My rising fifth-grade daughter has been itching to read the "Twilight" series because some of her friends are into it, striking up a debate among we moms about whether it's appropriate for kids their age.
All I knew was that it's a best-selling love story about a teenage girl and a vampire boy. Honestly, it didn't sound terribly appealing to me, not at this mom stage of life.
But I gave it a whirl one night when my nightstand offered up nothing better.
So now I've stayed up way, way too late every night for a week embarrassingly obsessed with these books, which have taken me back to my real-life high school, back to the days of falling madly in love, of struggling to find my place in the world, of trying to find me.
Like Bella, the human girl in "Twilight," I was the new girl in mid-high school who had moved across the country to live briefly with my single father. Like her, my dad lived alone but still had the same furniture that we had all those years ago back when I was a little girl.
I was heading into my junior year. Like Bella, I quickly met this boy.
Like Edward, the vampire, he was intense and handsome and intelligent, and it was the first time I'd felt anything like that overwhelming force of attraction.
No, my real-life guy wasn't a vampire. He wasn't adopted into an otherworldly coven united by a moral stance against sucking the blood of humans.
But like Bella, I felt so otherworldly in his company that the rest of life nearly stopped. Like Bella, I could think of little more than spending every minute with him because it was all so amazing.
Then he left for college, and my world felt so silent. I still remember the biting loneliness when he and his friends left, and there I was stuck at the same old boring high school. Like Bella.
And like Bella and Edward, he returned and we reunited and got married.
Today, he's as handsome and intense as ever, and sometimes when I look at him I still feel amazed that he's here, with me. I still feel the rush of that first summer together, more than 20 years later, now that I've known him longer than I didn't know him.
And therein lies the enormous beauty of fiction that can touch you where you are, or where you've been, and take you some place you never can go. Because that place isn't real, though it feels amazingly so.
"Twilight," the first book in Stephenie Meyer's series, gripped me so fiercely that I called the nearest teenager I know and begged for her copy after I misplaced my own.
I confided my desperation to know what happens between Bella and Edward. She understood.
It's interesting that my mother, a retired librarian, also read "Twilight." She called it a "page-turner." But not much more. It didn't touch her the way it did me. She wasn't even swept up enough to read the second book in the four-part series.
Yes, she's farther out in years from high school than I am. But, mostly, her high school experiences were different. She didn't relate.
Which brings me back to my 9-year-old, who wants to read the series. I suggest she wait before she reads them.
It's not the steamy kisses or the vampires who haven't made the no-humans commitment.
It's that every book, in every life, has its time. Like what "To Kill A Mockingbird" was for me in middle school when I was becoming more aware of the world's cruelties. Or like "A Separate Peace" when friendships felt so horribly complex.
I suggest my daughter wait because she cannot yet relate. The "Twilight" stories would be wasted, a thrilling love story reduced to a vampire thriller.
No, not until she's felt that unexplainable attraction to a guy, not until she understands why Bella and Edward would risk so much out of a passion for one another.
Not until the stories can touch her personally, so she can ride into the fantasy and feels it's so real, even though it's not.
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