For the longest time, I had no wish to read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. I heard that, instead of disintegrating or being otherwise incapacitated by sunlight, the vampires sparkled. Sparkled? Nope. I'm out. It wasn't that I felt hate for the book or anything like that (anything that gets teens reading is A-OK with me); I just knew it wasn't my cup of tea.
A copy of the book was passed around between family members, and when everyone interested was done with it, it found its way to me. I kept it in the off chance that I'd be interested someday, but I had no idea if or when. Besides, it fit just fine on my bookshelf, so no big deal. It could wait there indefinitely.
My latest project is a YA (young adult) paranormal story. The protagonist is a 16 year old junior in high school who due to his supernatural powers has found his soulmate. (She's not a ghost, but a new girl in school who has the same powers as him.) The little information I'd garnered from Twilight made me think it was in the same ballpark as my story, so maybe I should give it a shot. It's such an intensely popular book that it might give me some ideas that'd help broaden my project. If not, heck, it's always good to read what's out there in the same or similar genres.
I started reading, and something disturbed me right away. The story pulled me in. I had no problem with others enjoying it, but I didn't want to myself. The damn vampires sparkled! (Though I hadn't yet got to that part.) I had expected to not give a damn one way or the other about Bella because of the actress who plays her in the movie (unfair of me, I know), but I found her to be a likeable enough character. Edward Cullen's intense seeming hatred of her in the beginning also drew me in. True, because of my normal taste in books, this story wasn't so good that I'd have been missing anything if I'd never picked it up, but since I was using it for study purposes, it was nice to be lightly entertained. I hadn't expected that.
To be brutally honest, nothing much happens in this story until the very end. If I was reading for pleasure, that would've driven me nuts, but for my purposes, it was perfect. I'm confident in my abilities as an author to bring the action, bring the scare, bring the pain, so I was more hoping to see the teenage interactions and see how Meyer handled the relationship between Bella and Edward. This book is so popular with the teen crowd that she must know what she's doing. That's the aspect of this story I opened the book for, and in that area, I think I actually picked up some pretty good pointers.
Now on to the vampires, the topic that intrigued me most as a horror writer. They did have their good points to go along with the silliness of the sparkles in sunlight (and I still giggle at the goofiness of that). These vampires actually have all the tools to be big players in the horror genre. In Joss Whedon's hands, for example, Buffy might have had some real challenges. (Instead, these vampires wait for a thunderstorm and go out to play baseball. Wait. What? Yeah, you heard me. On a dark and stormy night, they go out and play baseball.) The vampires are superhumanly strong, lightning quick, and harder to kill than a simple stake in the heart. I also liked the fact that they didn't need to sleep. Since the sun didn't hurt them (it just made them FABULOUS! Oh brother . . .) that made a lot of sense. Some of them had miscellaneous powers, such as Edward's ability to read thoughts or Alice's ability to see the future. From what I got out of it, these powers were holdovers from their human self that are amplified by their vampireness. (Yes, I just said vampireness as if it was an actual word.) That bit made the world of this novel seem a bit cooler in my opinion. I'd like to see a story where "live" people use these powers. As for how humans are changed into vampires, it's really quite vicious. If the person survives the feeding, the vampire's bite has venom that works through the victim's system until it gets to the heart. This can take days depending on how much blood was drained, and the entire time the person is in constant agony. Of course, it's also hilariously emo, but it fits in with the rest of the story, which is heavily marketed at Hot Topic (i.e. Emos R' Us) for a reason.
So did reading Twilight help me as a writer? Yes, I believe it did. I wasn't sure about some of the pacing, some of the character interactions, in my project, and after reading this, I feel confident I'm on the right track. Besides, it's always a good idea to read the uber-popular books in the genre you're writing to get an idea of what the readers are looking for. Do I suggest reading Twilight and going from there if you want to write speculative fiction for the YA crowd? Yes, as long as you don't stop there. I suggest reading a wide variety of YA books to get an idea of what's out there. Read in similar genres in adult books. Read different genres in both YA and adult books to get a broader view. It's all a big tapestry that comes together for the greater good.
For those of you who aren't writers in the YA field (or writers at all), do I recommend Twilight? Not heartily. But if you're still on the fence about it, go ahead and pick it up, if for no other reason than to see what all the hoopla is about. Heh, betcha that won't make the cover blurb on the next reprint.