On Reading Twilight and Harry Potter

versus-twilight-vs-harry-potter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter moved me to rush home and re-read the whole series from the beginning.  I also figured that since Eclipse was releasing to theaters soon after my return, I would trudge through the final three installments of Twilight and have a wonderful time writing a series of blog posts analyzing the differences in characterization, writing style, and literary worth among other things.

The original plan was to read Harry Potter 1-7 then Twilight 2-4 and write based on the experience of finishing the two series consecutively.  So I got home from Orlando, finished The Red Pyramid, then eagerly broke into Philosopher’s Stone (yes, the UK version), and finished it pretty quickly.  I then had a choice: I could alternate HP and Twilight books, or I could finish one series and then read the other.  Since Chamber of Secrets is my least favorite of Rowling’s, I opted to alternate.

I Tried.  I Promise I Did.

Twilight is bad.  B-A-D.  But I read it all the way through despite feeling the urge to stop pretty often.  So when I started New Moon, I expected more of the same.  I’d seen the movie, so I expected no cohesive plot, but the saving grace was that Edward Cullen wasn’t present through most of the narrative.

Unfortunately, if it is possible to be worse than Twilight, New Moon is.  At the very least, it is equal in its terribleness.  Bella Swan is just as vapid in the second novel as she is in the first, and if it’s possible, Meyer writes her to be even more clingy and dead-behind-the-eyes.  The writing after coming off of the eloquent yet simple style of J.K. Rowling is hard to muddle through and glean any meaning from—and please note that by meaning, I am speaking literally, as in sometimes the sentences have to be read two or three times just to understand what they say, not as in a deeper meaning that speaks to underlying themes and the human condition.

I made it through 26% of the novel.  That’s over a quarter of the book!

I’m proud of myself for that because initially, I stopped at 12%.  I just couldn’t take it anymore after reading passages like these:

I knew I was too late—and I was glad something bloodthirsty waited in the wings.  For in failing at this, I forfeited any desire to live.

and

I couldn’t feel anything but despair until I pulled into the familiar parking lot behind Forks High School and spotted Edward leaning motionlessly against his polished silver Volvo, like a marble tribute to some forgotten pagan god of beauty.

and

Besides, the only kind of heaven I could appreciate would have to include Edward

stephenie-meyer-new-moon-cover But something made me keep going.  I thought I was better than that.  I was sure that if droves of barely literate teenagers could finish these books, so could I!  And by the 26% marker, I gave in.  I had watched Bella collapse in the middle of the woods for hours/days out of misplaced infatuation and selfishness, I saw her treat her friends and family as though they didn’t exist because she turned a year older than Edward was when he was turned into a vampire, and I saw her start talking to Jacob Black who, at least when I stopped reading, had not yet ripped his shirt off to show us his impeccable abs, for the sole reason of making the voices in her head jealous.

Between 12% and 26%, I was treated to these gems of prose:

I tried to remember if I liked scary movies, but I wasn’t sure.

This one bothers me for a new reason.  I’ve been dumped.  I’ve had some bad breakups.  And even when I was 18 years old (the age Bella is when all this happens), no breakup in the world would make me turn into such a zombie that I forgot what my own interests were, which is what the lead up in the narrative to this quote indicates.  She was zoned out for months, losing her friends, family, and apparently personality.  Way to be dependent on someone else to even have a personality, Bella.  Yeah, there’s a great literary character for young girls to aspire to be like.  Good job, Stephenie Meyer.  Good job.

And then there’s when Bella goes to visit Jacob Black to fix her newly gifted motorcycles.  He doesn’t charge her to fix it, but she has to buy the parts the bike needs.  A fair trade, actually.  So what does Bella do?  Why, she dips into her college fund!

Every penny I made went into my microscopic college fund. (College was Plan B.  I was still hoping for Plan A, but Edward was just so stubborn about leaving me human…)

Which leads to:

I’ve got some money saved.  College fund, you know.” College, schmollege, I thought to myself.  It wasn’t like I’d saved up enough to go anywhere special—and besides, I had no desire to leave Forks anyway. What difference would it make if I skimmed a little bit off the top?

So now we have a vapid, poorly written teenager presenting to young readers that it’s okay to take money from college savings in order to do something as stupid and reckless as fix up a broken motorcycle to get back at both an absentee father and the guy who just dumped you.  And so I quit.

Now, keep in mind, I’m a bit proponent of “presentation does not equal promotion.”  Just because something is included in a book or movie does not mean the author is necessarily promoting its ideals.  But it takes an educated and distinguishing eye to discern which perspective is being portrayed—presentation or promotion—and I know few adolescents, much less Twilight fans who can make that kind of distinction.

Bigger and Better

versus-twilights-vs-harry-potter-m My wife pulled up the new Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows trailer just after I had witnessed Bella’s ignorance regarding college.  After we watched it, I immediately realized two things.  That Harry Potter is more interesting on every level than Twilight is—from the world to the characters to the narrative itself.  And that my dad was right: reading something just to rip it apart was stupid, especially if I’m not getting even the slightest bit of enjoyment out of it.  Even the most pure and academic reasons I could muster didn’t stand up to the reality of just how awful New Moon really is.  There are a lot of other books out there I can read and re-read without being subjected to such miserable writing and ideas.  So I started up Chamber of Secrets and left New Moon to rot.

Maybe I’ll get back to it sometime.  Heck, writing this blog made me actually want to take a break from Rowling and see what other tragically miserable quotes I can find in the text.  And the idea of a side-by-side comparison really does interest me.  But I have to tell you guys, they’re really badly written, and I’m not sure I have it in me.

I just thought you all should know that I gave it a real, honest shot.  I went in with an open mind, putting my biases aside with the end goal of an honest comparison and analysis between the two series.  And I couldn’t do it.