The Good + The Bad: The Twilight Series

Is it read-worth? To be perfectly honest, I don’t know a single person my age (22) who hasn’t read The Twilight Series. Was it worth the acclaim it got? Not really. Was it an okay series? Yeah, probably.

Let’s begin with this: I honestly don’t hate the Twilight series. 

I know a lot of avid readers find the writing to be lacking and the scenarios to be cliche (and they’re not wrong), but I’ve never thought they were the worst books in the world. In fact, I used to read New Moon once every couple of months when I ran out of new books to read. I thought Jacob was one of the few realistic and entertaining characters – no offense Edward fans!

They books are simple, a lot of bit cliche, and they’re all very, very readable. The Twilight series is designed to be a series of page-turners and Stephanie Meyers collects all the features of a good page turner. The books are dramatic, relatable at times, and there’s death, drama, romance, and some pretty interesting side stories going on. 

But, with that being said, I don’t think Bella Swan or her relationship with Edward are examples we should be setting for high school students falling in love. This book targets that age ground between 13 and 20 and, especially for younger girls, they’re not the best example. 

The book may be a good, easy read with a (sometimes) compelling storyline, especially at first glance, but it also has a lot of downsides that I’m not sure can be reconciled.

The Good and the Bad

It’s confusing to say I don’t hate this book, but that I do hate the main characters and the relationship that they have. 

Stephanie Meyers just isn’t a bad writer in my opinion. Her book, The Host, is one of my all-time-favorite books and I like her simplistic style. Many people she over describes at some points, but I don’t mind that either. Sometimes I want a book that over describes things to me.  I particularly enjoy world building.

And there’s a lot of attention-catching scenes in the Twilight series. The things that happen to Bella Swan, the almost deaths and accidents that target her, keep your attention throughout the book and make it easy to read. The only problem with those scenes is that Bella herself is a super boring, lackluster character who is only really defined by her own lack of self esteem and her obsession with Edward. 

Even when she almost dies, like at least once every book, it’s all about Edward. 

I’d honestly cry a river if I could. Anyone who’s so focused on their boyfriend while they’re getting brutally murdered needs to get professional help, not be turned into an eighteen year old vampire who will spend all of eternity obsessing over said boyfriend to the storyline’s detriment. 

But, anyways, back to the good: I do like all the other characters. Unlike Bella and Edward, characters like Alice, Jacob, Jasper, Dr. Cullen, and Rosalie all have interesting stories, attitudes, personalities. They’re realistic human beings who aren’t stuck in a little bubble. Even Jessica, who is a total teenage stereotype, has more personality than the stale piece of toast that is Bella Cullen. 

And I love them for their personalities and, more than that, I love a lot of the characters because they’ve turned themselves into survivors and not victims. 

Dr. Cullen found a way to survive without drinking human blood when he was turned and didn’t spend years whining about what a bad person he is like Edward does constantly. 

Jasper was in a violent vampire war (okay, a little bit of an ugh here) and was one of the most vicious vampires on Earth until he realized he couldn’t handle being a monster and became a better person. He searched out a better life for himself and found it. 

Rosalie Hale survived rape and assault at the hands of her own fiance before being turned into a vampire and, yet, was still capable of finding love. Her personality is abrasive and unforgiving. She feels real.

All of these characters are more intricate and just better written than Bella and Edward. They aren’t as completely self centered and have extremely interesting backgrounds. Maybe they’re just better overall because they aren’t so singularly focused on their own relationship to the exclusion of all else. 

In any case, they’re what makes the story fun to read. These books would be nothing without some interesting characters. 

Unhealthy Relationships

But, like I said before, Bella and Edward aren’t those interesting characters we need or want in a book. 

Bella Swan is a weak girl and, because of her own lack of self esteem, she is absolutely obsessed with being in love with Edward to the exclusion of all other people. She doesn’t maintain great relationships with her friends and, at the end of the series, she’s even okay with letting her parents spend the rest of their lives thinking she died than live without Edward.

In a nutshell, she’s that girl you tried to be friends with in school who always said no when you asked her to hangout because she has plans with her boyfriend.  And, while at times I literally was that girl, I don’t necessarily think that girl should be used as an example of real love.

Yet, it would still be fine with me if her relationship with Edward was anything to be impressed by.

Which it’s obviously not. 

Why? Because their relationship, to me, doesn’t come off as beautiful.  It’s not amazing. It’s not something to envy at all.

And it didn’t deserve to be made into a movie that made millions of girls go “wow I wish that was me.” 

I know for some people Edward and Bella have some beautiful star crossed lover/Romeo & Juliet appeal, but for me their relationship just seems unhealthy, sad, pathetic, abusive, dismal. 

Even weak obsessive Bella Swan is unhealthy for Edward, a guy who seems to get off on hating himself for being a vampire. She is clingy, obsessive, and he literally wants to kill her 24/7. 

For a man who is hell bent on hating himself for being a vampire, she is the perfect punishment for being one.

He doesn’t want to kill humans, she puts him a situation where it’s almost impossible to resist and where he can’t even tell how she’s reacting to him, he decides to fall in love with her, and he is in pain almost every second he manages not to kill her. 

