(Warning: Contains a few spoilers about the Twilight Series!)
Last night at midnight, millions of women and young girls headed to theatres to watch Stephenie Meyer's New Moon - her second novel turned screenplay about an unsuspecting girl, vampires, and werewolves.
Unlike many writers who swear they've never read them, I admit freely that I've devoured all four books from the Twilight series. Why? It's simple.
I have a 10-year old daughter.
Not only do I have a 10-year-old daughter, I have a girl who is a prolific reader, consuming To Kill A Mockingbird, Little Women, and the entire Harry Potter series all in one year. So when she said to me at age nine that she wanted to tackle Twilight, I felt it my motherly duty to read the book first. My perspective of this series is shadowed by my view as a writer, a reader and a mother. And I must admit, my opinion differs from many of my peers. Here's why.
1) My view as a writer: Writers criticize the series because the books have simple editing errors like passive sentences, dangling participles, run on sentences, and the like, and that's just the beginning of their complaints and critique of Stephenie Meyer. They've picked apart each paragraph, trying to comprehend how in the world this housewife from the northwest could possibly pull off what they've been trying to do for years - achieve the status of Superhero Fiction Writer. I have a simple answer to that: the mass market doesn't care.
The reader cares about the characters and the story. Now, that is not to say that shabby, lazy writing will get you to the bestseller list. It is to say that if you have innovative, unique and compelling people in extraordinary circumstances, you might have a chance. Stephenie Meyer has done just that. And millions of young girls - and their mothers - can attest to it.
2) My view as a reader: readers want entertainment.
Bella cuts her finger, blood oozing everywhere, in a room full of vampires. The one who loves her dives to her rescue. To save her from vampires and their never ending thirst for humans, he leaves her forever, driving her into the arms of the lusty werewolf. Hello? So cliched you can't stand it? Guess what? The mass market can't wait for the next installment. Will the vampire come back? Or will he leave her in the arms of the werewolf?
My 10-year-old couldn't wait for the next chapter. Why? Because she was utterly captivated by the story. She identified with the main character, the cliched and clumsy Bella. Story. Character. The same things that cause millions of American women to read flimsy paperbacks on the beach every summer. There is a chance for love. There is a chance for heartbreak. After all, whether we admit it, like it or hate it, isn't that what we're all looking for?
3) My view as a mother: I must say from a mother's perspective that the Twilight series has it all. Love, lust, longing? It's all real and opens a great channel for discussion. Besides the fact that (SPOILER!) Bella gets pregnant in book four, there's basically no sex. Vampires, werewolves, and consortiums? Not real. All the other stuff? A great venue to talk to my daughter about growing up.
I guess I should point out that as a daughter I was told basically nothing about puberty, growing up, boys, and what is natural. I was left to my own devices, sneaking Judy Blume's Forever under the covers when I was about ten (the same age my daughter is now, remember). Embarrassed as I was, I would have loved an opportunity to talk to my mother about all the weird things going on inside me and around me. Like it or not, our daughters mature. My daughter read most of the Twilight series in her bed with me lying beside her reading my own books. What better opportunity to discuss scenes, and life, and everything else?
I understand not everyone will agree with me. Writers will tell me Meyer is garbage. Sophisticated readers will tell me she's not literary enough. (Well, duh. I agree!) But ten-year old girls? They will tell me they got sucked into a fantasy world that entertained, spurred their imagination, and kept them reading. I'm here for my daughter, poised to explain that there is no knight in shining armor - especially the blood-sucking kind. But for the sake of a good, fast, and entertaining read? Good job, Stephenie Meyer.
And although I don't want to be her, or write like her, I have only one bit of advice: Write on, girl. I can teach my daughter about real love and real loss, about romance and heartache. Life will teach her even more than I ever will. But you, Stephenie, are keeping her eyes on the page, furtively reading, engaging her imagination. For that alone I say keep it up. Leave the life lessons and discussions to me. You've opened a great window for conversation without even knowing it.
As a final note, I didn't get tickets for the midnight showing. Frankly, it wasn't my style. But for my girl? Eventually, I know, I'll see it a million times over. And each time, I'm sure, we'll have a different conversation.
For that alone, it's worth it.