I’ve never read a traditional romance novel, which, as I understand it, is essentially porn for women. The thinking is that men get turned on by looking at dirty pictures, whereas women prefer to read about mysterious, handsome strangers that sweep into town, listen nonjudgmentally, and help with the housework. They also like to shop, pick out drapes, and cry during “Terms of Endearment,” all of them unlikely heterosexuals who prefer to cuddle. These he/she-men rescue the ladies from their humdrum lives and carry them off into the sunset, all the while looking exactly like Fabio.
Not my cup of tea.
It’s no surprise, then, that I didn’t much care for Twilight, the first of a popular new romance series that every woman I know seems to be reading. (Spoilers are ahead – not massive ones, but if you want to read the book with absolutely no preconceptions, go back to being bored by my Mitt Romney speech.) My wife warned me that I wouldn’t like it, but I read it anyway, because I needed an easy book to read for the airplane ride to Kauai, and this one takes place along the Olympic Peninsula, which is where my wife grew up. (And, thankfully, Fabio ddid not model for the cover.)
Unfortunately, the author spent absolutely no time in Washington before writing the book. She just needed a locale with lots of clouds to keep the sun off of her vampires, and she decided that Forks, Washington, fit the bill. Consequently, there’s no real geographic specificity in Twilight – this takes place in a generic high school in a generic small town where it rains a lot. Where she does get into specifics, she gets it laughably wrong. At one point, the characters head over to nearby Port Angeles to buy fancy dresses for an upcoming dance. Having spent a great deal of time in Port Angeles, I know that there are no such stores. Real life Port Angelinos would likely have to head down closer to Seattle to get gussied up or else buy the finest threads that Wal-Mart has to offer.
The author mentions Port Angeles’ “charming boardwalk” filled with quaint stores, when, in reality, no such boardwalk exists. According to my wife, it may have existed 30 years ago, but today, downtown P.A. is pretty dumpy. Nearby Sequim is getting all the growth, but nobody visits Sequim in Twilight. I’m not sure it would really matter if they did.
Because nothing happens in this book.
Now, that’s not entirely true – there’s a busy, climactic scene that feels tacked on for effect, and there’s also plenty of lovey-dovey mooning. The plot, in a nutshell, is that a cute girl arrives in a new town and falls in love with a vampire, who, in turn, falls in love with her.
To fill the space, the author finds as many ways as she can to describe just how beautiful this vampire is – he’s an Adonis, a Greek god, he’s perfect, he’s intoxicating, he’s stunning, he’s dazzling, he’s exhilarating, he’s magnificent, he’s smooth, silky, sexy, well-groomed, punctual, and intensely, intensely boring. Take away the blood fetish, and he’s just a pale Fabio with a haircut.
The vampire is torn, because he wants to love this girl, too, for reasons that are unfathomable to us dudes, an he also wants to suck her blood, which I could better understand. The author gives him plenty of opportunity to tell her how dangerous he is. Except he’s the exact opposite of danger. He’s caring, attentive, and doting to the point of imbecility. He remembers names she mentions in casual conversation weeks earlier, which proves he’s a better guy than I am. He is, however, a bit of a stalker, as he stares at the girl all night while she sleeps. I found that unnerving, but the girl finds it charming.
To each their own, I guess.
I can’t say, really, that Twilight is a bad book per se. The author writes clearly and simply, which makes the book a fast, breezy read, but it’s a book for an audience that doesn’t include me. I can live with that. I’m just going to have to find a different, more manly book for the plane ride home.
Maybe I ought to spend some time looking at dirty pictures. Or maybe I should just take a nap.