I read the book because I am a middle school teacher and thought I should be familiar with the novel because of its popularity with my students. The book is honestly poorly written and incredibly predictable, but despite this obvious reason to dislike the novel, I could not put it down and soon found myself reading the other books in the series. The Twilight series has become my guilty pleasure. Here are my thoughts as a teacher on the appropriateness of the text for your adults:
As in many pieces of young adult fiction, this novel places the adolescent protagonist in a position of independence, allowing her to take all of the credit for her actions and accomplishments. Unlike most juniors in high school, Bella has many of the responsibilities and freedoms of an adult. Within the first pages of the book, readers learn that Bella and her mother do not have a typical parent-child relationship. This moment reveals that Bella has lived for most of her life as the caregiver, clearly illustrating her as an independent individual. Bella gains an even greater amount of freedom after moving in with her father. By removing her parents and other authority figures from the scenario, Meyer allows Bella to be the ruler of her own domain, having the space and agency to make independent decisions. This absence also gives weight and legitimacy to her choices, allowing young readers to relate more comfortably to an individual who has the power they long for. Her freedom and choices are ultimately validated in the book’s denouement, when Bella’s parents allow her to choose where she will live. Not only does this illustrate her fundamental independence, but it also vindicates her life-threatening choices, appealing to young adult readers who want to view her as ultimately responsible for her own success and happiness.
Like most pieces in the fantasy genre, Twilight fulfills a number of crucial characteristics that will draw seventh and eighth grade readers to the story, most importantly, the quest archetype. The quest is a scenario that appeals to readers of all ages, but is particularly timely and meaningful to young adults. In other words, the quest in this case is the literary representation of the journey from adolescence into adulthood. Young adult readers use fantasy as a means of exploring and tackling real problems. Bella’s journey is an emotional one, coming to terms with her identity and entering into a mature relationship. Bella is clearly lacking self-confidence and is unhappy about her physical and social identity in the opening of the book. In contrast, once she completes her “love quest” she is transformed into a self-assured, optimistic, and fulfilled woman. This is particularly evident in her attitude about love and relationships. This transformation indicates a meaningful internal change, demonstrating Bella’s successful completion of the emotional quest and lending the text for use with seventh and eighth grade readers.
Yet another reason Twilightis appropriate for this age group is because it deals with subject matter that is psychologically important to young adults. Through the course of the story, Bella enters into her first romantic relationship, which is an important milestone of adolescence. She also gains confidence about her body. Most importantly, she develops a personal ideology when she chooses to become intimately involved with a vampire despite personal risk, social marginalization, and a life of secrecy. Each of these is an important developmental task that helps young adults in their journey toward achieving an identity. Therefore, Twilight appeals to seventh and eighth grade students because it explores and reflects emotions and situations that are significant in the lives of young adults, specifically the search for personal identity and acceptance in personal relationships and society.
This text is relatively uncontroversial, with conservative language and only small amounts of modest sexual intimacy. While typical objections about sexual content are not relevant to the text, the central role of vampires in the text may be objectionable to conservative religious families and could be said to be “irreligious." In order to overcome this barrier, it seems important to securely ground this text in the fantasy genre, reminding students and parents alike that the text will be treated as mere fiction. Furthermore, explaining the symbolic representations of Edward as the unlikely hero may help them understand his character as a literary tool that leads their children to think more critically about good and evil. In truth, my greatest hesitation in recommending this novel revolves around Meyer’s ability as an author. In many ways the book is predictable, following conventions of formula literature, and her repetitive use of descriptive words and phrases feels tedious and amateur. Despite these hesitations, the book’s popularity among both young men and women would encourage me to recommend the text for independent reading.
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