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Ten years on from Twilight

Our Digital and Community Coordinator takes a look at where Twilight has taken us in ten years, and what readers can expect from Life and Death.

When news broke last month that a special tenth anniversary edition of Twilight would be released in October with some surprise additional content, the office went slightly mad trying to guess what the new content would be. Some people were hoping for a complete version of Midnight Sun (the story from Edward’s perspective), whereas I was hoping for a continuation from Breaking Dawn.

None of us expected Life and Death, the gender-flipped version of Twilight. Bella and Edward have become Beaufort (not even kidding) and Edythe in what Stephenie Meyer hopes will be a story to resolve some of the criticism she has received over the last decade about Bella being a ‘typical damsel in distress’. Meyer purports that Bella was only ever a ‘human in distress’, but I give her significant praise for acknowledging the myriad of issues people have bemoaned over the years. Does Meyer succeed in this retelling? As a former Twihard (Twilight + die-hard), I took it upon myself to read Life and Death as fast as possible to find the answer.

I worked in a Dymocks store from 2008 to 2011 and got to experience the Twilight ride first-hand. I was a late adopter and it took me a while to pick up Twilight, but once I was in Meyer’s world I fell hard. I read books 1-3 in a week and waited what felt like an eternity (it was probably two months) for Breaking Dawn. Next came the films. Twilight opened on my birthday that year and I saw it three times at the cinema. I had an excellent Twihard track record (not quite as good as Twilight’s box office record, though), but that was then and this is now. Let me just say that going back to Forks was not something I ever expected to do.

Irrespective of whether you loved or hated Twilight, and the book/film sequels it spawned, you cannot deny that it played a significant role in shaping popular culture in the ‘00s. For starters, the book series has sold over 120 million copies worldwide. The five films (cast your memory back a few years to recall that Breaking Dawn was split into two films) have grossed over $3.3 billion worldwide.
Just as we now see publishers and bookstores recommending certain books to ‘fans of John Green’ or ‘fans of Rainbow Rowell’, the late ‘00s were jam-packed with ‘what to read if you loved Twilight’ suggestions. Publishers rejacketed classic books like Wuthering Heights to conform with the now universally recognisable black, white, and red colouring of the series covers. To get a better idea of its influence on YA, we recommend checking out some of Justine Larbalestier’s tweets about it yesterday.

Twilight has its critics, and over the years I found myself agreeing with some of the issues people had with the series, but I'll admit when I heard that the bonus content was a gender-swapped Twilight called Life and Death, I was excited. After I picked up my copy, I considered ditching the reading for strength training instead. Seriously, this book is a tome! It’s hardback and as a flip book with Twilight on one side and Life and Death on the other side it weighs in just under 1kg with 752 glorious pages of PG-rated vampire romance. I found my old ‘Twilight soundtracks’ playlist in iTunes–past Tonile was very diligent in making sure both the soundtracks and scores (where available) were included—and pressed play. I was ready to sink my teeth into Life and Death.

Reading a reimagined version of a book I know so well was hard at first. The fact that I have five movies backing up my visual perceptions of the characters made separating the original cast from the new cast really tricky. All I wanted in those opening chapters was a ‘then vs now characters’ list to help ease the confusion, so I present to you a handy list to use when you read Life and Death.

bella.png Isabella Swan = Beaufort Swan

edwards.png Edward Cullen = Edythe Cullen

jacob.png Jacob Black = Jules Black

billy.png Billie Black = Bonnie Black

carlisle.jpg Carlisle Cullen = Carine Cullen

esme.png Esme Cullen = Earnest Cullen

emmett.png Emmett Cullen = Eleanor Cullen

alice.png Alice Cullen = Archie Cullen

rosalie.png Rosalie Hale = Royal Hale

jasper.jpg Jasper Hale = Jessamine Hale

jessica.png Jessica Stanley = Jeremy Stanley

mike.png Mike Newton = McKayla Newton

angela.png Angela Weber = Allen Weber

eric.png Eric Yorke = Erica Yorke

tyler.jpg Tyler Crowley = Taylor Crowley

Lauren Mallory = Logan Mallory ** Lauren wasn't in the films; her character was merged with Jessica **

harry-c.png Harry Clearwater = Holly Clearwater

laurent.png Laurent = Lauren

victoria.jpg Victoria = Victor

james.png James = Joss

Disclaimer: Life and Death is no simple reimagining. For physical and biological reasons, the other books in the series (particularly Breaking Dawn) simply cannot be reimagined without significant storyline shifts, but it was clear from page 334 that all bets were off in Life and Death. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a standalone novel, and I enjoyed not knowing where the story would finish.

Beyond that, there’s nothing ground-breaking here. Life and Death won’t solve the issues people had with Twilight and its sequels, but it’s thoroughly entertaining and does meet some of the aims Stephenie Meyer had for it. With gender tropes reversed, it’s easier to see where Bella/Beau’s craving for support and routine came from. As a character, when your most stable option in life is to move over 2,500km to live with a different parent, you can start to see why Bella/Beau would be enchanted with the idea of a doting and highly involved love interest. Twilight captivated millions of readers worldwide because it portrayed the fever of first love in a way readers could either relate to or, more powerfully, wish they could relate to.

Twilight is a look into the world of first love; the incredible highs and lows that come with falling in love with someone for the first time are completely laid out. So much of what happens in Twilight, and as a result Life and Death, is unhealthy and obsessive and ugly but it’s relatable because relationships are powerful and dangerous things. I’m guilty of doing many things that could read like deleted scenes from Twilight and Life and Death because love and romance often make people passionate and irrational. Over time, the all-consuming nature of a first love can be forgotten and with age comes wisdom (apparently, though I’m less convinced as the years go by), but what Stephenie Meyer successfully did with Twilight and has done once more with Life and Death for me is capture a deep sense of nostalgia and longing. Nostalgia and longing for the days before jobs and mortgages and paleo diets, when sometimes all that mattered was one person and when counting down the seconds until you saw them again seemed like the most reasonable thing in the world. Romance readers don’t often ask for much more than that.

I have no doubt that Life and Death will absolutely delight fans of the series. It delivered more for me than Midnight Sun ever could have, and I know I won’t be the only one who gets 100% on board the Edythe train. She is depicted as the ultimate femme fatale; a mysterious and gorgeous woman who could kill everyone around her in a single moment. Revisiting pivotal scenes such as the almost-truck collision from Edythe and Beau’s perspective is incredibly rewarding, and while some of the gender-swapping falls flat it’s in these oddities that I think Stephenie Meyer most perfectly captures young love. In Life and Death, I struggled at first to understand how an uncoordinated teenage boy with zero interest in cars or sports or much else for that matter could be appealing. Then I realised that’s the point: love makes the ordinary extraordinary and for reasons unknown, love can appear in the most unexpected of places.

Posted by Global Administrator on 08/10/2015