July 28, 2008

Fans Eagerly Await Last ‘Twilight’ Book

By Felicia Cousart Matlosz, The Fresno Bee, Calif.

Jul. 28--For the uninitiated, there's a phenomenon out there called the "Twilight" series, which has grabbed a lot of teen and adult fans by the throat.

If you haven't noticed, there has been a lot of coverage, including a recent Entertainment Weekly cover story, because the fourth and final book, "Breaking Dawn," will be released at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

What's the big deal? The Bee provides this primer, in case you find yourself in the midst of "Twilight" chatter.

What's it about? It's a contemporary tale of love, fantasy and horror about a smart but awkward teenager named Bella and a handsome vampire named Edward. There's also another guy, Jacob, with supernatural issues of his own and, well, if this isn't a classic setup for a love in conflict, what is?

OK, "Twilight" was first and "Breaking Dawn" will be the final one. What are the others? The second one is called "New Moon," the third "Eclipse."

Who wrote these books? Stephenie Meyer. She is a housewife who lives just outside Phoenix with her husband and three sons. She is a Mormon who earned a bachelor's degree in English from Brigham Young University.

What are we talking about in terms of ka-ching? Here are the latest numbers we've seen: The first three books have sold more than 5.3 million copies in the U.S. alone since "Twilight" debuted in 2005. The publisher, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, has so much confidence in the fourth book that it's doing a first printing of 3.5 million. When that happens, nearly 11 million copies of the four books, hardback and paperback, will be in print in dozens of countries.

Well, that's nowhere near the "Harry Potter" series, right? True, but know this: The third novel, "Eclipse," did just what that title says last summer to J.K. Rowling's seventh and final Potter book. The Potter book was in the top spot for three weeks when "Eclipse" took its place. No small feat there.

And didn't Time ask the question of whether Meyer is the next Rowling? Yes, it did. It's interesting that both were mothers of young children (or a child, in Rowling's case), and each came up with brilliant idea for a story and found success. But, excuse our bias, Meyer is no Rowling. Potter's author is a fastidious detailer, with a sharp imagination and depth that appeals to readers of all ages. Meyer is admirable, but not on the same level. Her primary audience is female.

So why is the "Twilight" series popular? First, it's a romance novel. There is plenty of mushy writing and dialogue (Example: "I caressed his cheek, delicately stroked his eyelid, the purple shadow in the hollow under his eye. I traced the shape of his perfect nose, and then, so carefully, his flawless lips.") Second, it's romantic and a bit lusty, but not graphic. The love story is chaste because it has to be when one partner is human and the other a vampire. Third, there's suspense because vampires apparently are endangered by other vampire covens and beings. And fourth, despite the hundreds of pages in each volume, the books are fast page-turners, along the lines of Dan Brown's hugely successful "The Da Vinci Code."

But why are vampire stories, in general, popular? We're not sure, but it's partly the allure of the forbidden and -- in Hollywood's versions -- lots of handsome and beautiful vampires. It gives off a sensual vibe. So what began famously with Bram Stoker's 1897 horror novel, "Dracula," has evolved into Anne Rice's popular gothic "Vampire Chronicles" books to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." HBO has a new drama coming up called, what else?: "True Blood." We suspect that if Hollywood and authors insisted vampires look like the terrifying and repelling one in F.W. Murnau's 1922 silent film "Nosferatu," vampire-theme films and books would have ceased in 1922.

So there has to be a movie coming of "Twilight," right? Of course. The film version of "Twilight" premiers Dec. 12, just in time for the money-making holiday season. You can check out the trailer and other information at twilight themovie.com.

What some young fans are saying

Why is the "Twilight" series so popular? The Bee asked three fans to explain. Two, Lindsay Krage and Lucy Liu, are current BackTalk writers for The Bee. The third, Mane Chakarian, is a former BackTalker.

Lucy Liu, Clovis High School: "It's Stephenie Meyer's writing that pulls the story together for me. Her writing is simple, natural and descriptive, which all help to bring the reader into her magical world. Her ability to convey the most powerful of human emotions, like love and despair, to the reader is what makes her 'Twilight' series so captivating."

Mane Chakarian, Edison High School graduate: "I'm so entranced by the 'Twilight' series because it serves as a cure for the Potter Blues. Once the Harry Potter series ended, I felt as though I needed a new novel or series to serve as 'brain candy,' something I could read to relax and de-stress, rather than for educational or analytical purposes."

Lindsay Krage, Sanger High School: "The books captivate your attention from the first chapter and really make me feel like I know the characters personally. It leaves me cheering for Bella and Edward. I simply can't put the books down."

The reporter can be reached at [email protected] or (559) 441-6428.


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