old brother and sister. They've never said grimaced or absurd in all their years alive! They might write it in an essay or as a creative writing assignment - but in speaking to another teen?! No way!

Oh! And what about this typo on page 9 at the top of the page... "...it had been belonged to me since I was born." It had been belonged to me??? Ah... I don't think so. It belonged to me, yes. Even, It had belonged to me. But not, it had been belonged... OK, I know that complaint is nit-picky, but this isn't a draft, people! It's a published novel!

So far, I am just not getting it. Edward is mean. He's nice. He's mean. He's nice. I know, I know. You can become obsessed with someone who is mysterious, I get that. But she is already, at such a young age, attracted to a bad relationship. Yeah, they're all pretty bad at 17 - vampire or not. Other than he's beautiful and his changing eye color... I guess that's all it takes to want somebody. I was young once. I kind of remember... Bad boys = hot. Good boys = not.

And so far the only thing that is not perfect about Bella is she's klutzy. Really? Is that all you got? She's way too nice to these people who are her so-called friends. I don't even like them! She's hanging out with them because she has no one better at the moment? I can see how that can happen, but her narrative... it's in first person, so they're Bella's thoughts. At least she can be honest with us there. AND.... what about all the friends she left behind in Phoenix? Where are they? Why are they not emailing her, texting her... come to think of it, does she even have a cell phone? Most 17-year olds have a bff. Being separated from one another an hour away, let alone half-way around the country, would be HUGE in a 17-year old's world! Would it not? Wouldn't Bella being emailing her bff back home? Wouldn't the bff being emailing Bella? That could be where we, the reader, get to hear her normal, true inner thought, about her new looser, but nice, friends, about this mysterious, beautiful boy with changing eyes who drives her crazy. But that's not there? Why?????

WHO GOES GROCERY SHOPPING AT 17 AND KNOWS HOW TO COOK, NOT ONE, NOT TWO MEALS, BUT BUNCHES OF DELICIOUS MEALS? Sorry - just had to let that out. At 17, I considered myself responsible. I knew how to make eggs, and cheeseburgers, hot dogs, spaghetti, baked ziti... even lasagna! But I feel like Stephenie made Bella ULTRA responsible. Adult-like responsible. She could have made her teenage-responsible and it would have been more believable. And I don't know why she chose to do this, or not do this... Yeah, Bella said her mom was absent-minded, but did she suffer a lobotomy? Her dad's been living on his own for-ever, so he must know how to cook a few meals and keep the refrigerator stocked...

Sorry, I am know I am being very critical and I hope this all doesn't come back to haunt me... Stephenie Meyer, I am sure you are a very nice and talented person - the whole world seems to think so - and I only wish you the best... It's just that reading this book has made me think about being a writer and what editors say they want in conferences and workshops and the contradictions between that and what is published. Which bring me back to my biggest problem with the book...

Bella's voice. In case I haven't already made that abundantly clear. I feel like almost every page doesn't ring true for a 17-year old's voice. All I keep hearing in my head are the many times I have heard editors say - about my pages or other fellow writers' pages - This voice just doesn't ring true for a 14-year old, 12-year old... I don't think a 10-year old would say that, do this, feel that... Twilight has examples of this on every page, every narrative, and in dialogue - a 17-year old just not behaving, speaking, reacting like a 17-year old. I just don't get it...

Voice is important. It is the way your story is served. It sets the tone, time, and place of your story. JK might not be the most poetic writer with beautiful, flowing narratives, like Sharon Creech or Pearl S. Buck. But she is a master of voices. She captured every character's voice authentically. I never thought... Harry wouldn't say that. Hermoine wouldn't think that... That doesn't sound like Ron.... Hagrid... Dumbledore... She had each character's voice pegged to the T!

I am just not buying Bella's character so far or the whole Meyer = Rowling thing. Not yet, anyway...

So, be honest. Don't make me cry, but please feel free to disagree with me and try to convince me. I can admit when I've made a mistake. I'd like to hear from you. Does this voice thing get better? Do you begin to ignore it??? Go ahead, tell me how you feel...

21 comments:

The Anti-Wife said...

