Saturday, August 09, 2008
Vamps, Weres, Hype, and Choices
Well, dawn broke and you better be careful where you step... those shards are sharp. Stephanie Meyer's blockbuster smash Breaking Dawn is creating quite a buzz. And some critics are making, I think, pretty valid points about concerns of a subtle message of abuse. Others insist the book is ultra-conservative and anti-choice. And some are even accusing Meyer of racism.
Check out the blogosphere:
Dear Author Discussion
Alisa Valdes Rodriguez Discussion
You know, I think the accusations of racism are ridiculous. I am not troubled by the notion that a book for teen girls might be pro-pregnancy without being anti-choice or particularly pro-life. I AM a bit troubled by a few other aspects of the series that don't seem to be getting as much press.
I'm troubled that Edward is nearly 100 years old, and he's dating a 17 year old girl. So he looks 19 or so. He isn't. And he's condescending, controlling, melodramatic, and has some pretty solid stalker tendencies.
Ok... it's fiction... but still. This isn't really a love story. It's alleged to be a story about hope and love, but really it's a bit of an angsty celebration of dark and broken luuurve and how "nobody gets us" and we're special so we get to transcend and be creepily dark and brooding ever after but really we're all happy cuz it's luuurve.
It wasn't my cup of tea, though I did think the world building and story were finely crafted. I felt the characters were a tad silly and very unrealistic as teenagers, even nearly-100-year-old teenagers. I was relieved to find many teens I respect agreeing with me. PHEW!
But if you love luurve stories with creepy vampy stuff, and if you love luurve stories with a bit of humor and some weird twists, and if you love a good bit of world building, I can recommend an alternative.
Have you discovered PC and Kristin Cast?
OMG you SO need to. I picked up Meyer and yeah... The Twilight Saga has its merits, but it's not my thing. What the Casts-- a mother daughter writing team and how cool is THAT?-- accomplish (at least in my view) is the world Meyer couldn't sell. In their House of Night Series we get teenagers who sound and act like teenagers, even those with unusual and often spectacular powers. One of the things I immediately liked about the series was the respect paid to Cherokee traditions (my dad is Cherokee) without exploiting them.
The Casts have done something fascinating with their vampire finishing school setting. When teens plucked from the main stream are Chosen to fulfill their destiny, they don't get a guarantee. Zoey Redbird enters this world and finds herself facing greater challenges as she discovers greater gifts. But at its simplest, this series is really a metaphor for adolescence itself-- vampyres have to make it through The Change. It comes without warning; those who survive become full fledged vamps, those who don't die in agony. This is really the secret crux of young adult fear and angst: we all want to grow up, but we all want to stay young forever, too. The tension between longing for freedoms and powers awaiting us in adulthood and wishing to cling to the safety and freedom from responsibility that is youth makes for a heady pull of opposites. There is freedom in lack of responsibility, too. But the ultimate freedom comes in embracing the fear and owning yourself, whatever hard choices may come.
I loved the first three House of Night books, and can't wait for the next (due out in September) for this, among many, reasons. But even if they weren't brilliantly crafted, they're smart and funny. That's one combination I can never resist.
It's all about choice in the end. Meyer certainly has many loyal readers, and I own her books, too. But lest we get caught up in the hype and criticism, remember there are other choices. Making them is the ultimate exercise in personal empowerment, and what young (or old) adult can't get into that?