Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Twilight? Twhy-not: A Twilight Anniversary Post



I know we could talk about the issues in Twilight until the sparkly vampire cows come home--feminist issues, literary issues, why-did-Stephenie-Meyer-ruin-Jacob-Black issues, etc--and trust me, I have done that. I actually quite enjoy doing that, and why? Because I love Twilight. I did, and I do. And I like to analyze and reevaluate things that I love and that have infeted a part of my soul (for better or for worse, if you want to say. I mean, if I could manage to cut out all the Twilight trivia in my brain I could probably fit a whole new language in there or something).  I like looking at why I love a thing and if I should and then realizing I don't care because I do anyway. And most of all, I love Twilight now because of how much I loved it then, when I discovered this series in 2008, when I was a junior in high school. Aka, Bella Swan's age when she walked into that FATEFUL Biology class.

Oh, Twilight, I just can't quit you. And I never will, because if it weren't for Twilight, well, there would be no YA blogger Gillian. There would probably be no YA obsession.

My well-loved, much abused copies of The Twilight Saga

My YA journey is marked with pretty common "milestone" books, with Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, and City of Bones chiefest among them. These are the books that became so wildly popular that they broke out of the reader zone into that mystical MAINSTREAM REALM, where only the sturdiest and sparkliest and most bloodthirsty of books make it alive. One day I'll write a post about all the books that mark my reading life, but today I'm focusing just on Twilight, because it's the ten year anniversary (HA HA HA I AM ANCIENT) and I'm feeling nostalgic for the book that so defined my high school years.

GRAY HAIRS GRAY HAIRS EVERYWHERE

I read a lot as a kid. Like, a lot. I was the cliche bookworm bringing books to the table, asking the teachers for more reading assignments, generally being the worst. I read a ferocious amount of fantasy and historical fiction when I was in elementary school in the 90's, gobbling up Harry Potter, American Girl, Royal Diaries, Ella Enchanted, Tamora Pierce, and other children's classics. But there was a problem. See, YA wasn't really a thing when I got to middle school. I'd always read above my age level, and here I was, ready to ascend out of MG and into the world of KISSING BOOKS (but not TOO kissing books, if you know what I mean)...and they didn't exist.

So I read classics. That's what "smart reader girls" like me read, right? We read fat Russian novels full of WHEAT and DEATH and BLOODY AXES, and staid nineteenth century whitedude novels full of thinly veiled racism and sexism and usually some kind of entailment plot. This was also the era of "chick lit", a term I despise but a genre I adore. I read every Sophie Kinsella book that existed and discovered Meg Cabot and Louise Rennison and ASCENDED TO A HIGHER LEVEL BECAUSE FINALLY, YA. And I love contemporary, I do, but I really wanted books written LIKE THAT ABOUT PEOPLE LIKE ME but ones that made me FLIP OUT the way, say, Tamora Pierce and Gail Carson Levine did.

Me, to the books. (And me to the fictional kissing)

I wanted YA genre romance, I just didn't know it yet. So instead I plunged onward, forcing myself to read the odious Thomas Hardy and the sublime Jane Austen, then "cheating" with some chick lit. And even though I LOVED the chick lit, reading about adults doing adult things in office buildings and BEDROOMS LE GASP was so far out of my realm of reality as a middle schooler/early YA that it was basically like reading high fantasy.

I did sense a pattern, though, in the books I read. It was work to get through the classics that had no romance, and a joy to read the classics that did, but I always wanted more from them. I reread every kiss scene obsessively or every declaration or every moment of tension, which were frustratingly vague in the classics or often not the focus in the way I wanted. I WANTED KISSING BOOKS. I just didn't know it yet.

Oh shut up you disco ball

I'd sort of vaguely heard about these vampire books that were becoming popular, but this was before the movies and the massive mainstream pop culture infiltration, and I only noticed things that fell out of the sky and landed directly onto my teenage head. My friend had read the first two, which were the only ones out at the time, and told me I HAD to read these books because they had the HOTTEST guy in them.

"What's the guy's name?" I asked, already deciding he could be NO Mr. Rochester (I had a huge thing for Rochester back then, god help me).

"Edward," she said.

I scoffed. "EDWARD? That is the LEAST HOT NAME EVER I AM NOT READING A BOOK ABOUT A GUY NAMED EDWARD." (*distant sounds of Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester laughing from the moors of Yorkshire*)

She gave me this wise, knowing look and said, "Oh, trust me. You'll change your mind."

Reader, I did.

