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July 30 2008

Bella Swan, You're No Buffy Summers! Salon writer Laura Miller compares the Twilight series heroine to our favorite stake-bearer.

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was at heart one of those mythic hero's journeys so beloved by Joseph Campbell-quoting screenwriters, albeit transfigured into something sharp and funny by making the hero a contemporary teenage girl. Buffy wrestled with a series of romantic dilemmas -- in particular a penchant for hunky vampires -- but her story always belonged to her. Fulfilling her responsibilities as a slayer, loyalty to her friends and family, doing the right thing and cobbling together some semblance of a healthy life were all ultimately as important, if not more important, to her than getting the guy. If Harry Potter has a vampire-loving, adolescent female counterpart, it's Buffy Summers.

Yeah. Somehow, I just can't see Buffy allowing a guy to speak to her as if she were three years old and to use arrogant, condescending language like, "I absolutely forbid you to do xyz." Unless it was the owner of a bank saying "I absolutely forbid you to break into the vault and take everything inside of it."

Abusive relationships turned into romance makes me cry.

M. Lohrke, a reviewer of Twilight on Amazon: "'Twilight' apologists will say that 'at least young women are reading!' I guess you could make that argument, but with that kind of logic you might as well congratulate an anorexic for eating a marshmallow."
Wow. I like these books but this article nails exactly the feelings of unease I have about it. It's totally, totally a guilty pleasure; Edward's perfection and dreaminess compensate for the heroine's cardboard-ness.

But she's no Buffy, that's for sure. I always compare the Prom, where Angel announces his intention to leave Buffy, to New Moon, where Edward leaves Bella. Buffy sobs on Willow's lap, and then she gets up and saves the day, depressed as hell. Bella does exactly what the article describes. No, Stephanie Meyer, not everyone is capable of delivering a roundhouse kick, but we are all capable of aspiring to be more than just a vessel for someone else's existence, which is what Bella essentially is. We can all WANT to get up out of that bed when we are done crying.

Now I am less excited for the next book. Damn. Maybe I will have a Buffy marathon this Friday night instead of going to the bookstore.
I'm not utterly sure why Belle Swan has to be seen as a Buffy Summers. Can't a person be a Twilight and a Buffy fan at the same time? For instance, my tastes include both snails and oysters. I'm sure others do too.
Y'know, given the cultural impact of the Twilight series, I felt I should go and get the first book, which I did. And I read it. And I utterly hated it. It is nothing but a bodice ripper, a romance, and as chaste as it can get, and Bella is a cypher who simpers and needs help all the time. This is 5 steps backward in YA literature, completely safe, and certainly of almost no interest to guys. I think it is very much a product of its time- conservative, safe, and counter-reactive to the "dangers" of Harry Potter. Just horrid. Give me Julie Anne Peters instead.
I know I have gotten old when browsing the YA section in bookstores is upsetting. On the happier side, whereas at that age I had some trouble finding Tamora Pierce books, now they're often quite visible. Next to books like these that outnumber them, but usually everything from the Lioness Quartet onward is in stock. Hooray!
I'm actually looking for some YA lit at the moment. I was thinking of checking this out because of all the hype for the film, but after reading about what happened at the SDCC (screaming, etc.), and then reading the reviews, I got the impression it probably wasn't a book for me.

I haven't read any YA in a while, but I very much enjoy it, YA novels sometimes get to the heart of the matter in a much more direct, honest way than "adult" books do. I was raised on Philip Pullman, but I honestly haven't seen a YA book that's interested me in years (looking forward to the next Garth Nix Old Kingdom book, but that's about it).


Dana5140, considering Harry Potter itself was actually a very safe book anyway, in that it promotes traditional values, I can't really imagine something that's "safer" being any good.

ETA: Sunfire, I understand what you mean, perhaps I'm just getting old too. /sheds tear

[ edited by MattK on 2008-07-30 17:54 ]
Wow, Simon, that is absolutely the first time I've seen someone use the "snails and oysters" taste comparison in this way. I've only ever seen it used in its original sense.

You go.
I'm actually looking for some YA lit at the moment.


You can not go wrong with early Stephen King (anything up to Tommyknockers). I'd recommend those books to any teenager with an interest in literature.

You go.


I really do.
Y'know, given the cultural impact of the Twilight series, I felt I should go and get the first book, which I did. And I read it.


Dana, I was considering that to, but my friends (who also happen to be Whedon fans), who understand pretty well of my tastes, tell me repeatedly, that I`m gonna hate it, despite them really enjoying the books. So I`m trusting their their take and recommendation for me.

But, Simon is right that you could be both. Hey I know WHedon fans who are also Charmed, fans - they exist.
MattK- which is why I put the word in quotation marks. HP is pretty safe indeed, but it riled the Christian right to no end, and this Twilight series is so safe that even with vampires there has been no outcry at all- thus, as I noted, it is a product of its time.

I read YA lit prodigiously, and the edgier the better. I am particularly interested in YA lit that addresses YA female coming out stories, and there are superb books here: Julie Anne Peters "Keeping You a Secret," Paula Boock's "Dare, Truth or Promise" (which is a stellar book, just astonishing how good it is), Lauren Myracle's "Kissing Kate," "The Bermudez Triangle," "Gravel Queen," "Girl Walking Backward," Nancy Garden of course, and even Tamora Pierce, as mentioned above, has a series with a gay female in it.

I guess it is the Willow and Tara in me! :-)

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2008-07-30 18:08 ]

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2008-07-30 18:08 ]
I like both, I see no need to compare.
I read a Stephanie Meyer quote on comparisons of Bella to other "similar" characters. I am sure she was referring to the Buffster (and Gossip Girl?):

"There are so many girls out there who do not know kung fu, and if a guy jumps in the alley they're not going to turn around with a roundhouse kick," Meyer said. "There's a lot of people who are just quieter and aren't having the Prada lifestyle and going to a special school in New York where everyone's rich and fabulous. There's normal people out there and I think that's one of the reasons Bella has become so popular."

I wanted to post the article earlier, but I did not think it would pass WE muster. A link to the full story is here.

I can't decide if it's a swipe or not.
MattK, Tanith Lee has some good YA fantasy. The Unicorn series and the Claidy journals are all YA, from the perspective of smart, brave, energetic young women. I haven't read the Piratica stories, but they've gotten good reviews. Of course her adult novels are the best.

Simon, I think the point isn't that every heroine has to be another Buffy, but that the article's author is using the contrast with Buffy to point out just how cardboardy and stereotypically insipid the Bella Swan character is, in her opinion -- and speculating on why that is such an attractive fantasy to so many women.

Possibly an equally valid contrast would be with Jane Eyre, who also loved a broody, romantic hero, but took her fate into her own hands, and did the right thing even though it meant giving up her love. Hmmm, I've never thought of it before, but I can definitely see Jane as a Buffy forebear.
I've seen people talking about the screaming at the Twilight comic-con panel, but how is that different than any other popular panel? There was screaming at Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible. Can someone explain this to me?
I've seen a lot of negative comments about the Twilight fans at Comic Con as well. Was it early Beatle fan type screaming where they wouldn't stop? Or what?

