Twilight has become a franchise that incites some of the most extreme responses. There is obviously a huge following of Twilight fans who adore these books and movies. Then there are those who hate Stephenie Meyer, who bash the ever-living day lights out of her and think she is one of the most terrible writers of all time. I find each camp somewhat annoying, but hey at least they have conviction.
Before I get to my review of The Host, I want to start by saying that I think people are generally too hard on Stephenie Meyer. I’ve been in classrooms where English majors just snickered at the thought that anyone could like the Twilight series. I imagine that they might actually endorse a book burning (which goes against everything they stand for! *insert shock here*). I think deeming Meyer as ‘worst ever’ is unfair. There are much much worse writers out there and clearly she has some storytelling skills otherwise the books wouldn’t have become so popular (on their own, before the movie). She was recognized for her writing in young adult circles prior to her fame.
I think the actual issue is that people just don’t think she deserves her fame when there are better writers out there, and that may be true. But there are some good things about the Twilight series. The main positive quality I find is that it is a book that can get non-readers to read. You can be elitist all you want about good literature, but less and less people are reading. If a book is entertaining enough to get people reading who wouldn’t read otherwise—I think that is a good thing. Most people aren’t going to go from magazines to Wuthering Heights or Faulkner.
When I was younger, I liked the idea of reading but I rarely was able to finish a book. It was when I finally stopped trying to read “the good stuff” and just started reading for fun that I started to see progress. By reading books intended for young adults or kids like Harry Potter, The Giver and yes even Twilight, I finally started finishing books, reading faster, reading more and eventually reading better books. I realize some authors are better than others but I think popular literature has its place. The Nicholas Sparks, the John Grishams, they are good writers despite the fact that they will never win a Pulitzer prize.
I do have some issues with the Twilight series. For instance, I don’t like that she changed traditional lore about vampires. I also think that the stories got progressively weaker as the series progressed and started to fall apart as far as continuity. The other things I have issues with are about her writing in general so let me get to The Host.
I had no interest in reading this book at first. It’s suppose to be “science fiction” after all (not a genre I tend to read often) but I was pleasantly surprised. I found it addictive and I liked the characters. I also liked the concept for the story which was post apocalyptic (probably my favorite genre). It was a quick and easy read.
What I didn’t like about the book (and Meyer’s writing style in general):
Stephenie Meyer does three things that drive me absolutely bonkers.
First, she goes out of her way to keep it clean. Okay, I know she is Mormon (or was?) and I actually like that the books are clean, but the way she emphasizes this is so distracting. You could easily just not write sex into your story. No explanation is needed. Instead, Meyer includes unnecessary, awkward scenes to explain the absence.
Second, I hate how Meyer finds a good vocabulary word and over uses it. It comes across like she’s trying to sound like a better writer than she is. It makes me yell at my book “Can’t you think of any other words to describe what’s going on?!” In Twilight the word was irrevocable. In The Host it was altruism.
Third, I hate how Stephenie Meyer yields to her fans. Good authors do not do that. They write what they want to write—it’s their world, their story. They also generally have reasons for the trajectory that the story is taking. If fans have a problem with something, who cares? You cannot compromise the integrity of the story for a fan. If fans find something ambiguous, maybe it’s suppose to be! Example—the ending of Twilight was a cliff hanger. That’s fine. It makes sense, and I feel like it was a perfect ending for a movie. But her fans kept asking “What happens?” and instead of giving a coy smile she actually apologizes and clarifies. Who does that? And to make matters worse, they changed the movie ending from the natural cliff hanger to an explanation that didn’t even exist in the story until her fans demanded it. I feel like this is the byproduct of liking fame and having fans more than you like the art of writing itself.
I believe in honesty and I never want to be the kind of person who changes my opinion based on popular opinion. So when I like something, I stick to my guns, even if it later becomes unpopular to do so. (Being counterculture is just as trendy as not). So in general, I have to say that I enjoyed both Twilight and The Host. They were easy to read and entertaining. However, I clearly have a conflicted relationship with Stephenie Meyer’s writing—it can be entertaining and addictive (especially for non-readers) and it has it’s flaws.
Meyer is not the best writer, but she is also not the worst. The Host is an excellent example of this.