Does he really love her or does he just love having another excuse to think he’s a monster? 

Honestly I’m really not sure because even in the end, when she became a vampire, he didn’t genuinely want her to become one. He thought it would take her soul away and destroy her chances of going to Heaven – one of the main reasons he hates himself so much. For over one hundred years, Edward thought this and Bella seems to think a quick redirection on her side will change a belief system he’s held for more than most humans are alive. 

Does Edward change Bella into a vampire because he genuinely loves her (lacking) personality or is he just coming up with a more long-term reason to continue with the self-hate and brooding his personality is defined by?

Romance at its finest or just messed up? I think my opinion is pretty obvious. 

And, then, we look at the other side and why Edward shouldn’t be what girls go looking for. 

His “love” for Bella is just as obsessive as her love for him, but is a million times creepier and more abusive.  He’s a stalker.

Message to all girls: an over-controlling guy who has to actively keep himself from murdering you probably isn’t the best boyfriend material. Neither is someone who thinks he’s always right and acts super condescending towards you.

And he does this on multiple occasions. He secludes her from her father and friends, forbids her from seeing Jacob, and at one point he even wrecks her car so she can’t be around other people. He even mentally checks in on the people she talks to so, when she’s not around him directly, he stills knows exactly what she’s doing, exactly who she’s with, and exactly what they think about her. 

Other than that controlling behavior he shows directly, you may also want to consider leaving someone who causes you to be attacked and almost die multiple times.

Dying isn’t romantic. 

Murder shouldn’t be romanticized. 

Abusive relationships where a man tries to control your every action is NOT romantic. 

Bella is delusional to think that dying because of love, especially recent love where you’ve known your boyfriend for less than a year, is something that is desirable and telling other young girls that this is a good option for them is crazy. 

Plus, sneaking into someone’s house to watch them sleep is also NOT romantic. 

It’s creepy and weird. If someone sneaks into your house and watches you sleep, you should not end up marrying them. You should probably break up with them, call the cops, and maybe even move out of the area. (All jokes aside, make police officers aware of a situation similar to this. Their hands are usually tied, but you want situations similar to Edward’s relationship with Bella on public record.)

And, beyond all of the mental abuse, Edward is physically abusive. 

He hauls Bella around when he think she can’t handle something, shoves her so hard in a scene with Jasper to the point where she needs stitches, and breaks a headboard and seriously injures every inch of Bella’s body during sex. 

Edward is incapable of controlling his actions and physically wounds Bella during multiple scenes and yet… it’s all justified… as him being a vampire? 

That sounds like an excuse from someone who is in an abusive relationship, not like a real reason. And, even if that is the real reason, that vampires genuinely can’t control their own violence, why would Bella blindly accept that? 

Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you should allow them to hurt you. Even if someone can’t help but hurt you, they are still hurting you, you are still at risk, and you should still leave them. Your life has value. Your pain has value. Do not let someone devalue you because you love them. That is not healthy.

Stalkerish, abusive behavior should NOT be romanticized throughout this book. There’s no character that completely calls out this behavior and Bella never stops a second to think about what she’s doing with her life. Jacob tries to, but even his reasons are more grounded in being in love with Bella than calling her and Edward out on their weird-as-hell In fact, at eighteen years old, she even decides to die for the chance to be with Edward.

How It Should Have Ended…

Reading the book is one thing, but idolizing it is another. Stephanie Meyer should have made it more clear that behavior like this in real life isn’t cute. Or maybe the movies based on this book shouldn’t have continued the romanticization of unhealthy relationships. 

In my opinion, this series should have ended when Edward realized he was unhealthy for Bella and left her. This was probably the only moment where he was doing the right thing. 

We could have focused on Bella getting better by herself and becoming a stronger person as a result. This series could have been a metaphor for how hard it can be to get out of unhealthy relationships, but how rewarding the final results can be for you. We need books that tell us that, even if we love someone, sometimes we just have to move on because it’s better for us.  No matter how romantic the story may have seemed, it needed to draw a line for its primarily young readers about the types of behavior and attitudes they should accept in their own relationships.

Instead it’s just a sad story where a lonely high school student decides she’d rather die than live without Edward, would rather ruin the rest of her parents lives than live without Edward, and would rather continue to be spineless than grow a backbone that allows her to be her own independent person instead of a shadow of Edward’s self-hate. 

Maybe if the author had called out how inappropriate, abusive, and almost pathetic this relationship is even once, I’d be able to say that the storyline isn’t so completely absurd and, instead of just liking this book as an easy read with compelling side characters, I’d actually say this a truly good book.  Her only attempts at doing so were Jacob’s negative comments and all of them were dismissed as jealousy.

That being said, the books are what they are and I still enjoy reading them. I just don’t think they should have been made into what they are. Young girls shouldn’t be left thinking that this is what love should look like. 

Love is being with someone who makes you want to be better than yourself. Edward and Bella’s unhealthy, abusive, creepy, interdependent relationship isn’t a good example of that. It isn’t healthy. It isn’t something that should be encouraged. 

And, in large part, it hurt the series. 

Plus what was up with the fact that the big battle of Breaking Dawn never actually happened? Lame. 

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