BTW, I read all the books, (except the last) and liked them just fine. Yes, Edward tried to tell her not to do things. But she does them anyhow. People come in a variety of flavors. Some simper. Some kick. And the rest of us are somewhere in between.
ESG, I wouldn't say there was "screaming" at Dollhouse or Dr. Horrible. Cheers, roars of laughter, boos for people who shouldn't be near a microphone, and the "yay!" yelling, often followed by "woots!" and "horrahs!", but not screaming. I was in the middle of both, I would have figured I would have heard screams if there were any.

The Twilight panel? People were lined up since Preview Night, camping out, frustrated that they had to wait til morning to get their ticket... afraid they'll lose their spot in the line for the panel. Some of the women I saw were tempermental at 9PM... I don't know how well that carried over into the morning. After seeing them lined up there cold, frustrated, hungry, and upset because their make-up wouldn't be fresh, I scratched anything that dealt with Hall H off of my list. I went to CC to enjoy myself, not to suck out the point of going in the first place.
BTW, is it always this crazy with the amount of stories at Comic Con time? Everything just whizzes by!
QG, I wish I knew what that picture meant, but I'm afraid of your answer. Don't want to be spanked, so to speak.
I wasn't at Comic Con, so don't have this first-hand, but all you have to do is go to YouTube and check out one of the vids of the panel.

Just remember, that there is nothing, I repeat nothing, in the world, that can scream at a higher decible level than a room of (mostly) teenage girls. (See Elvis, the Beatles and any boy-band from the 90's)
I don't think every heroine has to be Buffy, but I listened to the second book in this series with my teenage daughter last year while we drove to school, and boy was I glad that I had raised her on Buffy. All of her friends are obsessed with these books, but my daughter spent the whole time complaining about how whiny, wussy, and useless Bella is, and she didn't bother to read the third book. It warmed this mother's heart.
Reading about this leaves a funny taste in my mouth. No, not everyone can be Buffy (or even assertive), but I'm not sure this is the type of book I'd want my teen daughter to be reading. Maybe it's just the reviewer, but it sounds as if the main character has utterly no will of her own, that her entire life is based around some guy. Is that really what we want our young girls to be reading?

While I'm not sure how much vampire-themed YA literature there is these days, I do remember one book from my childhood that is still a favorite to this day. And though the main character isn't Buffy-strong, she makes her own decisions that don't revolve around hot-vampire-guy. It's called Companions Of The Night, by Vivian Vande Velde, if anyone's interested.
The Twilight panel sounds pretty awful, but you know us Whedonesquers know how to have a good time!! I really understand this author though. Twilight is definitely the opposite of Buffy. Bella is just so weak, pathetic, and can't do anything on her own. In fact, she pretty much goes against everything Joss has tried to get across in all of his shows. She is weak, both physically and mentally, she becomes addicted to Edward, not unlike a season six Willow, and she never actively works to improve or empower herself. The fact that so many girls are becoming rabid fans of these books does not sit well.
Well, first, the reaction of these young girls is a group think, and a safe one at that- they get to be part of some cultural phenomenon.

Second, there is a ton of YA vampire literature, just oodles of it, most of it sort of second rate, but some not too bad. This stuff? Bad.
Wow. After reading that article, I find myself thinking that Bella Swan and Buffy Summers are pretty nearly polar opposites. (I mean, Buffy's drawn to vamps because of the bad-boy thing, which doesn't seem to be a factor in this "Twilight" deal.) In fact -- I may get in trouble for saying this, but oh well -- I'd say that "Twilight" and stories like it are exactly why Joss had to create Buffy in the first place. One girl in all the world, to stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of women-unfriendly popular culture...

And yes, Mrs. Meyer, there are plenty of normal people who can't kick like a Slayer. In fact, it's most of us. But shouldn't that call for an author who teaches girls to be strong in more mundane ways, instead of teaching them to be even more weak?

EDIT: okay, that's what I get for taking so long to get my post perfect; I get three prior posts saying much the same thing. Great minds think alike, right? Right?

[ edited by ManEnoughToAdmitIt on 2008-07-30 19:06 ]
VVV is a good author. Funny and intelligent. Tanith Lee was a good writer but I find that she really writes down to her teen audience.
The list of kids waiting for all the Meyers books at our library is huge. Maybe I should sneak in and substitute all their holds with the Buffy DVDs?
I was thinking about checking this series out, but now I'm having second thoughts. Bella sounds exactly like the kind of character I despise.

I just finished reading a book called Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks that I got from the YA section. It was a fun read.
Thanks everyone for the YA recs, I'll have a look at them.

As far as this discussion goes, I'm really in two minds about this. I mean, a submissive character can still be very interesting and engaging and well-written, and what Hostile 17 says about becoming addicted to a person -- I can understand that too. What Meyer says is true, there are no doubt people like this out there. But I'm uncomfortable with the thought that someone's reading this and not realising these things about the character, and then end up blindly admiring and wanting to emulate them.


Numfar PTB: "... who are also Charmed, fans - they exist."

My old Physics teacher was a Charmed fan. It blew my mind.
Sunfire, I'm totally with you on being delighted to see Tamora Pierce so prominent in bookstores these days. Years before BtVS came on the air, she was the one writing the strong female characters in genre fiction that I adored.

Everything I've heard about Twilight (the vampires sparkle? REALLY?) makes me cringe to the point where I doubt I'll ever be able to read it. But knowing that Tammy is not only more popular than ever but has also been inspiring young women to discuss feminist issues for years on a board she co-founded helps alleviate any real distaste I might have.

Also, it must be mentioned that Tamora Pierce is a big Joss fan.
Really well-written article that definitely verbalized most of my problems with Ms. Meyer's books. Admittedly, I'm a bit older than the target audience for the books, but that hasn't stopped several of my friends from inhaling them. I read the first book, and I have to admit being torn between laughing hysterically and being absolutely disgusted.

I can definitely see the appeal of the books, especially to teenage girls who have never been particularly popular or had a lot of male attention (I can say that because that's exactly the kind of teenage girl I was): it's the ultimate fantasy fulfillment to have someone as "perfect" as Edward Cullen fall in love with you. But that perfection is really just a cover for the fact that he has no distinct personality. I loved the insight in this article about the way Bella is personality-less in order to allow any girl to project herself in the story in Bella's place. But I think Edward is much the same way--he is whatever the writer and reader demand at the moment, and so he never emerges as a real person but only as a strong pair of arms and a popularity booster.

As for the comparison between Bella and Buffy, I think Laura Miller compares them in just the right way. No one is asking Bella to kick ass and save the world. What Miller (and I and most people who don't like the books, I would assume) asks is for a female lead who has a life outside of Edward. No matter her feelings for Angel or Spike or whoever, Buffy is always still devoted to her friends, her family, and her duty. She always, always remains herself--Buffy. That's what I want for in a heroine. And that's where Twilight and its sequels fall miserably short.

