Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In the TWILIGHT Zone

Photo by S. Kuzma Photography
To be honest, I haven't read any of the Twilight books yet. I actually would like to try them, but they aren't high on my towering stack of books to be read; however, I have seen all of the films — in theaters, no less.

As far as vampire and werewolf stories go, I am not overly impressed but I do admire Stephenie Meyer for putting her own spin on established mythology. See, what interests me most about stories are their characters and how they respond to their situations, and sadly, the characters in the Twilight books are far less original than the world building. Putting aside the acting abilities of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, the characters of Bella and Edward don't do much for me, because they don't make me sympathize or care about them. At all. (Obviously, they work perfectly fine for a great number of people, so your mileage may vary.)

I can relate to Jacob, because of his unrequited feelings for Bella, his split loyalty between his people and the woman he loves, his humanity and his werewolfness, his good nature and ingrained prejudice. The characters I feel most for are Bella's dad, Charlie, who's trying hard to relate to his daughter. He wants to make a new life for her and seize his second chance to be a good father. I feel bad for Bella's high school friends, who don't seem to occupy much of her thoughts, and I do care about almost all the Cullens besides Edward. They all seem to have stories that unfortunately go largely untold, at least on screen. I think that's a good lesson for us in life, to keep in mind that everyone has their own story. And as writers: Make sure your protagonists are interesting and sympathetic, but also that their friendships, relationships, and all the people in their lives feel like complete, realistic people too.

What most people probably associate with Twilight is the love triangle, which seems like a requirement in most YA today. Love triangles have been in stories for as long as we've been telling them, but readers got really invested in who Bella would end up with. You have to admire anything that can inspire such strong feelings, right? Twilight fans launched the whole idea of "Team Edward" and "Team Jacob," a theme echoed in the next big YA franchise to hit screens, The Hunger Games, with Teams Peeta and Gale.

For all Twilight's supposed flaws, this is the notion that rankles the most: That Bella must end up with a guy. Without spoiling anyone, this also was my biggest disappointment with The Hunger Games, where I feel it ultimately betrays its own premise in the third book, Mockingjay. What about Team Bella and Team Katniss?

The prevalence of love triangles with a girl having to choose between two guys makes me yearn for different kinds of relationships in YA fiction, more challenging dynamics that break the mold, such as Julie Cross' Tempest books, which have a guy at the center of a very unusual triangle. (My books have their own variation on that rather unique setup.) And I'm always looking for stories where the protagonist chooses who she wants and doesn't change her mind, or is more casual in her interests, or — shockingly — ends up deciding she doesn't need any kind of relationship at all. But then, I'm a sucker for bittersweet endings.

What are some of your favorite love triangles in fiction? Also, should I go ahead and read the Twilight series, or do you think I've gotten all I'm going to from the films?

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