When 17-year-old Isabella Swan moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father she expects that her new life will be as dull as the town.
But in spite of her awkward manner and low expectations, she finds that her new classmates are drawn to this pale, dark-haired new girl in town. But not, it seems, the Cullen family. These five adopted brothers and sisters obviously prefer their own company and will make no exception for Bella.
Bella is convinced that Edward Cullen in particular hates her, but she feels a strange attraction to him, although his hostility makes her feel almost physically ill. He seems determined to push her away - until, that is, he saves her life from an out of control car.
Bella will soon discover that there is a very good reason for Edward's coldness. He, and his family, are vampires - and he knows how dangerous it is for others to get too close.
This is my first time reading the book. In 2008, I saw the first film directed by Catherine Hardwicke and booked out the following three books from my local library, but I never managed to read the first book as the films were released throughout the next three years.
With Meyer planning to release two more books and a TV adaptation on the way, I decided to dive back into the franchise that had dominated my teenage years. Told primarily from the female protagonist's perspective, Bella becomes enthralled in a romance with a vampire when she moves to Washington. As I read this on my Kindle, I also listened to the audiobook narrated by Ilyana Kadushin.
It was interesting revisiting the series as an older reader, as I was more familiar with the films and had only read the Twilight books once as a teenager. Told primarily from Bella's perspective, the reader is given an insight into the heroine's inner musings and longing for her vampire paramour. From a writing perspective, Bella is very much an unreliable narrator, which has pros and cons. Unless something was vampire-related, Bella skimmed or outright ignored characters or settings around her. I think Kristen Stewart humanised the character in a way that made her more grounded on screen, whereas the book counterpart had a biased point of view that sometimes made her unlikable.
I've been in a bit of a reading slump and in many ways, Twilight was a welcomed distraction from books that were not living up to my expectations. It was a familiar story that I didn't have to overthink about. It was a popcorn read! However, something bugged me the further I read/listened to the book. This book had an issue with pacing, which became more apparent once I began comparing Meyer's plot structure to how Melissa Rosenberg wrote the screenplay.
Whether it was too many characters - Bella lists several students as a part of her friendship group that I could not picture in my head or see their relevance outside of Mike, Jessica, Angela, Eric and even Tyler - or a coherent narrative arc. There were moments when Bella and Edward would be in the middle of a conversation, be interrupted and pick up that conversation several pages or sometimes a couple of chapters later as if the interruption hadn't happened. I also thought Bella's dreams actually revealed a bit too much of what was to come. The foreshadowing of what to expect from the vampires and werewolves before Bella even knew herself was a bit too on the nose for me.
As a writer, Meyer is good - I definitely prefer Twilight over Midnight Sun, but that is a more personal preference. She paints a vivid picture for the reader, but I felt some scenes could have been cut and that the story translated much better on screen. I didn't feel as invested in the central love story, mainly because their relationship felt quite rushed. Again, I preferred Rosenberg's screenplay, which gave both Stewart and Robert Pattinson more of an authentic character development.
Towards the novel's end, everything feels a bit rushed. This could be because Twilight was intended to be standalone, but the action and suspense did not have time to settle or be explored. And Meyer could build tension. One of my favourite scenes was where Bella and James have their phone call, where the threat of her mother's life hangs in the balance. That was a good scene.
The tension between Bella and Edward could have been explored better. For me, the book didn't hit the same emotional beats as the film. The book had profound moments that felt too light-hearted and lighter scenes that read as too serious. I think their relationship had moments of potential, but the tone did not always feel that organic, given the circumstances they found themselves in. However, I enjoyed this for what it was - a nostalgic trip down memory lane.
My rating for Stephenie Meyer's Twilight is ★★★.