(Plus there's the whole unrealistic expectations thing, but that's a whole other story.)
Awww, korkster, I never spank - do I? The phrase is from Spartacus. It is generally thought to have a... sexual subtext.

CRASSUS: Fetch a stool, Antoninus.
In here with it. That will do.
Do you steal, Antoninus?
ANTONIUS: No, master.
CRASSUS: Do you lie?
ANTONIUS: Not if I can avoid it.
CRASSUS: Have you ever dishonoured the gods?
ANTONIUS: No, master.
CRASSUS: Do you refrain from these vices out of respect for the moral virtues?
ANTONIUS: Yes, master.
CRASSUS: Do you eat oysters?
ANTONIUS: When I have them, master.
CRASSUS: Do you eat snails?
ANTONIUS: No, master.
CRASSUS: Do you consider the eating of oysters to be moral... and the eating of snails to be immoral?
ANTONIUS: No, master.
CRASSUS: Of course not. It is all a matter of taste, isn't it?
ANTONIUS: Yes, master.
CRASSUS: And taste is not the same as appetite... and therefore not a question of morals, is it?
ANTONIUS: It could be argued so, master.
CRASSUS: That will do. My robe, Antoninus.
My taste includes... both snails and oysters.

But Edward does have Angel's old hair.
All I know is that the Twilight film crew vandalized a lamp post on my street and never cleaned it up.
Wow, thanks QG. I was referring to the Elephant Child you introduced me to last week. I learn something new everyday, it seems. And now, snails & oysters. :)
Ha. I love you, Quotergal.

I haven't read the Twilight books, so I can't comment on them, but I do love Laura Miller (the reviewer)--she has introduced me to many great books and so I'll take her word that these are probably not for me. She and Stephanie Zacharek at salon are big Buffy fans, and the following article is the one that turned me onto Buffy, which I had previously heard very little about (also completely spoiling me for much of what was to come, alas): clicky
(sorry I don't know how to do that cool thing so many of you do, where you can just click on the word "this" or something and it takes you to the article...)

On the topic of good YA, the best I've read as an adult are Megan Whalen Turner's trilogy, The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and the King of Attolia. The first one is really good, but the second and third are amazing.

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2008-07-30 20:01 ]
I've just discovered something interesting about this series assuming Wikipedia to be trusted. It seems like Meyer has released playlists for each book in the series. An excellent idea in theory, but I think choice of songs would probably reveal a lot about the author/books too.


I've always hated fairytale romances, in the "here's a prince" sense (whatever happened to the real fairytales that never ended happily?). I absolutely despise the sugarcoated Disney-esque tripe that promotes the idea that people can find somebody perfect and live happily ever after, and from the comments above it seems like the Twilight books are doing the same thing, but for older audiences.

catherine: it's easier to show by example, you'd want to type <a href="http://dir.salon.com/story/ent/tv/feature/2002/05/22/buffy/index.html">this</a>
(zeitgeist has already sorted it for you, but I thought I'd mention it just in case you're interested for further reference)

[ edited by MattK on 2008-07-30 20:04 ]
Thank you zeitgeist and MattK. I am indeed interested for future reference ;)
MattK

A good resource to find what's out there - and what's popular in the YA world in the US, is YALSA, which is a division of the American Library Association. Just Google YALSA, and you'll get to them. There are many lists of books.

Two favorites that I have read lately are Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian" and, in the Vampire vein (npi) "Sunshine" by Robin McKinley, which I think is a much better book than "Twilight".
I'm not sure whether comparing Bella to Buffy is particularly worthwhile - if "[Bella] is rendered nearly speechless by [Edward's] spectacular beauty" is any indication, a better comparison would be Chantarelle's group in "Lie To Me". And it might not be just the character fitting the profile. Is it just me, or is the vast majority of modern vampire fiction really written in this - er - vein...?
Oh thank god! People with perspective on these Twilight books. I read the first three cause they were there one weekend when I was bored. I was appalled. Not every heroine needs to be Buffy but Bella made my skin crawl. She is a BAD role model!!! There are LOTS of good YA models along this line. I'm not sure why this is what caught on? :( I can only hope that Kelley Armstrong's YA series from the Otherworld verse will be this popular. Much better concept and better written.
I just wrote a rather lengthy email to Laura explaining why I think Twilight became popular. I don't think it has much to do with the characters, in all honesty.

Dear Laura,

I just finished reading your article, Touched by a vampire, and I felt obligated to write to you to tell you how completely bemused I am by the "Twilight Phenomenon." I agree with every word you wrote in your article, and frankly I'm alarmed that so many people consider Bella a well-developed character, and consider the series in general good literature. As a Harry Potter fan, I am especially alarmed. I was one of the millions of fans who went to every midnight release party for HP, I listen to the podcasts, and I am anxiously awaiting JK Rowling's next work. I consider myself part of the crazy online fandom that goes to Harry Potter conferences, and I volunteer for the Harry Potter Alliance.

So when the Twilight books were suddenly being recommended to me as "the next Harry Potter," by many Harry Potter fans, I was excited. That excitement, however, quickly turned to disgust, after reading the first novel. (I disliked the first one so much, that I have resolutely refused to read on) I felt betrayed by my fandom, but moreover I feel downright amazed that so many of my fellow Harry Potter fans love this series.

I am also a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (all of Joss Whedon's work actually), and although I did not compare the two while reading Twilight, I certainly felt the lack of any strong convictions or personality from Bella. Upon reflection, I became alarmed at the prepubescent fantasy that is the plot of this book, and I strongly feel that this novel is doing a huge disservice to women, feminism, and literature in general. I've spent a lot of time thinking about how on earth this book could've gain the popularity and notoriety that its enjoying right now...

My conclusion is this: good timing, and only good timing accounts for its success. Harry Potter ended last year, and the fervor and energy that the HP fans have experienced and shared for 10 long years- well it had to go somewhere. There was a vacuum, and Stephanie Meyer's book was something that people could latch onto. Harry Potter brought out an intense fanaticism and dedication in many people, and once Deathly Hallows was released, people could not simply go back to their lives without that sense of community, excitement, and obsession. Not to mention, the Harry Potter fan base is huge. Twilight was ideally timed for it all to just... transfer over. I think you will find that the majority of Twilight fans, are also Harry Potter fans.

Perhaps I am fooling myself in thinking this is the explanation for (what seems to me) undeserved success. But, I want to have faith that my fellow HP fans out there are not falling for this insipid book, rather they are grieving. I felt the loss, the end, of Harry Potter very keenly. I still do. And people sometimes do very stupid things in their grief.

Having read all three books I have to agree with most of the comments posted. Bella is an awful character in terms of her personality, which is poor to start with and becomes non-existant as the books progress and her addiction/dependence on Edward grows. She loses all perspective on her life and distances herself from her friends and family as the only way she can be happy is with Edward.

