Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Read Twilight and Hate it: Chapter One

I picked up the book at the library today. Despite having a number of friends that read the series, I wasn't able to borrow a copy from anyways, so I put myself on the waiting list for the book, which lead to me getting a copy yesterday, a worn paperback with a ripped and creased and some water damage near the end. Which is good, because I wont feel too bad about dog-earing the bottom, but bad because I'll have less than a month to write as much as I can before I return it. But anyways, let's dive in to Chapter One:
It starts with Disney-Princess-esque-named heroine Bella Swan departing from her previous home in Phoenix, AZ in order to live with her dad in the town of Forks, in "Washington State." 1 She laments and complains about this move, through narration, all through the chapter. Oh my, could we maybe expect her to find that maybe appearances are deceiving and she'll actually grow to decide that Forks is where she was meant to be? So, she says goodbye to her mom, flies to Seattle then to Port Angeles, then gets picked up by her (who split with her mom long ago) dad for the drive to Forks. On the drive, they talk about a car that he plans to help her get. One passage stuck out to me:

"I found a good car for you, really cheap," he announced when we were strapped in.
"What kind of car?" I was suspicious of the way he said "good care for you" as opposed to just "good car." 1

The reason that this stuck it to me, is that she would be most likely misinterpreting the "for you" in his sentence. Often, people add "for you" onto a sentence when they announce that they did a favour for the listener. "I made some cookies for you," "I got rid of that hornets' nest for you," I cut off my right ear for you," etc., etc. Of course, her father could have emphasized the "for you" in such a way that made it clear that he thought it was good enough for her but not a goo car in general, but that seems unlikely (unless her dad is an asshole). Talking like that sounds really unnatural, unless you're trying to sleight the person you're talking to. It's also possible that Meyer intentionally wanted to show that her protagonist made unfair assumptions about people in order to give her personality flaws and make her a more three-dimensional character, however Bella is turning out to be a major Mary Sue (in general) so that seems unlikely. Chalk it up to the writer forgetting that the characters don't know everything that the writer knows.
During the ride, she describes her new environment as being far to green for her tastes, claiming "Even the air filtered down greenly through the trees... It was too green - and alien planet." 1 First of all, Arizona is not so barren that grass and trees would make somewhere feel like an "alien planet". And if it is, I'm truly sorry to everyone who lives there. Second, "greenly"? Seriously, "greenly"? This series is known for purple language and excessive verbiage, but I didn't think it would get this ridiculous this fast. My Journalism teacher always said that adverbs were a crutch for poor writers. I guess made-up adverbs would be a crutch for poor writers in elementary school.
Anyways, her dad says that he bought her an old, but reliable, 50s or 60s pickup truck, which she decides that she just wont like. But when they get to the house and she sees that it's an old, but reliable, 50s or 60s pickup truck, she suddenly decides she loves it. Don't ask.
As she's getting settled into the house, Bella narrates to us some information about the high school, including the exact number of students (which is kind of feasible that she would know) and the fact that "their grandparents had been toddlers together,"1 which is a piece of information that seems like it would be beyond the grasp of the students there themselves, let alone someone who was just moving in. Bella was having another one of those "I know, because the author told me" moments.
She then goes on to explain that she didn't "look like a girl from Phoenix should." Explaining that (apparently) the expectation for Phoenixian girls was that they're "tan, sporty, blond [sic] - a volley-ball player of a cheerleader, perhaps. I don't really know where she's getting this stereotype. 1 The only Arizonan I can think of is John McCain, and he's so pale that he doesn't cast a shadow. Also, is it really necessary for every "underdog" high school heroine to point out that she's not a cheerleader? I put "underdogs" in quotes, because it's clear from her subsequent physical self-description that Bella is not hard to look at. The description is kind of awkward, because it seems like Meyers wants it to sound like Bella doesn't consider herself attractive, but she uses language one would generally use to make someone sound attractive. For example, where-as most people who thought their complexion was to light would use "pale," or even "transparent," to describe it, Bella opts for the much more poetic and flattering "ivory-skinned." She describes her figure as "slender, but soft somehow,"1 as the the prevailing standard of beauty was for women to be heavy-set with hard features. None of this would be so awkward if it were an impartial narrator talking about Bella, but Bella is the narrator; this is how she thinks of herself, which seems like an odd thing to do, even if you don't immediately afterwards say that you'll never fit in physically (which she does).
Anyways, Bella unpacks her clothes, and after a long day of sitting in various modes of transportation, complaining through narration, and insincerely judging her appearance in the mirror, she's beat. So she heads off to bed.


And crying. She's also tired from a long night of crying, she informs us the next morning. After a non-descript breakfast, she dons her It's-always-raining-in-Washington parka and drives to school. It is, literally, always raining throughout the first chapter. I've never been to Forks specifically, but I did live just north of Seattle for most of my life, and let me tell you: it is, in fact, raining less than half the time. Somehow, Seattle (and Washington in general) got this reputation for constant precipitation. Try watching "The Ring." There's not a single sunny scene in that whole movie, but I digress. Bella gets her schedule from the school office as well as a piece of paper on which she has to collect all her teachers signatures and then return it at the end of the day; I guess new students aren't trust-worthy enough for regular attendance-calls or something. She parks in the student lot, mentally prepping herself for the first day. "I can do this, I lied to myself feebly. No one was going to bite me." 1 Hahahaha, get it? Because it's a vampire novel, and vampires bite people! Hilarious! Really, though, who actually thinks that before an awkward social situation. I mean, if someone is acting like they're afraid of you, you might tell them, "It's okay, I wont bite you," but you do it jokingly; it's not like you actually think the other person was afraid that you'd bite them. Not unless they were raised in the wild or had some kind of phobia about being bitten by other people (neither of which seems to describe Bella).
She makes her way to her first class, English, where she's given a list of reading for that term, which she already happened to have read at her previous school. I guess Forks' educational standards are inferior to Phoenix's. In this class, a friendly male student who was "gangly," and had "skin problems and hair black as an oil slick,"1 (no Bella-snogs for you, grease-boy) started a conversation with her and offered to show her to her next class. Actually, she had an escort to pretty much each of her classes, including lunch.
During lunch, Bella first spots the legendary apple7 of every fangirl's eye, Edward Cullen. He was sitting with a group of four other (I'm guessing) vampires. They stood out to Bella, because they were all just sort of staring at nothingness, not really looking at anything in the room, and just threw away their lunches without taking a bite either ("unbitten apple" 1 Get it?). Also, they appeared to be too old to be high school students and

