August 3, 2008

At Midnight Party, Vampires Rule

By Emily Stephenson, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.

Aug. 3--Just before 11:15 p.m. Friday night, about 100 giggling, excited and highly caffeinated girls started screaming.

A shrill shriek of "Edward and Bella forever" rose from the "Breaking Dawn" faithful at Friendly Center's Barn es & Noble. But it was quickly countered with calls of "Go Jake!"

And they still had 45 minutes to go before the bookstore unveiled the much-awaited final installment in Stephenie Meyer's four-part vampire romance series.

"I've been counting down the days," said Courtney Gray, 14, unable to sit still in her white formal dress. "I've been waiting for this for months."

About 400 people attended the release party, the first the Friendly Center store has held since "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallo ws" wrapped up its series last July. It was mostly teenage girls, although a few brave parents and boyfriends hung around the fringes of the prom-themed event.

Louis Williams, store manager, said the party was something of a test run. In the past, midnight releases and costumed celebrations were reserved for the all-ages mass appeal of J.K. Rowling's books about the beloved boy wizard.

But Meyer's previous three books, beginning with "Twilight" in 20 05, have drawn quite a following among girls and mothers desperate to learn the fate of ordinary teen Bella Swan and her vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen.

Williams plans to use this model for future releases, such as Christopher Paolini's upcoming "Brisi ngr," which continues his popular Inheritance Cycle in September.

For Friday's release, the store held a "Twilight" trivia contest in one corner, trash-bag prom-dress making near the front and pin the tail on the werewolf off to the side.

Aside from the festivities, clumps of girls clustered around the room, gossiping about the characters and debating which of the two potential heroes they most loved.

Decked out in "My heart belongs to Edward" stickers, Tara Fl eck, 16, said she loves the books and Bella's "vegetarian" vampire.

"I like Edward because he's cute and he's charming," she said. "The relationship works out because he's always there to save her from tripping down stairs and stuff."

But Jacob fans made their voices heard as well.

"If Edward wasn't there, Jacob would be the perfect thing," said Aardra Rajendran, 14.

Finally, just before midnight, someone started a countdown that ended in squeals of glee from girls already in line before the counters.

Gray was lucky enough to be near the front of the line. In one hand, she hugged the extra copy she bought for her sister -- "I ruined her old books with my tear stains."

As her friends chatted and flipped through "Breaking Dawn," she moved to the side and began reading right away.


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