The gushing and overly sentimential prose doesn't help either and I am slightly disturbed by the number of young girls who think Edward is the perfect man - he's possessive, controlling and almost as flat a character as Bella herself.

Give me Buffy any day.
I think it might have been the third reference to Edward's perfect and pearlescent chest that finally did me in....

More heartening to me is that there was such a groundswell of support for this series that when I read and found it so loathsome, I thought maybe I just was not getting it. But as I read here, I am not alone.
Ok, I admit it. I've read and liked all three books and plan on getting the fourth Saturday at midnight. The romantic in me loves the star-crossed lovers tale and I do like that Bella is supposed to be an average girl. I get tired of the whole kick-ass girl thing sometimes.

How much credibility did I just lose? :P

That said; Twilight has it's flaws. I think Stephanie Meyer's writing reads more like a fanfic at times as opposed to a novel. There are problems with her characterization (or lack thereof.) I have more of a problem with Bella's treatment of Jacob and Edward then I do of Edward's protective personality. But I still love them, even if they can only be defined as guilty pleasures.
I sort of had a book-based Buffy-like experience with two horror books that seemed like fluff on the outside but were a really interesting exploration of coming of age with profound power on the inside. Vampires and werewolves, but not in the usual way. I forget the names of the books. I'll look them up. Last time I checked they were out of print, very obscure paperbacks and the author hadn't published anything since. Which was sad, since I think she intended to publish a third part of the same story.

ETA: Found them! Night Calls and Kindred Rites by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel. Seriously, nothing on the outside reflects what is on the inside.

[ edited by Sunfire on 2008-07-30 22:05 ]
My wife is a huge fan of these books, so much so that we (yes, as in her and I both) are going to the midnight release madness at a local bookstore here. At her insistence I tried to read them but only made it about two thirds of the way through the first book. Not because I remember it being particularly horrid, as most comments here seem to suggest, but just because I wasn't captured by it and got distracted by some other shiny thing. Truthfully I don't recall much about it, but I certainly don't remember thinking it was the final sign of the apocalypse or anything. The rebel in me actually feels like he should be defending these books from the torches right now, if only because my generally uber-intelligent wife enjoys them so much. But what's the point... we hate what we hate and love what we love and everyone else be damned. ;)

I'm currently reading Stephanie Meyer's latest book, The Host, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the Twilight series. It's fairly good, if you must know. *shrug*
I'm not sure negative opinion, even virulently negative opinion, qualifies as "torches". ;)
Sunfire, you might be interested to know she wrote some more books, this FAQ page would probably be most useful. It's an odd name, I wondered if perhaps it was an anagram of another author writing under a pseudonym, but probably not. I'm intrigued by them now anyway... when you said they seemed like fluff on the outside, did you mean that the books get better as they go on, or that if you "read into them" more that they become more enlightening?

Also, it's nice to hear from some dissenting voices here defending Meyer. Don't get me wrong, I think all the criticism she's had here is more than valid, but I still like hearing from the other side too. And to the people who don't think she deserves the criticism, I'd just say that I think anything that is both popular and bad (to whatever degree) deserves far more criticism than other things simply because they have more influence on the industry and what other people will start writing *coughdavincicodecough*.

[ edited by MattK on 2008-07-30 23:46 ]
Charmuse - I interpreted Meyer's quote to be a swipe at Buffy - that this Bella character is "normal" and therefore, unlike Buffy, Bella is a character the audience can relate to, because the audience is "normal" too, and not roundhouse-tossing superheroes.

Which is funny to me because, as a now-26 year old male, what drew me into BtVS back when I was 16 (and kept me hooked ever since) was the very fact that I did relate to Buffy (and Willow, and Xander, etc.) and the difficulties they faced in the transition from childhood to adulthood. Ms. Meyer's quote is, at best, disingenuous, and not really the best way to distance herself from what is pretty clearly her source material.

[ edited by AMCsoldier on 2008-07-30 23:48 ]
AMCsolider, I don't think it's fair to say that Buffy is pretty clearly her source material. Vampire romances have been appearing for years in various incarnations. I do agree with you about what she said though.
Sunfire, you might be interested to know she wrote some more books, this FAQ page would probably be most useful.

Hey cool, thanks. I had been to her site a long time ago but not recently. Other than one short story, her other publications have been (as far as I can tell) not set in that same world. Looks like she's working on some new stuff now. That's awesome.
I am on the third book of the Twilight series, and even though I have enjoyed them for what they are--escapist summer reading--I do agree that Bella's character is desperately lacking. My favorite characters in the book are probably Alice Cullen (Edward's "sister") and Jacob Black, the Native American werewolf.

Sunfire, I will have to check out those books you mentioned. I love when seemingly "sensational" novels prove themselves to have much more substance than one would expect. I was hoping that this might be the case with Twilight, but it isn't.

I see valid points in the article regarding the lack of strength in Bella's character, but I also think that a character doesn't always have to be strong. Even Buffy Summers is no Buffy Summers at times (I'm thinking primarily of season six Buffy). And besides, is it always the duty of entertainment to "delight and instruct?"
(still on the subject of Katharine Kimbriel)

Oh, and since they seem hard to get hold of, the best place I've found to buy obscure/out-of-print books is abebooks.com -- it's like Amazon Marketplace, just specifically for more obscure books, and it's helped me when both Amazon and eBay have failed on numerous occasions. I was thinking of getting a copy of Night Calls on there (only about 3.50 / $7 ex. p&p) but there are only American booksellers selling it, so maybe not just yet. If anyone is looking for her books on there, it'd probably be best to leave out her middle name, because some of her books are listed without it.

Even better news, she has a LiveJournal she keeps updated (username is alfreda89, I think that's one of her character's names), if you're really interested in what's going on.

ShanshuBugaboo, on the one hand I agree with you in that it's not the obligation of a book to "delight and instruct" but, at the same time, I think that the label "escapist summer reading" or "guilty pleasure" is a bit of a cop out for deficiencies of the book itself.

[ edited by MattK on 2008-07-31 00:35 ]
this Bella character is "normal" and therefore, unlike Buffy, Bella is a character the audience can relate to, because the audience is "normal" too

Whether this is the proper characterization of the reasoning or not, the notion is one that inevitably aggravates me. It suggests that a character must be as close to some basic-level representation of "audience" as possible in order for people to relate to them.

For one thing, there is no singular or monolithic "audience" person. For another thing, audiences have been relating to people not exactly like them for a very long time. Not many people are King Lear, or MacBeth (or Lady MacBeth), or Josiah Bartlett. But audiences relate to these characters just fine.
Dana5140, you are definitely not alone. I tried to read the first book out of curiosity and couldn't make it past a few chapters. To tell the truth, it was hard going after a few pages but I gave it an honest try and I had nothing else to read that night and I'm a total biblioaddict. I thought the writing was atrocious. I hated everything about this reading experience - everything. Laura Miller nails what is wrong with "Twighlight" as I see it. I think the comparison Miller makes to the character of Buffy is fair. Not because all vampire fictions need to be compared to the Buffyverse, but because the character of Buffy strikes Miller (and me and others) as a sort of perfect counterpoint to Bella.

