Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Book Review: Breaking Dawn (Cliff Notes of the Stephanie Meyer’s series)

By on September 26, 2008

Look, I’m a big believer in reading what the kids are reading, so I picked up the first in this crapfest of a series.  I was a big Anne Rice fan during my middle school years, so clearly I’m not against trashy, vampire romances.  For some reason, vampires are sexy.  But Stephanie Meyer makes Anne Rice look like Shakespeare.   I committed to reading the series so that I could then intelligently discuss them with my students.

For one thing, the books are poorly written.  Where’s the craft?  For instance, I always give my students choice when looking for Golden Lines to mimic in order to learn grammar and sentence structure.  “Go into your independent reading book and find an example of Adjectives-out-of-order or an Appositive or an Absolute.” They couldn’t find a thing.  I didn’t tell them this.  They told me.    

For another thing, the message of the books is icky.  Wake up teachers and parents, these characters and their unemotional, dysfunctional relationships have been adopted as role models for our tweens.  But don’t take the book out of their hands.  Read it yourself, be a part of the discussion, and cast yourself as a voice in their head when they are thinking about things in the quiet of their alone time. Discussion over Censorship.

It’s easy.  It’s plucky.  It’s sexy.  I get it.  But they require responsibility in their reading. 

So for those teachers or parents who want the Cliff Notes version of this series, here it is so you don’t have to go through the torture that I did.  Not important, you say?  Well this series, supported in large part by tween girls, has outsold J.K. Rowling’s little juggernaut, proving the age-old adage that vampires and virgins do sell after all.

Here goes:

Book one, Twilight: outsider girl falls in love with cold, unemotional, tortured, vegetarian vamp who won’t tell her the truth about anything, including his feelings towards her.  Think Ethan Hawke in Reality Bites but with a great car and without the tobacco problem. Girl decides that she’s plain and vamps are beautiful and she wants to be one.  Her father (with the depth of Homer Simpson), meanwhile, is totally unattached to reality, doesn’t notice there’s a vampire sleeping in her room each night.  She almost dies.

Book two, New Moon: outsider girl still loves cold, unemotional vamp who has a hard time staying a veggie around her.  He still can’t tell her how he feels, breaks her heart by deserting her (for her own safety, but he won’t tell her that.  Why would honesty help things after all? I mean, there would be no plot if people were up front with each other in this book.  It seems dishonesty is this series biggest plot device.) Meanwhile, a sophomore who turns out to be a warm and fuzzy local werewolf falls in love with her.  He stays by her through thick and thin, protects her, and makes her laugh, but she’s not interested.   Count Coldhearted returns.  She still complains that she’s plain and vampires are beautiful and why can’t they have sex?  He says marriage before sex.  But college first.  She almost dies.

Book three, Eclipse: Despite the wooing of the warm and fuzzy werewolf who loves her, outsider girl still loves cold, unemotional vamp.  Vamp still sleeps in her bed each night sans sex.  They plan a marriage that outsider girl really doesn’t want because she thinks it’s stupid; but if he wants it, and as long as it then leads to sex, she’ll agree.  She still begs cold, unemotional vamp to have sex with her.  He refuses…coldly. Newborn vampires with insatiable blood-thirst go on a rampage in Seattle seeking outsider girl blood.  She almost dies.

Book four, Breaking Dawn: Outsider girl and vamp marry, have sex that almost tears her apart.  She loves it, bruises and all.  She gets pregnant with vamp baby who tries to eat its way out of her.  She gives birth to vamp baby who is soooo precious that everyone wants to protect it.  To save outsider girl, vamp turns her into a vampire but only if she’s under morphine to dull the pain of the conversion.  Morphine makes her unable to scream but she feels everything while it’s going on and can’t react to it, but nobody knows and they think it went all fine and dandy.  She becomes the first vampire with the ability to be vegetarian from the get-go.  Warm and fuzzy loyal werewolf buddy gets zapped by special love-bond with rapidly growing baby and marriage plans are made for yet another interspecies marriage.  Outsider girl finally becomes beautiful and feels accepted.  Oh, yeah, they all almost die. 

In other words, this is clearly a series about a girl who never feels comfortable in her own skin until she’s being emotionally abused by someone who constantly battles his urge to hurt her.  She makes excuses for his hurt and asks for more with each book.  The message in this series is being read by millions of tweens around the world.  

I certainly don’t believe in censoring a school library, and all four books are even in my own classroom library, but my question is this: Where are the adults in this conversation?  Tweens need guidance in reading between the lines.  Tweens need help interpreting and seeing beyond PG-13 sex scenes and vampire violence.  When a book is loved by a tween, they are relating to a character and a situation.  But while I have heard the phenomena of this series discussed by adults, the characters and themes seem to be nowhere in the discussion.  


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