"Sleep well," he said. His breath blew in my face, stunning me. It was the same exquisite scent that clung to his jacket, but in a more concentrated form. I blinked, thoroughly dazed. He leaned away.
Reading the first part of the "Twilight series" was nothing but a sudden, unexpected whim. I thought that not only my "teenage romance days" are behind me, but also that I am over my "vampire days". :) Besides, after reading - and loving - Anne Rice's vampire novels as a teenager, I felt that I had the right to be sceptical about this "new wave" of contemporary vampires: surely they are not half as sophisticated and interesting as Rice's ancient monsters?
But instead of stubbornly holding on to my prejudiced beliefs, I decided to find out for myself by reading the famous Twilight, Stephenie Meyer's debut novel and the first of the bestselling series.
And what did I find? A romance novel set in a high school in a small town in America - with vampires, or "vampires" as Meyer has imagined them. I was disappointed to find out that Meyer had none of the characteristics that made - in my opinion - Rice's more traditional vampires real: the ancient mythology, the ruthlessness, the immorality, even the tragedy of never being able to see sunlight! Meyer's group of vampires are kind of like the vegetarians of the vampire world: they have decided not to kill people, but eat animals instead. They live among humans and try to fit in. Their skin sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight. These vampires are not ancient, undead killers, but tame, modern immortals.
The one single thing that Meyer has decided to use from the traditional stereotypes associated with vampires is their sexuality and passion. Edward is described as ridiculously beautiful, almost irresistible to Bella. Otherwise their relationship follows a very traditional, predictable path: ordinary-looking girl falls in love with an amazing, beautiful, strong, smart, polite, perfect boy - and he, for some mysterious reason, is attracted to her as well. The couple end up together after he - conveniently - manages to rescue her from a few tight spots. Their relationship is dangerous, forbidden - not to mention all the sexual tension between them that is straight from any teenage girl's fantasy.
So Meyer's vampires are a bit disappointing to someone who has read Anne Rice's novels. And Edward and Bella's relationship is very predictable teenage stuff that is probably appealing only to a certain audience. Still, I read this novel in one single weekend. And that made me wonder: what is the secret ingredient of bestsellers? What makes a novel such a page-turner?
Here's my very reliable and chemical theory: Twilight contains something that is like the MSG (monosodium glutamate) of novels. MSG is, of course, the notorious food additive that is added to make certain foods taste more delicious and irresistible. The natural flavour of these foods isn't necessarily that good, but adding the magic powder of MSG improves and enhances the flavour, also making the food strangely addictive. Twilight has this secret ingredient, this mysterious additive that makes you turn the pages even though you know that what you are reading isn't really that great! Another MSG-novel is definitely Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which is also incredibly addictive to read, although it's difficult to explain why. The same goes for some bad reality TV shows: you just know that what you are watching is absolute crap, but for some reason you can't quite make yourself switch channels or turn off the TV - you just keep watching. :)
The great thing about this secret ingredient that makes bad books great to read is that it is almost guaranteed to work again and again. For example, I think I know for certain that if I ever decide to read the rest of the Twilight series, I will probably enjoy and be just as addicted to the other books - and still wonder afterwards: why did I enjoy reading this book so much, even though I didn't like it at all? It's a mysterious paradox... ;)
And if anyone was interested in reading a proper book review about Twilight, sorry - this is all you get - my strange ramblings and excuses and a chemical analysis of bestsellers. :)
Stephenie Meyer: Twilight. Atom. 2005. 434 pages.
Wikipedia: Twilight series
** So American -haasteen kategoriaan Modern Women Writers (2/5 suoritettu) **