My loathing of Twilight stuff aside, I'm certainly not in favor of torching any books, literally or metaphorically. Miller clearly isn't advocating for this either. I'll say this: if there's one thing I understand, it's becoming intoxicated by a fictional world. The Twilight world is not the one for me, but if it makes some (many?) readers so happy, what the hell. Life is short and pleasure in fiction is a delicious thing. Then again, what's this I hear about problems at Comic-Con? Huh?
Theonetruebix, I totally agree. I share that frustration in the insinuation behind the author's quote. As a young male, I strongly related to Buffy; like Joss discussed in his Equality Now speech, a character who is different from you can help open up aspects of yourself that a character just like you might not be able to do.

Sorry if I ruffled any feathers; my point was that Buffy has a vicious roundhouse kick, but that doesn't make me any less able to relate to her, and I object to Ms. Meyer's assertion to the contrary.
But to say this is to criticize fantasy according to the standards of literature


Yes, we wouldn't want to do that, obviously.

Otherwise: I liked this review. Very insightfull and it definately worked in putting me off reading these books (as has this thread). Although I now am wondering how incredibly out-of-the-loop I've been, seeing as I've never even heard of these books before *shrug*.

But I do agree on people liking YA lit. I fell in love with Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' as an adult (truly one of the best genre books out there, despite it's YA nature) and it proved to me how layered and intelligent YA books can be. Also, obviously, like almost everyone else, I loved Harry Potter. And one of my alltime favorite writers is Dutch children's book author 'Tonke Dragt' (dutch website here) of whom I own all books (some in several different editions) and whose work still stands up re-reading them as an adult. YA lit can be fantastic, and although I don't think Harry Potter was perfect in any sense (that'd be 'His Dark Materials' for me), I did like that books that involving, fun and intelligent were so very popular with pretty much everyone. It makes me sad that the current favorite might be less than that. Exposing young people to smart fiction has always seemed like a good thing to me ;)
GVH, I too hadn't heard of them until recently. My friend in NY heard about the new Twilight fashion, and checked them out. She's not a Whedon fan (she's delusional), but after she read Twilight? I spent hours listening to her complain about the book. Nothing but romance, no strength, no plot... let's just say she didn't like it. So she put me off to it before it got around my ears.

At CC, however, I met Buffy fans who were also Twilight fans... waiting in line for the next day. Hard core. Still didn't really affect me. But I think I've developed a narrow point of view with good works.

Books I enjoyed before the whole Whedon summer... Patricia Briggs with her Moon Called series of Mercy Thompson was pretty good. Not Buffy, but better than Twilight. Had a plot, and was entertaining. Another one that's "lesser" would be Kim Harrison's books- they started out strong, but by book 4 it seems as if she trying to correct a wrong or something. I'd go with Patricia. They're entertaining, make you wonder, and they're a quick read for someone who doesn't have that time (like me).
Never heard of Twilight?

Clearly GVH and korkster don't spend much time hanging out at an all-girl high school. :)
Clearly, jcs. That would be considered stalking. I don't want Joss to get jealous.
"But to say this is to criticize fantasy according to the standards of literature."
Yes, we wouldn't want to do that, obviously.

I knee-jerked a bit at this myself, but I think she means fantasies (as in things you fantasize about) as opposed to fantasy-the-genre.
Yeah, it's poorly phrased (the fantasy according to the standards of literature thing), but I'm pretty sure seasleepy's interpretation of it is right. Laura Miller isn't any kind of snob about fantasy writing.

Also, re. Buffy being the "source material" for Stephanie Meyer, I read somewhere that her sister was a big fan of Buffy. She (the sister) was the first person to read Twilight when Meyer finished it and immediately made the Buffy comparison, which Meyer said she then avoided watching because she didn't want it to influence her. I can't remember where I read that so I'm afraid I can't link to it, and who knows if it's true or not. I wouldn't be surprised if she felt a little defensive, since I think she gets the Buffy question a lot.

GVH totally with you re. His Dark Materials, the first of the trilogy in particular was a great read. I was slightly less enamored by the end of the series.
Also, "pearlescent chest"?

Really?
I read Twilight and thought it was cheesy as hell,but a kind of guilty pleasure.an easy read. it has a lot of flaws and it shouldnt be taken seriously.what bothers is that a lot of kids, as in 12 years old read this and might get the wrong idea about,well,life in general.It doesn't exactly have a good message.
If it were redeemed in later books, if Bella actually grew up, that'd be understandable,but she doesn't. I don't really understand why is it so bloody famous. I don't plan on seeing the movie,anyway,I bought one book,that was enough.and I did read all three,I just didn't pay to read the other two.

I've read a lot of YA,and I'm not a big fan of Vampire fiction. I readthis one cause everyone on my flist was going "EDWARD CULLEN!!!!" and I wanted to know what the fuss was about.
I don't see any similarities to buffy. Well,the comparison with the "Lie to me" group is actually quite fitting. but Bella is simply pathetic. her life is her boyfriend.she givesy up family,friends,everything.he leaves,she is devastated and wants to die.There's been enough books about this kind of women.

BTW,I loved HDM.all three parts.last one had me in tears,literally.

Lately,I've seen Twilight and Bella referenced everywhere. compared to everything.In my cable magazine last month they were called "Harry Potter's succesor" and this month, there was an angry letter defending HP and pretty much thrasing Twilight.I found it quite funny.

I'm glad to see people here are not twilight-obsessed.makes for a nice change.
I had a friend who knows what a big Buffy fan I am tell me that this book should be right up my alley. Of course she has never watched an episode of Buffy.

She is taking her daughters to the book preview night.

Love Tamora Pierce, also Vivan Vande Velde. She's got a great young adult vampire book, Companions of the Night, that focuses on the heroine and what she is going through but the book of hers I really love is Dragon's Bait. Fantastic and deep story. Great female character.
catherine: "GVH totally with you re. His Dark Materials, the first of the trilogy in particular was a great read. I was slightly less enamored by the end of the series."

Personally, whilst I found the first book to be excellent, it was really the end of the series that I thought elevated it above its peers to become a truly classic, great piece of literature. Like okelay, the last one really had a very profound effect on me. In fact, I still remember the date I finished that book which is the only time that's happened, and I always make a point of nothing Midsummer's Day too. But there you go. Young minds easily influenced and all that.

And the concept of Dust too... so elegant and extraordinary. Truly wonderful.
The thing that struck me about HDM (reading it as an adult - on paper at least ;) was that it's roughly 2-3 different trilogies so that someone could read it at 11 and love Lyra's adventure then at 14-15 and "get" the love story, the fall from grace allegory and the fairly vehement polemic against organised religion and then maybe a bit later still read it again and appreciate the physics aspects and the incredibly well-crafted universe itself. They're books that grow with the reader (even more than in the "never the same river twice" respect that applies to all books) and that'd have to make for a very special repeat reading experience I reckon.

