Vampires and teenage girls. The perfect combination. (Right.)
The "Twilight" series by Stephenie Meyer is all the rage with high school girls like Elizabeth of Columbia. She says:
"I think the reason why girls my age have an obsession with the Twilight series is due to the fact that the main character is our age, and every girl dreams of having a guy as wonderful as Edward (especially in high school). Bella starts out as an average high school girl, and ends up meeting a wonderful guy who would do anything for her. It's just so easy to relate to her in the beginning and gives all of us ordinary girls something exciting to hope for (not exactly for a vampire though).
"Bella is naturally a very clumsy person. Throw in about five vampires to her already dangerous lifestyle, and the action is just so exciting. To see that Edward would do anything to keep Bella safe just makes your heart yearn for your own Edward Cullen."
I'm so enthusiastic about Elizabeth, and Elizabeth is so enthusiastic about these books, I put on my martyr costume and read "Twilight — The Twilight Saga, Book 1." I happened to be traveling while I was soldiering through all 500 pages. I kept the cover covered so nobody could see the title. Not that I care what strangers think, but ... well, maybe just this once.
Granted, the vampire phenomenon isn't new. You may remember "Dracula," and Anne Rice's wildly popular "Vampire Chronicles." For teenagers, there have been several entries, including "Demon in My View" by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, who was 18 when she wrote her first book.
"Twilight" is the ultimate page-turner. The plot races along, twisting and turning as it accelerates. The setting is a high school with all the attendant situations and concerns. The book is reasonably well-written, except for some grammatical errors. The Cullen family of vampires eschew human blood and feed exclusively on animal blood. They live in a regular house and drive regular cars. They don't eat, they don't sleep, and they have super-human strength and speed.
So what's not to like?
On Amazon.com, more than 1,300 readers shared Elizabeth's enthusiasm for this book and gave it five stars. Fewer than 400 readers had any negative comments, but I side with the minority. One review called the heroine a "doormat." Another said the book deserved a medal for "Worst Messages of All Time to Send to Your Teenage Audience."
Women's liberation in general and feminism in particular may as well never have happened. Bella (the human) wants Edward (the vampire). She's willing to give up everything, including her life as she knows it, to be with him.
Elizabeth makes the valid point that Edward does take care of Bella. He even saves her life more than once. I would want girls I love to value that aspect of a guy, but I also would want them to focus first on being independent and strong enough to take care of themselves.
Especially at the beginning of the book, for chapter after chapter, Edward's beauty is extolled. Bella believes she is ordinary (not!). It would grate on my sense of justice for any girl to salivate over a guy solely based on his appearance. What makes this worse is that Edward initially treats Bella so rudely that she can't comprehend what motivates him.
In real life, falling madly in love with a gorgeous guy who treats a girl badly is (sociopathic and) a failsafe recipe for long-term misery.
But that's real life. I fervent-ly hope this is fiction. Because if there are any real vampires, this series is their best match-making service in centuries.