Can't help with most of it, but at age 17 I knew how to shop, chop and cook - able to make all kinds of wonderful meals. That part's believable to me. Of course that was a very long time ago when home ec classes were the norm in high school and we all aspired to be like the mom's on Father Knows Best, or Leave it to Beaver.

Sheri said...

True. Good point. I never took home-ec and I was considered to be the one who knew how to cook between my sister and I. Our mom went to work and we had to learn how. But often it was very simple meals or re-heating something that she froze.

Dawn Buthorn said...

I think a 17 year old who does all that stuff is pretty unusual in this day and age. And the voice is definitely not 17. I completely agree. (I did enjoy the story as a reader, but hated it as a writer).
My biggest issue with it though is as a woman and a mother of a teenage girl. Bella prepares meals for her father every night (wasn't he able to make his own food? He lived without her for many years.) If Bella was a boy, the author never would have included that. Also, Bella is fully prepared to give up her life-literally-to be with a controlling stalking blood-sucking guy. I hate the message that's sending to young girls. If the guy looks good, you should do anything to be with him, and allow him to control your every move.
UGH!

PJ Hoover said...

Man, you crack me up, Sheri! I wish we could hang out.
I totally agree with everything you said regarding voice (not 17-year-old), breaking rules of what editors claim to want, etc.
But...the fact is to me (and really only in Twilight not the other books), Bella is weak but compelling. Their relationship is super based on the tension between the two.

But one thing - on the cooking, this is more like a 40-year-old from 40 years ago. I made soup from a kit tonight. And last night was leftovers. OK, I'm only 38.

Funny post! Really!

Sheri said...

Yay! I am not alone in my feelings. I was so afraid to post this, that I would make you all so mad and you'd never want to visit me again...

Thanks Dawn for your insight! Of course I completely agree with everything you said. I also have daughters and hate the message in this book so far.

Me too, PJ! Me too! One of these days, we will hang out togeher. It will happen, I just know it. But you're right. Not only is she cooking like a 40 year old, but like a 40 year old from 40 years ago! Good point there girlfriend! Oh and hey... you're two years younger than me!

Anonymous said...

I find your criticism very interesting as I am fan of both authors and I know many other people are as well. If all you are able to do is point out all of the typo's and the fact that you don't know any responsible 17 year old on the planet then maybe you just need to stop reading. Both author's bring us wonderful stories that are exactly that stories, Fairytales if you will. I no more believe that someone can get on a broom and play a game nor do I believe that a family of vampires live in Forks Wa and feed off the animals in the forest. But I do enjoy both stories for different reasons. And even though there are things about both stories that I don't much care for, overall they have both found a place in my heart and in millions of others. Like I said, if you all you can do is point out the bad things about Stephenie and her beloved Twilight Series then maybe you ought to stop reading and forget about it. Millions of others will take up the slack.

Beth Kephart said...

I won't disagree — not even for a second. :)

Thank you so much, Sheri for stopping by the blog. And for your gorgeous comments. And for catching odd grammatical constructions in wildly popular books. One can easily imagine how mistakes like that get made (I don't doubt I've perpetuated a few myself!). But in a book that is being read by millions one would hope for a more complete editing process.

keri mikulski :) said...

Hmm.. Interesting post, Sheri.

I'm embarrassed to write, I haven't read Meyer's books yet. I think I'm the only one on the planet. But, they're on my TBR pile. And now I really want to dive in. :)

Sheri said...

Anon - You're write. I was just letting out some frustration. I am enjoying the book as a reader, but not so much as a writer. And believe me, I totally get that it's fantasy. But wait... People can't fly on brooms! Are you sure? Anyway, serious, thanks for telling me how you feel! I appreciate all sides of the coin. I predict the books will get better as I go along. And I do plan on reading all four and being wildly entertained.

Hey Beth - so glad you stopped by. You have a beautiful blog, as I said... I agree that typos unfortunately happen and I suspect they never knew how wildly popular the first book would be. I am wondering though if the YA girls who are reading it are bothered that Bella is so responsible. I bet they don't care one bit... It's romantic, and fantasy, and fun. And truly that is really all that matters - that your intended audience is entertained and wants more.

