Friday, February 27, 2009

what makes a vampire book "bad"?

I couple months ago, I read and reviewed Field of Blood for Thomas Nelson. I just reread my review, and I was much more charitable in the review than I would be now. Honestly, I hated that book. Perhaps, at the time, I didn't realize just how much I disliked it. I can now say with certainty that I have no intention of reading the sequel.

Field of Blood was really my first exposure to vampire mythology. I've never seen a vampire movie, and I didn't even know the Twilight books existed until I saw a trailer for the movie at the beginning of the summer. My reaction to the trailer was, "This looks so stupid." As the summer went on, I began hearing more about the books. I'm normally fairly tuned into pop culture, so I'm surprised I knew nothing of the series prior to that trailer.

One day, my youngest sister mentioned that several of her friends were obsessed with the books and couldn't wait for the movie. She expressed interest in the movie, and I encouraged her to stay away from it. I began seeking out reviews of the books, and I found they ranged from "Vampire stories come straight from the pit of hell! Stay away!" to "They're really not so bad." The best review I read was by Tim Challies, whose blog I read regularly.

Then at Christmas, one of my cousins talked about enjoying the movie, and I knew both of my sisters wanted to see it. At that point, I decided to read Twilight for myself . . . I thought if I was advising people not to read it/see the movie, I should have an idea of its content.

I read Twilight in just a few evenings. While it's a huge book (498 pages), it's a quick read. I became engaged in the story right away. I found this book to be much less gruesome (and much more understandable) than Field of Blood. Really, there is no comparing the two books; they're both about vampires, and that's where the similarities end.

Twilight is a love story, plain and simple. However, that doesn't make it innocent. I have several concerns (SPOILER ALERT!):
  • Bella (the main character) rapidly becomes obsessed with Edward (the gorgeous, brooding vampire). Edward is equally obsessed with Bella.
  • Edward is a stalker. He watches Bella sleep! Yet Bella finds this sweet, not creepy.
  • Bella desperately wants Edward to turn her into a vampire so they can be together forever.
  • I've heard the argument that these books are "good" because Bella and Edward don't have sex before they get married. That's only because Edward shows restraint--if it were up to Bella, she'd sleep with him in a heartbeat.
One of my biggest concerns about Twilight, however, isn't based on the content, per say. I'm concerned with how obsessed teen girls become when reading the books. I'm sure not all teens who read Twilight become obsessed, but I know a few who have. One girl in particular is so into the books that I had to take one away from her in my class--she was surreptitiously reading it after I had specifically told her to put it away.

From what I can tell, Twilight is far different from most vampire books and movies. Edward and his family, the Cullens, don't even really seem like vampires. In fact, most of the concerns I have regarding Twilight could be applied to lots of teen fiction; these concerns have little to do with vampires and much to do with the portrayal of love (more accurately, I would say, lust).

Field of Blood felt evil. And it was intended to do so; with demon vampires and "those who resist," it's set up as a battle of good versus evil. Twilight doesn't spend much time dwelling on evil (though Bella is tracked by a vampire who doesn't hold to the Cullens' non-human feeding principles); it dwells on teen angst and relationships.

While not innocent, Twilight is not nearly the danger some make it out to be. Still, I would not allow my young teen daughter to read it, and I would discourage older teens from reading it, as well. I have not read the other three books in the series, but I have heard they are much more violent and sensual than Twilight (see the note at the end of the Challies review). Most girls who read Twilight will want to read the rest of the series (as I said, it's an engaging story), and I think that is the problem--a fairly innocuous book will draw them into the more dangerous material.

I guess it all boils down to discernment--something we could all use more of in our media consumption! I'm reminded of the theme verse from my first semester at Grace:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Philippians 4:8
Does Twilight meet that standard? I'd say it doesn't . . . and neither do a lot of other things I've read and watched.


  1. I nominated you for the Triple Award! Come on over to pick it up!

  2. I'd say your review is spot on - thanks.

  3. Grace theme verse, nice!!! Good post & I bet your original review of Field was because you KNEW the author was gonna read it!?!


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