Me at seventeen: YES YES I ABSOLUTELY ACCEPT

The week Eclipse, the third book in the series, released, I bought it and paperback editions of Twilight and New Moon and decided to see what the fuss was all about. READER, I COMPLETELY UTTERLY LOST MY MIND. I'd been in a bit of a reading funk at the time, prone to rereading Harry Potter and absolutely nothing else because hello, best self-soothing method there is, and then suddenly I was walking around my house with my nose in my Twilight banging into walls because I didn't want to put it down. Three days later, I finished all three books, and I was a NEW WOMAN.

It was love at first sniff

This is what my life had been missing. YA romance. YA feelings. Teens with ANGST and LUSTY TINGLES and RELATIONSHIP COMPLICATIONS and also DANGER but mostly ANGST and oh my god oh my god I had ascended.

Twilight did a lot of great things for me. It helped me make friends with complete strangers on a high school summer program (we had a spirited Team Jacob vs. Team Edward debate in the plane). It helped me grow closer to the other secret Twihards at my school. This was before the hate, before people even knew about this book, at least in my bubble. (I'm aware the internet was already all over this, but I didn't even know fan fic existed in junior year even though I'd been writing it accidentally for years, okay, think how sad my life was then).

Discovering on a fluke that another person had not only had READ a book I'd read, but LOVED IT OBSESSIVELY AND WANTED TO TALK ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME...that was momentous. The only other book I'd ever experienced like that was Harry Potter, but this was different.

THIS WAS A KISSING BOOK.

My feelings for Twilight have gone through many, many changes over the years, as I grew more cynical, as the movies came out, as I fell in love with them again, as I fought not to love them, and as I finally reached a point of SCREW IT I LOVE THESE RIDICULOUS BOOKS AND IF ANY GUY WANTS TO BUY ME A PRIVATE BRAZILIAN ISLAND COMPLETE WITH A LUXURIOUSLY FURNISHED WHITE VILLA AND A WEAKLY CONSTRUCTED HEADBOARD THAT IS OKAY BY ME. But even with all the complicated feelings I have for this strangely beloved series of books, it will always remain that to me: strangely beloved, because it was a YA book I found at a very YA time in my life, and it did what YA does best.

It taught me about boys It taught me how to discuss my own emotions, and that not only was that COOL--for a lady-type, young, "silly" girl-person to have icky sticky weepy blush emotions--but it was POPULAR. Millions of people wanted to read about Teenage Girls (Mostly) Doing Things and Having Thoughts and Feelings. THE ENTIRE WORLD WAS OBSESSED WITH TEENAGE GIRL FEELINGS.

I JUST HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS
So I'm raising a glass of O negative champagne to Twilight, on your tenth birthday. You diamond-hard, immortal tome, you don't look a day over nine or even a hundred and nine, and also, may I have Midnight Sun now please, thank you. [EDIT: Literally as I was writing this post THEY ANNOUNCED THAT THERE IS GOING TO BE A GENDER BENT TWILIGHT REIMAGINING WRITTEN BY STEPHENIE MEYER AND I THINK I HAVE ACHIEVED NIRVANA AND PRAYER DOES WORK IT HAS BEEN MEDICALLY PROVEN AND WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE????????]

Or if you're not in the mood for some recently slaughtered mountain lion blood, go the Charlie Swan route, and have a sandwich.



You really do.

(By the way, I was fervently Team Edward back in the day. Pretty sure it was the name. Possibly the glitter.)


7 comments:

  1. Great post - can't remember the last time I read something about Twilight that wasn't all about Edward being controlling/Bella being a terrible role-model/sparkly vampires being stupid. Can't be doing with ex-fans judging people for still liking the series - they're just books, let us keep our good teenage memories! haha Can't believe they're 10 years old though, that's horrendous :(

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  2. I loved these books when they first came out. Too bad they kind of don't seem to be as good anymore after reading so many other (better) books. XD Now the love is kind of gone. I'll probably read the new version.

    Also, Charlie Swan was the best character of the series. And I lol'ed a lot in this post. Heh, disco ball. XD

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  3. love this post <3

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  4. I loved this. I feel like everyone is so negative towards Twilight, obsessed with its flaws, when I'm still just obsessed with how much fun I had reading it so many years ago, and how it opened up this whole world of reading YA for me, which as an adult, I hadn't considered before.

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  5. I love all this. I was a huge Twilight fan and it will always have a special place in my heart even as I have grown away from it for many reasons. But in the end, I will always be team Edward. :D

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  6. I also really enjoyed the books and read them before I was active in the book community. I am very interested in reading the reimagined gender swapped book! I actually think it could be really good. I loved this post and yay Twilight!

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  7. "And I never will, because if it weren't for Twilight, well, there would be no YA blogger Gillian."

    There is one awesome thing to come out of Twilight.
    And, Gilly, I have to agree, if it wasn't for Twilight, I wouldn't be blogging today, either.

    Awesome post is awesome.

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