Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thoughts on Twilight

I have finished reading all four of the Twilight books. I waited until I was finished with the last book before posting any of my thoughts. Most of this post was written before I read the other three books. I have mentioned my primary observations without going into any great detail. I admit that I agree with much of the criticism from the reviews on Amazon.com. The reviews are quite entertaining, and some of the reviewers are quite good in how they present their views. The "one star" reviews are particularly entertaining.

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I have now read the first book, Twilight. The book is an engaging read, but at the same time, I can see where the book could be better written. During the first chapter of the book, I wanted to know exactly why Bella left Phoenix. I gathered that it had something to do with her mother and a man. It was not until page 48 that Bella explained that her mother had remarried and wanted to travel with her new husband. Bella left Phoenix to live with her father so that her mother would be free to be with her husband. Why did the author not state that in the first chapter? Why omit that information?

I despise it when authors choose to be mysterious in the opening chapter regarding explanatory details that are vital to the reader understanding the main character. It served no purpose to hold back that information. I was less confused about Bella once I reached page 48.

The grammar and composition really bothered me during the early part of the book. Way too many sentences end with prepositions. We all do that when we speak, usually, but I try not to do it too often when I write since I know it is not correct grammar.

This sentence from page 118 annoyed me:
As they finished eating, people started to drift away in twos and threes.
Pronouns should not be placed at the beginning of a sentence before the subject to which they refer. Notice that I avoided ending that sentence in a preposition. It's not that hard, you know? Now I'm not being a snob. The average written communication on the internet is usually informal, but I have higher expectations of published books. I feel like the author should have used much better grammar.

I noticed that the grammar no longer bothered me by the time I was halfway through the book. At the time that I was reading this book, I was not sure if the grammar was better or whether I was just not noticing it. Now that I have read all four books I can state that the grammar was bad in every part of all four books. It bothered me less because the story had finally captured my interest.

The author's descriptions are awful. Near the beginning of the story when Bella first sees the Cullens in the cafeteria, the descriptions are confusing. The author uses too many pronouns, like stating that "he" was looking at Bella without any explanation of which "he" at the table was the one looking at Bella. Three of the Cullens are male. I knew the author meant Edward since I already knew the basic premise, but it was too vague and confusing. If I had not already known, I would have been totally lost.

Did the author not reread the manuscript for clarity? Did the editor not read the manuscript? How does a book with so many errors get published?

Despite all of the grammatical errors, I greatly enjoyed the first book and quickly began reading the second book.

9 comments:

Jack C said...

Are you an English teacher Jennifer? I thought the same thing as I made my way through the book. The girls can keep this series... I'll take Nancy and Judy over this any day!

Jennifer said...

I am a math teacher (currently Algebra II and Trig/Precalculus), but I always was slightly stronger in English than in math. I've had students tell me that I should be an English teacher because I use words they don't know. I chose math because English was so easy for me that it bored me. Math is also pretty easy for me but challenging enough that I don't mind working out problems as examples all day long.

I could not stand the descriptions of Edward. Even though I am a woman, it is too gooey and disgusting. Blech!

stratomiker said...

Apparently grammar doesn't matter to young people today; just look at the way they speak, write, and text. Grammar is becoming a lost art; the language is changing. I read a lot of 19th century and early 20th century fiction and even today's good writing with good grammar is nothing like the sophistication of what was popular in those days.

What matters in TWILIGHT is the story. It has gripped millions of people and become a phenomenom. Other can't stand it at all. If it's good or bad isn't the point. It's selling books, loads of them, and getting people to read who aren't really readers. The whole teen paranormal thing, which I was totally against until about three years ago, has become the norm, and far more people are reading it than the good stuff - if there is any such thing nowadays in YA.

Mike

Jennifer said...

Meyer does tell a good story, and you're right that the story is the most important part. It's just a shame that the books are so poorly written.

The books are absorbing reading. I read them all quickly. The fourth book is my least favorite. I don't feel that Meyer ended the series as well as she could have, but the books were still worth reading.

beautifulshell said...

It shouldn't matter whether Meyer can write a coherent sentence; copy editors are employed so that poorly written books are cleaned up before they reach readers. I'm assuming anything this widely read went through multiple levels of editing; it's astounding that it could be so bad.

That said, language evolves, and I don't think anyone could expect writing to be the same as it was 150 years ago. What should matter is that there are some uniform rules that published writers follow so that those of us who care don't cringe at every sentence.

Jennifer said...

Yes, like not ending multiple sentences per page with prepositions. Please. The grammar and composition is beyond pathetic.