"every one of them was chalky pale, the palest of all the students... They all had very dark eyes despite the range in hair tones. They also had dark shadows under those eyes - purplish, bruise-like shadows. As if they were all suffering from a sleepless night, or almost done recovering from a broken nose..." 1

Now, maybe I'm just really jaded, but if I saw kids that fit the above description in my high school, my first thought would be that mind-altering chemicals played a large part in their lives, or at the least that they had eating disorders. Bella's mind, however, took a different path:

"... their faces, so different, so similar, were all devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful. They were faces that you never expected to see except perhaps on the airbrushed pages of a fashion magazine. Or painted by an old master as the face of an angel. It was hard to decide who was the most beautiful - maybe the perfect blond [sic] girl, or the bronze-haired boy." 1

Upon asking another student who they are, Bella is told that they're the semi-incestuous group of adoptive-siblings that live with the wacky, young doctor down the street (from Alaska). Also, they're all dating each other, except for Edward. Edward apparently hasn't dated anyone; he was waiting for the right middle-aged Mormon author's highschool-aged, literary self-personification to come along.
After lunch, Bella headed to Biology, where they were again going over something she'd already learned back in Arizona (c'mon, Forks, what's with the lax education?). That's alright, though, because not only is Edward in the class, but she gets seated right next to him, so she has something else besides cellular biology to study. And study him, she does; there's a lengthy description of Edward's posture and expression during the class, which both denote a man who's getting a prostate exam from a pirate an trying to pretend like it doesn't bother him. Also, he glares at Bella a lot and seems to hate her.
Despite the fact that Edward was being kind of a douche and "so mean," Bella managed to look deeper him and notice that "his forearm was surprisingly hard and muscular," and he had a "deep, attractive voice." 1 She knows what's important.
Bella seems to fall snugly into the stereotype that women always fall for good-looking jerks rather than nice, sincere guys. I've heard that, later on, Edward is supposed to be this ridiculously nice gentleman, but Bella doesn't know that yet. He's being a jerk to her and she's falling for him, sometimes in the same sentence:

"He turned slowly to glare at me - his face absurdly handsome - with hateful, piercing eyes. For an instant, I felt the thrill of genuine fear, raising hair on my arms." 1

Anyways, her last class was P.E. Some friendly guy gave her some consolation about Edward being a douche, and paid her a nice compliment, too. Something tells me there will be no Bella-snogs for him, though; his eyes aren't piercing and black enough. Bella makes some comment about volleyball bringing back lots of bad memories of causing injuries in others. Did she have to move away from her old school because she went into a Carrie-like rage in response to a blocked spike? or was this an allusion to her being really un-coordinated? Probably the latter.
Bella narrates the Forks was "literally my personal hell on Earth." 1 No it's not. Don't say "literally," when you don't actually mean "literally." You only say "literally" when you mean something for it's literal meaning, not as an expression or a metaphor. Forks is not actually hell, or is it personally yours. It is a real town, with real people living in it, and not hell. I suppose that the fictionalized version of Forks in this book is personally yours (in that you specifically wrote it for your characters). It's still not hell, though, it was written out in every way to make Bella succeed as a romantic heroine... unless it's like that episode of the Twilight Zone where the criminal dies, and thinks he's sent to heaven because everything he wants is given to him, but soon realizes how boring existence is with no challenges and realizes that he's actually in hell3. Forks could be that kind of ironic hell, but even then it still wouldn't be literal. Also, I'm probably reading too much into it.
After P.E., Bella is done with classes and heads back to the office to return the random slip that they gave her at the beginning of the day. She finds Edward there, trying to convince the secretary to let him move his Biology class to a different time, just in case the audience hasn't yet grasped that he doesn't want to be near Bella for some reason. After discovering that he can't change it, he blows out of there and Bella turns in the slip, and drives home to get some more crying done.

Stay tuned for Chapter 2.

1Meyer, Stephanie Twilight. “Chapter 1” Little, Brown and Co., 2005

2 Oh that reminds me; before the start of the book, there's a quote from Genesis, regarding the "tree of knowledge." Also, on the cover you see two hands holding an apple. I guess there's going to be some kind of forbidden fruit metaphor later or something.

3 “The Twilight Zone” Season 1, Episode 28 “A Nice Place to Visit”


  1. You're an ASS.

    PS: Forks is known to be the rainiest city in the US, look it up

  2. My bad, I looked it up; Mobile, Alabama is the rainiest city.

    But you're still an ass. :P

  3. I would have guessed that it's somewhere in Alaska.

  4. consider a career in comedy
    your style of writing is hysterical