There has been a lot of hype over the Twilight series lately. Between the release of the fourth and last book and the premiere of the movie adaptation, it's practically impossible for someone to be (at least partially) unfamiliar with Bella Swan and the coven of vampires with whom she associates. Now, I understand that typically any publicity is good publicity. But, I think Stephenie Meyer is getting a bad rap from a lot of overly critical people.
Let me describe how my "relationship" with the Twilight world came to be. I first heard about the Twilight series about a year and a half ago. A few of my co-workers were in the process of reading them and had VERY different opinions of the books. One was beyond obsessed with the series and only had good things to say about them. The other was reading Twilight only because her book club was reading it, and she told me she thought it was "overrated" and "just as bad as a dirty romance novel." My curiosity was piqued. I don't usually respond to peer pressure when it comes to my literary choices, but in this case, I felt compelled, albeit grudgingly, to see what all the fuss was about. I started Twilight and scoffed at Stephenie Meyer's awkward diction and syntax (believe me, it doesn't start out great). Once I got past my grammar obsession and let myself become absorbed by the story, I whizzed through the series in mere days. I waited in anticipation for the final volume to be released, and I stood in line at midnight to buy my copy. Now, the series is my go-to when I have a yen to read but don't have any new material. I've read all of the books at least 4 or 5 times.
I honestly feel critics give Stephenie Meyer's writing prowess WAY too much credit, and give female readers WAY too little. First of all, Meyer never set out to write "the next great American novel," and she has never claimed these books to be anything but what they are--young adult fiction. Second of all, women and girls are not mindless drones. What we think and feel and understand are not completely determined by what we see and read. We are able to develop opinions independent of outside influence.
I am particularly offended at the argument that reading Twilight distorts a woman's view of the men in her life, because Edward Cullen is "perfect." Anyone who has read the series can understand that, while being very appealing, he is most certainly not perfect. Sure, he's strong, and beautiful, and rich, and various other great physical things. His physical appearance and surroundings were never what captivated me. He is a GENTLEMAN. He opens Bella's doors for her. He's polite to adults and people in positions of authority. Best of all, he's moral. Bella constantly tries to push boundaries, and Edward always draws a line. Most would tell you it's because he doesn't want to hurt Bella, and though this is true, it's also because he doesn't want to take her virtue or ruin his (they actually discuss this concept in Eclipse). He does have some flaws, as well. Emotionally, he can be a total wreck. He's overprotective, almost to the point of smothering at times, he's jealous, he's got a short temper, he's possessive, and he's condescending at times. If I were to describe the perfect man, Edward would not qualify. Those who are superficially familiar with the story don't understand that.
A second argument I despise claims Twilight is the antithesis of feminism. Stephenie Meyer responded to this argument on her website, and I think she put it well. Everything in the books are about the choices Bella makes and the consequences that come from them. Bella never allows outside influence to pressure her decisions. My idea of an anti-feminist heroine is one who does not act, but is acted upon. She is content to live the life she is given by man on the terms of man. Bella is most certainly not anti-feminist.
Some people may wonder why I read the Twilight series more than once. Something I despised in high school English was the constant searching for themes and symbols and allusions. Back in high school, I used to always say "well, maybe the author wrote it like that just because it sounded good, and it doesn't mean anything." I don't believe that anymore. If someone takes the time to write a novel, he or she has a purpose--a deeper intention than is initially seen. That purpose intensifies when a reader takes a theme or meaning from a novel that is applicable to his or her life. It sounds silly, but I have a personal connection with those books. Edward the so-called "perfect man" did not leave me wanting something more from my husband. Rather, it made me love him more, because the things I admired in Edward (i.e. his manners and moral compass) are the things I admire in Cole. One of the themes of the series is Bella's desire to spend eternity with Edward, the man she loves. Any LDS member would have to be blind to miss the parallel. I'm particularly grateful that Cole's and my eternity together is far easier to achieve than Bella and Edward's. Another theme of the book deals with Edward's constant temptation to kill humans and drink their blood because of what he is. He and his "family" are excellent examples to all in this regard, since they completely abstain from temptation and choose a better course.
Please don't tell me you're choosing not reading the series "on principle." To me, that says you think you're better than I am because I indulged in what you think is ridiculous, overhyped trash. I personally think anything (within reason, of course) is worth trying once. If you DO decide to give in, at least you know your expectations won't be let down, since they're not that high to begin with. :)