I read Christopher Pike books as a teenager. Those books are not great literature, but Pike can put a sentence together. Those books are not annoying to read, and they are not written on a high reading level.

Heck, I read Sweet Valley High and read them again a couple years ago. Those books are written better than these books, and they are pure fluff. That is truly sad.

Meyer majored in English Literature. How could she study so many of the classics and not be able to put together proper sentences?

Yes, the editor is at fault big-time. I'm going to mention just a couple of the horrible things I noticed in Breaking Dawn which are so glaring I can't believe they made it past the editor. I was reading for pleasure and not for mistakes, yet the mistakes kept jumping out at me. Imagine what I would have noticed if I had been trying to notice the mistakes.

stratomiker said...

Meyer majored in English Literature. How could she study so many of the classics and not be able to put together proper sentences?


****When a writer is as big and important as Meyer has gotten, they often don't dare change a word. I've noticed that all along since I started paying attention to popular books. Even writers like Michener and Sidney Sheldon were noted for bad grammar and odd changes in style (later accredited to ghost writers writing portions of the text). Meyer was hot stuff by the time Breaking Dawn came out and they probably just let it all ride.

We've seen the same lack of grace in other big names like Nora Roberts and many of the other gals who started out at Harlequin/Silhouette where sentences and grammar don't matter at all compared to romantic tension and storytelling.

Mike

Jennifer said...

It is unfortunate if editors allow sloppy writing just for the quick buck. If the reason is indeed because the author has become a "big name," then the author should be taken down a notch. The fourth book has some serious problems.

Speaking of popular, the Harry Potter books are very good, but the fifth book has some problems. The first half of the book drags. The book should have been edited down, so it might be an example of an editor letting it slide due to the author's popularity. I also hated the ending of the last Harry Potter book. I felt that Rowling should have given us more of the aftermath of the final battle, like what happened in the first couple of weeks. The epilogue was very unsatisfying to me.

Grammar aside, many popular authors recycle the same ideas over and over in order to churn out new books, kind of like what the Stratemeyer Syndicate did. I have read exactly one book by Stephen King, but I get the idea that he has used the same ideas over and over. I have only read the one book (can't remember the title offhand) because I did not care for it that much. I found the behavior of the characters to be gratuitously crude. Even though I did not care for it, King has a huge following.

Back to Twilight, I don't care if a book is perfect, but the grammar is off a bit more than I like in these books. It is more important if I am entertained and I am very forgiving so long as I am entertained, but I like for the author to know not to violate basic rules of grammar and composition.

Many people have called the fourth book "bad fan fiction," and while I would not go that far, I see their point.

Kathleen said...

All that would have been needed is a decent editor to clean up the grammar in these books. I never got anywhere near that far.

I joined a "Sci Fi Book Club" at the local library. Sci Fi is well beyond my favorite genre although definitely closer than romance novels.

The sweet librarian hooked me with Ray Bradbury.

I doubt I would have been hooked by few authors aside from Bradbury.

She enthusiastically told me that "Twilight" was hot and to please return it ASAP as the waiting list was very long.

I was more than happy to oblige.

I had more fun reading "Goosebumps" in Spanish. Those books, although not exactly literature, were not all that bad. They held my interest and I was not sent searching through my bag looking for a marker.

I'll give a "go" to just about anything- medical texts, pharmaceutical manuals, legal documents. I'll try most anything (except math) written with our alphabet- foreign languages fascinate me.

I am fluent in espa├▒ol but I have only dabbled in francais, italiano, Deutsch and lietuvi┼│ (the latter that comically and coincidentally won me a job offer outside San Diego).

But I could not get beyond approximately the first twenty pages of text of this book. As the kids would say– BORING.

You know, I would give the kids more credit to eventually see through the hype. This is not Harry Potter. This is not even "Dark Shadows". But if it hooks a reluctant reader so much the better.

I'd be interested to know my niece's reaction to these books- she is a reader and a writer.

And from what I understand (second-hand info as I'd never get there), the first book, anyway, is a wee bit sexist.

Then think of what Millie Wirt did to liberate the minds and spirits of young girls: no comparison.

As both my profession and my passion, I know kids well enough to speak without consulting my niece (although I WILL ask). She'd take Nancy any day.

My hunch is that kids inevitably and historically have been exposed to a lot of "crap", for lack of a better term. ;)

The first fairy tales were extremely violent and meant to scare the "bejesus" out of the kids. Other kiddy lit was used as an avenue for political parodies.

Yet surround children and young adults with the classics and the best readers and writers will go for the gold.