(I loved the books BTW but missed out on that "growing" aspect)
Really, catherine? Why did you like book 3 less? The books got more complex along the way, with book 3 being the most complex of the series. I, for one, loved it. In fact, I'd say it's my favorite (though the basic, simple - yet still layered - story of part 1 might just be more impressive in its set-up). Like okelay and MattK, it's that one that really struck home emotionally and made sure I'd remember the books fondly for quite some time.

And I'm with you on the tears, okelay. I never actually cry at fiction (maybe I'm emotionally challenged ;)), but the last part caused me some definate sleep loss that evening. I started frequenting the semi-official fansite (the whedonesque of HDM fandom) for a short period. The HDM-fandom is very much like our own: a lot of relatively young, intelligent people, up for in-depth discussions (I was having long talks about cosmology within two days of registering ;)). Still, one only ever has time to really invest in one fandom (two would kill my social life ;)), so I stuck to all things whedon in the end :).

And yeah, Saje, I think that description is spot-on. Of course, reading it as an adult, I stepped in at the last level and "got" everything at once, but I'm sure it would work that way for children reading it at different ages. What I also love is how it encourages rational thought and makes things like curiousness about the world a Good Thing.

That's what got me in the first Narnia movie, for instance (I never read the books, so I don't know if they offer the same thing): the feeling that curiosity was wrong. The most curious girl of the bunch gets the hardest time from her peers (and a few others), because she can't just "believe without question" or something similar. That message always bothered me deeply.

Also: thanks seasleepy, I think you're right. The comment didn't seem in place at all, in an article praising Buffy and discussing genre fiction in a serious and intelligent manner.
I suppose it was partly the "polemic" aspect that put me off the third HDM book just a wee bit. I felt like it became a bit preachy (funny, considering) as he "got to his point" so to speak. I'd been so captivated by the world(s) he created and the story of the first two books (and the first in particular) that the third just didn't quite measure up--it felt more scattered than complex, to me. I was actually quite bored with the bits where the scientist was living among those animals who roll about on wheels, and I didn't love the angels... but I don't mean to imply that I didn't like the third book at all. There was lovely stuff in it, and the man writes beautiful sentences, you can't fault him on that. The enthusiasm with which I finished didn't quite measure up to the excitement with which I'd begun, but it was a good read.

Back to Bella, I don't know if I'd worry about Twilight providing a negative role model for young girls. I read a lot of great books as a kid and a lot of utter garbage but we learn about life and how to live from so many places, I don't think reading escapist romance (if that's what Twilight is) is going to do anybody any harm ;). I remember devouring VH Andrews Flowers in the Attic books when I was ten or eleven, and that is some seriously sick stuff (lots of tortured incestuous relationships and much older men with young girls and so on), but it was the first thing I'd read with sex in it and I was fascinated. I think all the girls in my grade were reading it, and as far as I know none of us decided that hooking up with our brothers was a good idea.

Interestingly (or maybe not), one charge I've heard leveled at HDM's Lyra Belacqua (how I love her name!) is that she's too capable a heroine; she always knows just what to do and is unwaveringly tough and ready and and self-assured. It's not something I minded (or even noticed, honestly) while reading, but it's true that a part of what I loved about Buffy was that the roundhouse kick and the sense of mission were combined with a very adolescent vulnerability and insecurity. Lyra meets Bella?
Twilight doesn't sound appealing to me in any way. But to each his own.

Did not like part of this quote from a fuller quote above: There's normal people out there and I think that's one of the reasons Bella has become so popular.

Buffy was normal until she was chosen. And in her quest to stay a normal teenage girl lies the dramatic structure of that story and why it's so compelling. So many people make the mistake of thinking Buffy was just a silly show about teenagers and write it off, when it was quite the opposite. Twilight is a story about teenagers. Whether it's silly, I don't know.
You mentioned the contrast with the Narnia books as well GVH and I don't know if you've heard this before but Philip Pullman has said a number of times that he sees himself as the anti-C.S. Lewis. While The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe was one of the most magical reading experiences of my life at a very young age, I do remember being deeply disturbed when Susan, one of the sisters, is dismissed (and banished from the books) later in the series because she has taken an interest in lipstick and boys. Even as a little girl who was far from understanding the fuss about lipstick and boys, I found that a harsh condemnation. It's one of the only things I remember about those later books.

And thinking a little more on HDM, I think that perhaps ... epic just doesn't work so well for me. If I think about Buffy or Harry Potter, I always seem to enjoy the story most when it is just the central little band of misfits up against a brewing, terrifying darkness. When the battle extends well beyond the little group and becomes something massive, I'm less engaged. So I may not have any fair criticism to make of HDM 3 (I don't remember the title) at all, except that it got too BIG for me maybe.

I agree with Tonya J that a large part of Buffy's appeal was how in spite of her power and her calling, she was essentially a very ordinary girl. The most moving thing about the show was often her desire to carve out a little bit of normal for herself, and the fact that she had to hold back all the forces of hell to do so. Feels like life, sometimes, no? :) (I've just started using those emoticon symbols, it's a whole new thing for me, and I'm finding it quite addictive).
I can see where that'd trouble someone, catherine. There were parts in book 3 that were more outspoken in their opinions than what went before. Still, as an atheist, rationalist and a scientist, I had no trouble whatsoever with any of it. But I can see where others might. Also: I love the scientist hanging out with the aliens. Those aliens were so different, yet Pullman still got us to care about them and be interested in them (or at least, he did that for me ;)). That was no small feat :).

I agree that Lyra - as I also read after I'd finished the books - is a bit too capable. She's an extraordinary girl and as such, I'd say she makes a good rolemodel. But, yes, she's far more resourcefull and can endure much more emotially than your standard child, I'd think. But she's still human, feels (emotional) pain and has to work at overcoming her problems. I'm sure, had I been younger while reading, I'd have grown up thinking "what would Lyra have done, if faced with this", just like I (used to) do with Buffy (or Willow or any of the other Buffyverse characters :)).

As for Narnia: I'd heard him described in that way before (but I just figured that was because Narnia was inspired by faith, while HDM is very anti-organised-religion in its themes), but I never knew that he described himself as such, which is interesting. And yes, I think it was Susan who - even in that first movie (and I'd imagine, book) - got into trouble for not "believing without question", while in my mind, she was the most relatable and 'normal' person there. A very troubling message to give to children in my opinion.

As for epic: yes, that's what 'The Amber Spyglass' is. But I don't mind epic. Epic can be a lot of fun, as long as it also doesn't lose the personal either. The parts of book 3 that hit home most, were the small, personal scenes, which contrasted nicely with the epic happenings all around them.
The Amber Spyglass--that's right! Shame on me for not remembering, they all had such lovely titles. I didn't mean to imply that I was put off by his opinions, which I more or less hold myself, so much as... I didn't like the way The Message intruded upon The Story. Or, became the too-obvious point of the story. I actually think CS Lewis might be the more subtle of the two! Though if I'm remembering right, the series ends with all of them dying in a train crash and going to Narnia forever, so maybe not. Pretty ick.

