First, a confession: some of us hadn't heard of Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn until a reader asked us to cover it. But tips kept pouring in, and we realized that this young adult novel, the fourth installment of Meyer's Twilight Saga and featuring both teenage werewolves and teenage vampires, is actually a huge deal. At a Los Angeles-area Borders, we found not one but two whole tables devoted to the books and related merchandise. Although we passed on the sour gummy vampire bats, but we did leave with a copy of Dawn, Meyer's disturbingly rosy account of teen marriage and pregnancy, vampire-style. And just as our readers warned, there was a lot to get mad about here.[Lots of spoilers follow.] First there's heroine Bella's willingness to marry her vampire lover Edward, even though it means becoming a vampire, leaving behind her family, and sacrificing any hope of a normal life. Then there's her pregnancy. She conceives during the honeymoon, and although she's never wanted a child before, she immediately falls totally in love with the green-eyed baby boy she's sure she's carrying. "I wanted him like I wanted air to breathe," Meyer writes, "Not a choice — a necessity." This creepy antiabortion allegory quickly gets literal, as the half-vampire fetus (actually an interesting metaphor for any pregnancy) starts killing Bella from the inside out. Even as it breaks her ribs and sucked the life from her, she proclaims, "I won't kill him." But does she have to face the consequences of this choice? No, because vampire magic suddenly allows mother and father to hear the fetus's thoughts, and to discover that it already loves them! Edward telepathically tells it not to hurt its mommy, and while he does end up having to bite it out of Bella's body with his teeth, everything is again fine because he uses more vampire magic to heal her wounds. Because she is now a vampire, Bella is even hotter than she was before pregnancy, and after a short recovery period she's able to have all-night sex sessions with her husband while the extended family takes care of the perfectly behaved, telepathic baby. In the Breaking Dawn universe, teen motherhood just makes your life rad. All this radness is made possible in part by the idealized relationships all the vampires and werewolves have. Gone for the most part is the sexy rapacity of Dracula; gone is the fine long tradition of gay vampires. These vampires mate for life, and they mate straight. Werewolf love, meanwhile, involves imprinting, which can happen at any age. The werewolf Jacob imprints on Bella's baby — who turns out to be a girl — giving her a "promise ring" when she's only a few months old. Basically these mythical creatures live in a very safe, heteronormative world — and a boring one. This is actually the book's biggest problem. It's 754 pages long, its heroine's dominant personality trait is low self-esteem, and, as Amazon reviewer Eventide points out, nobody really has to give up anything. Even the tedium of immortality is glossed over — these vampires just keep busy with their hobbies. If I had an eternity to read, I still might never pick up this book again. Breaking Dawn does seem to be promoting a fundamentally conservative ideology. But then so does The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and they will pry that book from my cold, dead, godless fingers. I think ultimately we shouldn't worry too much about what ideas young adult books promulgate. We should worry about whether the books themselves are awesome. Because awesomeness promotes thinking, and thinking promotes becoming the kind of adult we all want more of in the world: the kind who can understand the message of a book — or a movie, or a blog post, or a presidential candidate — and decide for herself whether she agrees. Breaking Dawn Big Week For (And Big Reactions To) 'Breaking Dawn' [Publishers Weekly] All Fangs, No Bite [Guardian]
While this seems to be a time to bash, I'll say I liked the books. I really, honestly did. They are glorified romance novels, but I love romance novels. They are quick reads that I don't have to put a lot of heavy thought into, that are fun. I love to read (I'm a librarian for crying out loud!) but I don't think everything I read needs to be heavy, deep, and profound. I will continue to recommend these books to anyone I think would enjoy them. I also appreciate authors that can write books that get young adults to read.