Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined
Written By: Stephenie Meyer
10th Anniversary Edition of Twilight, A Retelling
Admitting to being a fan of the Twilight series has become the literary equivalent of admitting to being a Nickelback fan. I think this has more to do with the success of the series than the actual series because trust me, there are FAR worse books in the YA fantasy world that no one talks about. I’ve written about this before, but I think Stephenie Meyer gets treated a bit unfairly. I try not to feel too sorry for her because *millionaire* but I do sometimes feel sorry for people who genuinely enjoy these books. It’s hard to get excited about new content or reading a review when you know that popular opinion is against you or that you’ll get teased for it.
Seriously, revisit this review of The Host where I talk about Meyer’s writing. There is value in books that get non-readers reading, and if teens especially are excited to read, then lets cut her some slack.
On that note, I have to admit that when I first read the series (before the movies and the mayhem) I enjoyed it. It was my introduction to urban fantasy, which I would soon come to love. Having read them again now that I’m older and more broadly read in urban fantasy (and vampires for that matter) they aren’t as appealing as they once were. But because I remember liking them years ago, I’ve tried to keep that in mind and not go back on it (like pretending I never liked the books) for the sake of public opinion. No, Meyer is not J.K. Rowling, and yes there are some valid critiques of the series, but it’s just really not a bad series overall when you compare it to similar series in YA. That being said, she probably got lucky with the timing of publishing (which is true for Veronica Roth as well).
I think the new edition with the gender swap is an interesting move. Meyer has been criticized heavily for what people have labelled and abusive and unhealthy romantic relationship between her protaganists. Feminist critique has torn her to shreds. Bella is submissive and weak, Edward is controlling and abusive. Had she written it the other way around, would it have gotten the same critique or would the vampire Edythe have been heralded as a strong, in-control, female character. I find that question fascinating. We can’t rewrite history, so we may never know, but I was interested in reading the new version to see how that plays out.
In my opinion, it didn’t work. I think the biggest reason for this is a choice Meyer made that I think was a mistake. She didn’t just reverse the genders of Edward and Bella, she reversed the genders of nearly every character in the book. This was confusing and distracting for readers of Twilight (and I doubt there are many new readers reading Life and Death without having read Twilight). Trying to keep the characters straight, to imagine what they look like without bouncing back to the old characters, or to even know who was meant to replace whom was difficult. And since the plot is similar as well, you can’t help but follow the progression and notice the changes. If Meyer had stuck to just a protagonist swap, it may have reduced some of the chaos I felt while reading.
Even aside from that fatal flaw, it still felt forced. It seemed as if the characters just didn’t work. This could be a result of having the other story in my head, or if could be a point in critics column about her gender roles.
The last thing to note is the ending. Much of the commentary about Life and Death has centered around how she changed the ending. To avoid spoilers, I will simply say this: it seems that she chose an ending that would allow her to stop writing. She wanted to make a point, not rewrite the entire series (which just doesn’t work with roles reversed for obvious reasons).
This was an interesting choice that didn’t really work the way Meyer hoped. If Meyer decides to write more stories set in the Twilight universe, I think fans hope to finally see Midnight Sun, or perhaps Renesmee’s story. Even a completely unrelated story would be fine. But I think Bella and Edwards story has concluded.
Well, at least until enough time has passed for them to make all the movies over again… 😉