Getting Sucked in by Twilight

images1Twilight is one of those books that, even if you haven’t read it, you know what it’s about.  It’s a phenomenon, a force, a sensation.  You’ve heard it’s amazing.  You don’t need me to tell you.

I resisted the lure of this book for months, but my preteen daughter begged and begged me to allow her to read it.  “Everyone is reading it!” she insisted.  After doing an informal survey of my daughter’s friends’ parents, it turns out “everyone” really means two.  But whatever.   She received it for Christmas, so I finally gave in, with the caveat that I would be reading it too.  

What was I expecting?  I’m not exactly sure.  I knew the story, but I didn’t think it would suck me in.  I’m a 40-something mom, after all.  I’m married.  I’m mature.  But I didn’t realize how charismatic Edward would be, how strong and powerful and gorgeous.  And Bella- so smart, so beautiful, so fragile, so klutzy.  I liked the characters right off the bat, and I had to know what would happen to them.  Would he give in to temptation?  Would she put herself in harm’s way to be with the boy she loved?

How well I remember being infatuated with a boy, when all it would take was a meaningful look to make my heart race (my husband of 20+ years has to work a bit harder than that for the same effect!)  Does he like me?  Does he think I’m pretty?  He said hello to me; what does it mean????  I remember a boy I had a HUGE crush on in the 9th grade.  If he noticed me at all it was enough to turn my insides into jello, and the “incident” would take up 3 pages in my diary.  So that is what Twilight was like for me- a trip down memory lane, except the boys I liked didn’t want to suck my blood.  At least, I don’t think so.  It was a fast, fun, absorbing, easy read.  It’s the kind of book I would have loved at age 14 or 15.  I probably would have read it several times.  I’d probably want to read the whole series.  I’d probably vow to name my firstborn son Edward.

On the other hand, as the mom of two preteen girls, I had some pretty big problems with it.  Edward’s behavior borders on stalking.  He’s totally unpredictable- nice one day and cruel the next.  He watches Bella at school.  He looks through her bedroom window and watches her sleep.  If he tells Bella to do something, she darn well better do it (for her own good, of course.  He is protecting her.)  He doesn’t like her friends and is suspicious of everyone she talks to.  He wants her all to himself.  He is frequently angry with her for no apparent reason.  He smirks when she tells him things.  He’s condescending.  He’s dangerous.  He’s fascinating.

And Bella.  She starts out as this smart, independent girl, but she ends up as the damsel in distress, many times over.  She ditches her friends, lies to her dad repeatedly, and lets her boyfriend sleep in her bed.  She deliberately puts herself in danger because she wants to be near Edward.  He warns her over and over again that she shouldn’t be with him, but she doesn’t care.  Her friend and his dad also warn her, but she ignores their advice.  She loves him.  He smells good.  It makes no difference that he’s not human.  The fact that he could kill her, and is in fact constantly fighting that very urge, isn’t a worry for her.  He is beautiful, so so so so so so so so beautiful (did I mention he is beautiful?), with his hot car, cold lips, intense eyes (golden when he’s sated, black when he’s thirsty), smooth voice, and alabaster skin.  Just the kind of guy you’d love your little girl to bring home, right?

So.  My daughter and I have both finished the book.  We both liked it, with reservations.  It opened up the floodgates of an ongoing conversation about growing up, and about boys, and respect, and how a boy should treat a girl, and what kind of relationship is healthy and what is not. Which of course is a good thing.  My daughter thought Bella acted “stupid” and said she’d never let a boy treat her like that.  Hallelujah.  But she’s just 11.  The hormones haven’t kicked in yet.  She also said something like, “Mom, it’s about vampires.  It’s not like anything like this would really happen.  It’s just a book to read for fun.”  What a smart girl I have.

Now to decide if we should see the movie..  thoughts?