Agree that I would have completely idolized Lyra if I'd read the books as a kid.
Yeah maintaining the humanity within the epic is a hard balance to strike but when done well it's one of my favourite things about SF&F that you just don't get in any other genre IMO (I haven't read a huge amount of fantasy BTW but it strikes me as the sort of mix you might get more in sci-fi - HDM is probably the most science-fictiony fantasy i've read).

And CS Lewis' position is consistent at least, Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil after all and it was curiosity that, in Christian mythology, damned us all to an earl(y|ier) death, shame, original sin, the whole shebang. Faith is a virtue to believers and its lack is, well, the other thing ;).
I agree that HDM is a very science-fictiony fantasy, Saje. In fact, I'm not sure which genre I'd place the series in. As for which genre could best combine epic with humanity, I'm surprised you've opted for Sci-Fi. Yes, there's great SF stories out there that do just that, but as a genre in literature, it seems to me it's always been more focussed on ideas than on the small and personal (especially in short stories, which is what I read of the genre the most). As for (old-style, heroic) fantasy, the emphasis in bad fiction (or, maybe I should say: the fantasy fiction I don't like) is just on the "epic" or the world, while the best of that kind of fantasy fiction focusses on both.

So I'd say both genres are able to create that kind of fiction and to my mind, fantasy has the edge in the way the genre is built up (but also has way more pulp, making the good fiction harder to find).

And yeah, Saje, I guess you're right about Lewis. I've always found that aproach to faith very troublesome in itself, so I guess that it's not so much the fiction, but the message I don't like in the Narnia books.
catherine: I'm not quite sure I'd agree that CS Lewis is more subtle... I haven't read the books in a long time (since I was 9 or 10) but even then I remember thinking about the tree that the wardrobe was made from reminded me very much of the tree of knowledge, and then the sacrifice of Aslan too. In fact, now I'm better equipped to read something like that, it'd probably be worth revisiting (not to mention that my memories of it are probably inaccurate). As far as HDM goes, the "message" certainly was stronger in the final book, I mean.. pre-emptive absolution, and the angels and the Authority were all out there as actual plot points, but they didn't feel forced to me, they felt like a natural extension to the storyline.

GVH: I certainly thought "What would Lyra do?" as I was growing up, and I think that actually served me quite well. The message at the end, And on the fandom note, I also ended up getting quite heavily involved in forums, moderating and the like, and had my own fansite (which was pretty, but empty on actual helpful content) and everything, which I was quite pleased at at the time, being around 13 years old, but now I just look back at it and cringe, but there you go.
I was exaggerating and you're right of course, MattK, the "message" of the Narnia books is pretty in-your-face. I managed to miss it completely, because I read them when I was very little (I didn't know what a wardrobe was and I called Lucy Lucky) and I remember being outraged by Aslan's resurrection. It was the first time a book had broken my heart, and to have him just "come back to life" felt cheap and unearned. Miss the point, much? ;) But I read HDM just a year or so ago, and found myself getting the point just a little too much and a little too often. But I don't know why I'm harping on it (yes I do, giving up coffee is hard) because I thought it was a wonderful, thrilling, beautifully written trilogy.

And that's very cool that you made your own site when you were 13!

ETA just to be clear, "miss the point much?" is referring to me, not you. Or anybody else. Oh, caffeine...

[ edited by catherine on 2008-07-31 15:37 ]
So I'd say both genres are able to create that kind of fiction and to my mind, fantasy has the edge in the way the genre is built up (but also has way more pulp, making the good fiction harder to find).

Well, as I say, i've not read anywhere near as much fantasy as I have sci-fi GVH so there'll be a healthy dose of self-selection going on but the sci-fi books I read as a youngster (e.g. the 'Foundation' sequence) sometimes had the entire universe as their canvas and that just seems more epic (course, the 'humanity' aspect did often suffer but as we both agree, that's true of both sci-fi and fantasy - we're talking about when it's done well).

And the "sense of wonder" is surely partly about epic sweeps, either through space or time (or space-time ;). Books like 'Ringworld' or 'The Stars My Destination' just seem "bigger" than the fantasy i've read. Big Dumb Objects can't help but make a story feel epic and sci-fi is absolutely chock full of them. Fantasy on the other hand tends to have epic battles etc. but then historical fiction has plenty of those too (I used to religiously read the 'Sharpe' books for instance - since the thread's about a series of books that might be fun but don't exactly have much in the way of character depth ;) - and you'd see tens of thousands of combatants in those quite often).
I'm really enjoying the conversation. I hadn't ever read HDM but from the conversation it sounds amazing. I'm going to to get it right now :D Thanks guys.
I felt exactly the way catherine did about HDM.
But for me, the Narnia books became so message-heavy at the end that I stopped reading. (Of course it might of been because I didn't like the message.)
Guess this is falling off the page now...
I've really enjoyed reading this thread.
Yeah, I've really enjoyed this thread as well. Got a whole lot of books to look out for now too. :)

As far as sci-fi and fantasy goes, the biggest problem I have is with things that feel like the author is making them up as they go along, and deus ex machina too. Sci-fi done right removes this opportunity, because you're constrained by the laws of science (some people break an odd law, but the rest are still there), and that's why I lean more towards sci-fi than fantasy. But really, as long as the author is disciplined, both can be equally good.

And catherine, I'm with you on the caffeine thing. I gave it up for two months (just before exams too, silly me! :) and now I'm back drinking it again during the holidays..) and I had a migraine for three days because of it.

[ edited by MattK on 2008-07-31 16:57 ]
While The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe was one of the most magical reading experiences of my life at a very young age, I do remember being deeply disturbed when Susan, one of the sisters, is dismissed (and banished from the books) later in the series because she has taken an interest in lipstick and boys. Even as a little girl who was far from understanding the fuss about lipstick and boys, I found that a harsh condemnation. It's one of the only things I remember about those later books.

I hated, hated, hated the end of Narnia and particularly how Susan was dealt with. I thought it was ridiculous, especially for a children's story. Hated it. Did I say it enough times? ;)
Yay for the Tamora Pierce love, the HDM love, and the general nostalgia of YA Lit. Twilight who?

To comment on the article, this is the first glimpse of Twilight (not counting the many actual physical glimpses of it all over bookshelves) I've had of the book, and it sounds frankly horrifying. Not so much content-wise (though...bleck), but the stats on its popularity, when it sounds like any not-too-special YA romance novel, is kind of freaky.

Usually I'm all for the fantasy genre getting more recognition (and was a huge Harry Potter fan, etc.), but sometimes picturing all that newly discovered obsessive fan energy emerging 'round the world is kind of alarming.

Wish it had a better outlet.

[If I ever read the Twilight books, I'll try to throw in a more qualified opinion. This is just me musing.]
Really? You guys didn't like Narnia? I'm a bit surprised (well, not really. I always seem to be behind the curve here).

GVH, comparing the books to the movies of Narnia... I would say the books are better. But that's because I like fluidity of the message, and I don't feel that in the movies.

