Fiction School

Fiction School
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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Before I say anything, I just have to point out that Stephenie Meyer held me captive for 754 pages with her latest book in the Twilight saga, so criticizing her storytelling seems a bit petty. I mean when you can’t put a book down, it means something, and I have to recognize Meyer for her gifts as a writer. Getting sucked in doesn’t mean every sentence is exquisitely rendered, but it does mean that the book itself has seized your imagination, and we readers of fiction value that above almost anything, right?

Okay, from here on out don’t read if you haven’t finished it and intend to, because this will be full of spoilers. All of my disclaimers aside, Breaking Dawn left me mildly bummed. Renesmee the super-baby didn’t do much for me, and the thought of Jacob imprinting with her of all people seemed…kind of creepy. I mean I guess the wolf-imprinting thing is supposed to be vaguely romantic in a love-at-first-sight sense, but when you’ve got a super hot, virile young guy trailing after a baby who is locked into being his mate someday, that just smacks of pedophilia-crossed-with-arranged-marriage, no? Like I know Jake wasn’t looking at Renesmee in a sexual way, but still…. Giving up the exquisite (though torturous) tension of the Bella-Edward-Jacob love triangle in favor of Jacob-imprints-on-her-baby really drained Jacob of his appeal for me.

Also, as someone pointed out to me on myspace in her comments, Bella really didn’t feel like Bella through much of the book. To me she seemed almost…middle-aged. Obviously she went through two major changes that altered her radically: she had a kid and became a vampire. After that, I just couldn’t even connect her with the Bella of earlier books very easily. Her face changed in my mind—her whole vibe changed. Obviously character transformation is part of what keeps the plot moving, but I found this leap a little too extreme, and they became separate characters in my mind (old Bella vs. new Bella).

I have mixed feelings about the final showdown. I loved seeing Vamp Bella channeling her rage and being powerful, so that totally worked for me, even though (as I said) it was such a different Bella that it hardly seemed like a victory for the Bella of old. Alice providing a loophole at the eleventh hour (ala Merchant of Venice) was kind of satisfying, but also a touch anti-climactic. I mean I’m not a habitually violent person, but let’s face it: we’d spent so many pages building up to this, it was almost impossible not to feel cheated when there wasn’t a full on battle. I know, I know, give peace a chance, but I guarantee that if they make Breaking Dawn into a movie it won’t end the way the book did. Film producers know better. Once you’ve stacked up the protagonist-antagonist tension like that, a frenzied battle (at least a quick one) is the only way to have a real catharsis. That might be pandering to our more base instincts, but I can’t see any way around it when you set it up in that way.

I could go on, but as I said, I hate to be petty and pick away at the loose threads. Meyer has a crazy gift for creating a world you just want to burrow into. Her skill at developing characters that feel so real and vivid is astounding. It’s precisely because of this gift that readers like me get so attached to characters like Jake; his fate really mattered to me, so when his happy ending wasn’t what I imagined for him, it bummed me out. That’s a testimony to Meyer’s storytelling, and for that I have to thank her.