Review: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

imagesLife as We Knew It is written as the journal of high school junior Miranda.  Life in her small Pennsylvania town isn’t perfect- her best friends are bugging her and she’s not sure she even likes them much anymore.  One has become a born again Christian and the other one is really into boys.  Her dad’s new wife is pregnant and giddy and that’s bugging her too.  She wants to start ice skating lessons again but her mom wants her to continue on the swim team.  To top it all off, there’s this “moon thing”.  At first it barely gets a mention in her journal, but then her teachers start piling on more homework about the moon.  Annoying!

An asteroid is scheduled to hit the moon on Wednesday, May 18th, around 9:30pm.  The teachers are all talking about the moon- even her French teacher- and giving out assignments about it- three different essays are due on Friday.  Why are they making such a fuss? 

When the big night arrives, Miranda’s mom makes a plate of cookies and the family gathers around CNN to see what’s going on.  Just before the lunar event, they take lawn chairs and the cookies out to their front yard, along with binoculars and a telescope.   Neighbors are barbequeing and it’s a party atmosphere up and down the street.  Miranda’s brother, manning the binoculars, shouts that the asteroid is coming.  A hush falls over the neighborhood as everyone looks skyward and sees it streaking across the sky, smaller than the moon but bigger than anything else they’d ever seen in the sky.  There are cheers when it makes impact, but then the cheers stop and there are screams of “Oh my God!”  

From Miranda’s journal:

 “But the moon wasn’t a half moon anymore.  It was tilted and wrong and a three quarter moon and it got larger, way larger, large like a moon rising on the horizon, only it wasn’t rising.  It was smack in the middle of the sky, way too big, way too visible.  You could see details on the craters even without the binoculars that before I’d seen with Matt’s telescope.” 

The moon, pushed off its axis and out of its orbit, wreaks havoc on the earth’s environment.  Tsunamis destroy the eastern seaboard, killing millions.  Terrifying thunderstorms knock out power sporadically.  It’s hard to get news of what’s going on.  Miranda goes to school the next day but it’s anything but typical.  Her mom comes to get her and they race to the grocery store with hundreds of dollars in cash, buying everything in sight that they might possibly need in the foreseeable future, taking purchases to the car then returning for more.  The panic is palpable. 

As the world changes, Miranda and her family learn to survive with few resources, no heat or electricity, and a dwindling food supply.  There are earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in other areas of the country and around the world, with ash traveling for miles and blocking the sun, causing temperatures to plummet and creating an Arctic winter.  We hear about many of these things as information from Miranda’s mom after she listens to the radio, etc., making it a lot less terrifying to read then it would be if Miranda were seeing things firsthand.  

Miranda is forced to grow up quickly.  She and her family are strong in the face of enormous challenges.  They are determined to survive in a world that has become unrecognizable.  They do what needs to be done to take care of themselves and each other.  Miranda amazes herself at what she is able and willing to do for the people she loves. 

Life As We Knew It reminded me of The Road in a number of ways.  There is a major, life changing, worldwide event (in The Road, we never learn what that is- in this book, we do).  The world is gray and covered in ash.  But unlike The Road,  Life As We Knew It offers hope- the world will never be the same, but perhaps they can learn to live in it.  It allows us to really know the people involved (in The Road, the main characters are referred to as ‘the man’ and ‘the boy’).  We really feel their emotions.  It was so realistic, which made it all the more frightening.  The moon event, while highly unlikely, is something we can all imagine happening. 

I was totally engrossed in this book.  Among many other things, it made me think about how woefully unprepared we are for any sort of major emergency.  It made me think about our resources and the food we eat (and waste).   It caused me to wonder about the nature of our environment, the delicate balance we take for granted every single day.  How one thing, one event, can change our lives permanently.   And how through love and determination we can survive just about anything. 

This is an amazing YA book that I would recommend for ages 13 and up.  Kids any younger than that might be frightened by it. 

I LOVED Life As We Knew It and HIGHLY recommend it!!  It would be great for book clubs, especially mother/daughter book clubs (if the kids are old enough).  Please let me know if you read it and I will link your review here.