And, regarding Narnia books, I'm a person who lives under a rock (did at the time, literally), so I didn't really feel the pounding of the message... or probably didn't even get the message itself, for that matter. I read them for the first time a couple of years ago (in preparation for the movie, ironically), and I really didn't see the ending coming. Don't know how I feel about it, honestly, but I was shocked.

And the handling of the older-sister Susan? I've always felt the books were handled from the view of the younger children, even if it isn't 1st person narrative. The writer seemed to have more protection of the innocent, and slanted the story to suit that. I mean, if you've read them all, you can definitely see how this telling of the ending would soften the blow of what occurs, but not necessarily dumb it down either.

Whoever is still reading this and doesn't like Narnia, could you share your opinion with me (in full) so I can get a better idea of why you don't like it (and I did)?
I don't know if there needs to be a spoiler warning, since it's an old book...

I suppose I should mention that I'm not religious, so that may or may not affect my opinion, but it wouldn't be on purpose. The story just pissed me off. Susan is basically banished because she grew up and didn't believe anymore? So her entire family, including their parents, die in a huge crash and all go to "heaven"? And she's just left there alone, not even mentioned again and no one cares? WTF? What kind of message is that?
Ah, "The Problem of Susan."

C.S. Lewis himself in his Letters to Children has written that it was left an open question whether Susan would finally end up joining her family in the real Narnia - but I get why it's upsetting.

I loved The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe the best of the series - probably because I adored Aslan, and we are the closest to Aslan when we meet him in it - but I liked the other books, too. I read them at so young an age and with zero info about them and I had no idea of them having any specific "message" - and finding it out years later as an adult didn't affect my enjoyment at all.

I guess as a kid I sortof thought about Aslan and Narnia the way I thought about both Grahame's and E. Nesbitt's and other writers' gods and goddesses and great beyonds and other worlds - that each fictional world had its own kind of religious system, which you "believed in" while you read and were under the influence of the book, just as you believed in the reality of the characters and their physical worlds - but that you left it behind when you emerged from the book. No one "other world" of any particular creation seemed to me to be truer than any other, nor did I feel particularly preached at by one more than another.

Except I'd still love to believe in Aslan... and mourn that I can't.
QuoterGal, I find it interesting you mention The Problem of Susan, because I actually have a copy of Fragile Things right next to me on my desk now, with the intention of reading just that story (completely unrelated to this thread too). Yay for coincidences, hey?

I also share the Aslan love, to a point. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth thinking about the "message" of the books and what Aslan respresented, but I still love him. And for the record, I have nothing against CS Lewis either, because he's written some great things on the subject of criticism, and the Narnia books were wonderfully imaginative too, but I just can't support the way he used them to push Christian propaganda onto children.
I'm not a Christian, or anything really for that matter, but I didn't have the bitter taste. When I read it, I didn't tie it with Christianity, more of a "believe in me" sense that to be in that world, you needed to believe. Susan didn't, and that's why she no longer existed in that world. But, just because I'm ignorant to the Christian propaganda, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Personally I thought the books were to encourage children to believe in their fairy tales, and to not let the real world inhibit their dreams (until they're ready). Susan was ready, and she left that child-like state, in my mind.

That's probably why the death scene was a shocker to me. To believe that fully, with such tragic events, and to choose fantasy over reality... I was astounded.
Check that out! August 1st, right on the dot! Sweet!
catherine wrote
On the topic of good YA, the best I've read as an adult are Megan Whalen Turner's trilogy, The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and the King of Attolia. The first one is really good, but the second and third are amazing.

Then you will be glad to know that she is starting a fourth book when she finds the time to write. I was at a Children's Lit conference at which both Turner and Pullman spoke, among others, and at the wine and cheese reception afterwards, she and I talked a bit. She works, she's raising kids - she's busy. But she wants to write that next book.
piggiesfly yay said:

Ok, I admit it. I've read and liked all three books and plan on getting the fourth Saturday at midnight. The romantic in me loves the star-crossed lovers tale and I do like that Bella is supposed to be an average girl. I get tired of the whole kick-ass girl thing sometimes.


If average girls are like Bella, I weep for the future of womankind.

MattK said:

Oh, and since they seem hard to get hold of, the best place I've found to buy obscure/out-of-print books is abebooks.com -- it's like Amazon Marketplace, just specifically for more obscure books, and it's helped me when both Amazon and eBay have failed on numerous occasions.


I got The Armageddon Blues, Emerald Eyes, the Long Run, and The Last Dancer by Daniel Keys Moran through abebooks.com for only $50, and that's a DAMN good price considering that these out-of-print books usually go for about $300 apiece on Amazon and Ebay.

ShanshuBugaboo said:

And besides, is it always the duty of entertainment to "delight and instruct?"


But the books DO instruct. Unfortunately, they instruct young girls that life is only worth living if you have a perfect man, that you don't need to have your own life, that it is acceptable for a partner in a relationship to actively forbid you from activities as if he or she is in power rather than a partner in a relationship, etc, etc, etc... It's harmful. I still run into people who believe that women with money is a sin. I still talk to girls who say they don't want to earn more than their husband because they don't want their husband to feel like they are inferior, because they don't want to damage his sense of pride. What about OUR sense of pride? And the answer to that was that her pride came from having a husband that could and did take care of them.

Jess on Active Voice actually did a spot-on review which points out so much of what bothers me.

I LOVE Megan Whalen's books!

I do not remember them dying at the end of The Last Battle. What the crap? I have to reread them all now! Anybody else consider The Magician's Nephew to be their favorite in the series?

Love His Dark Materials. I idolized Lyra as a kid.

Also, this comic is hilarious.

My list of favorite young adult books that haven't been mentioned...
The Giver
Gathering Blue
Among The Forgotten (or Hidden)
Hatchet (and all the sequels and whatnot)
The Redwall Books
The Dark Is Rising sequence (And no, I did NOT see that movie)
Anything by Lois Lowry
Island of the Dolphins
The Music of Dolphins (not the same author of Island of the Dolphins)
Howl's Moving Castle
A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer
The Secret of Nimh
Seal Child
Madeleine L'Engle's books (A Wrinkle in Time, etc)
Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart Trilogy, starting with The Ruby in the Smoke
Tuck Everlasting
A Little Princess
Zoe Rising by Pam Conrad
Juniper
Wise Child
Julie of the Wolves
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Kelsey's Raven
Number The Stars (Okay, pretty much everything by Lois Lowry)
Where The Red Fern Grows
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Holes
Caddie Woodlawn
Sarah, Plain and Tall
Walk Two Moons
Harriet The Spy
The Golden Goblet
The Midwife's Apprentice
Esperanza Rising
Beyond the Burning Time

I don't know how many of these would be in the Young Adults section, but I read all of these as a kid. I ate these up. Great books.

[ edited by ShamelessSingingRennie on 2008-08-02 22:37 ]

[ edited by ShamelessSingingRennie on 2008-08-14 14:31 ]

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