Dive in Keri and let us know what you think!

Jeanie W said...

Twilight is on my TBR pile - only because it is so wildly popular. It doesn't seem like the kind of story I'd like, but neither did Harry Potter books before I read them. Now I keep wanting to re-read them, and I wish there were a book eight coming out.

My seventeen-year-old daughter read Twilight in August. (She writes fiction too.) She said she enjoyed the writing style but didn't especially admire any of the characters. She doesn't think I'll like the book. That I'll find the message too backwards, too anti-feminist.

Shari - I'm eager to know what you'll think when your finished. Should I take the time to read it, or is my time better spent elsewhere?

Jeanie W said...

Oops, Sheri.
Sorry I misspelled your name.

Sheri said...

Jeanie - not to worry about the name thing. I get it all the time. I think any book is worth a chance. People's tasts varies so much, there's no way to know if you'll like the book until you give at least the first 30 pages a try. I give the first 100 pages. most of the time I have to finish a book, once I've started it. The only exception to that rule has been the Deep End. I just blamed the mom too much for her son's kidnapping that I just couldn't read it. So I say, give it a try. You've nothing to lose.

I also think, this book is kind of ruined for us late comers. I wonder what it would have been like to read the book without knowing - well, Jeanie, I don't know if you know, so I won't blow it for you, but I wonder if it would have help more intrigue and wonder for me if I didn't know what I already know...

Gottawrite Girl said...

I am embarassed to say, I've not yet read the Twilight series...BAD! : ) Thanks for posting, Sheri! And, it's always been my worst fear that when I ever become published, I will find an avalanche of typos and such in that first, offical read.

Sheri said...

Yeah, I know typos are inevitable. I guess there is a different feeling between one occurring buried deep within the book and one happening on page nine. I don't know why, but those found early feel worse to me. I also think, if everything else is wonderful, you tend to overlook a seldom typo. But when you are upset by this thing and that thing, a typo becomes something to add to the fray.

cindy said...

i think what most readers find compelling about twilight (and the rest of the series) is the relationship and dynamics between bella and edward. (which borders on stalkerish creepy, but can still be construed as true love / passion?)

i only read twilight and enjoyed it. decided not to read the others because i didn't like the heroine well enough.

i think meyer made her like a forty year old to show that she is different, mature, responsible, etc. someone who can be a good match for a over 100 year old vampire teen?

let us know when you finish what you think! i passed twilight to my old work friends and 4 of them have read all 4 books already. a fifth is about to finish the last. it's pretty crazy!! and we're talking about 30 to 50 something women.

Sheri said...

Cindy, I think you make good points, and I did consider that Edward must be pretty ancient and so wouldn't be attracted to a typical teenager. I just think she went a little overboard with this and could have still enfused some teenager-isms. And maybe her being an old teen is what is attracting such a varied age in readership.

All us Ann Rice fans, looking for the next compelling vampire series.

cindy said...

oh, i loved anne rice. and also, SM has admitted that she loves edward herself, and i think there was a little "transfer" of herself into bella, perhaps? so maybe that's why she's more responsible and older, too? cause SM is?

Barrie said...

so much controversy. I'm obviously going to have to read this last one.

Amy Tate said...

I watched an interview with Stephanie Myer, and I wasn't impressed either. I don't think there will ever be another J.K. Rowling.

Sheri said...

I'm not relaly knocking SM. I mean, good for her and we all should be so lucky. She has worked just as hard as any of us and has finally had her wildest dreams come true. I commend her for that! I really do.

The book is what it is and YA girls don't seem to mind one bit. Maybe they see themselves this way.... Maybe SM knows something about 17 year old girls we/I don't.

i do have respect for her and hope i meet great success like that one day too and some unknown complains about me on her blog.... because you know what Madonna says... as long as they're talking about you... as long as they're talking!

motherx said...

I have read the first 2 of the books but found them to be hard work in places. I love the idea and can see why this would appeal to a teenage girl.But I did not feel like every page jumped out at me as it did say with someone like Ceila Rees, 'Witch Child'. From what I have read so far Id say Twilight is prob her best. The sequels seem unec drawn out. Brilliant that she has achieved so much though!

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

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