Why Twilight Still Matters

Could I really justify discussing the polarizing book that is Twilight three sequels and five blockbuster movies later? After all, what could I say about Twilight that hasn’t been already swooned over, fought over, lambasted, and treasured a thousand times over? Yet, when I first began brainstorming with my editor, Christina Fifer, about the idea of blogging on my website, one of the original things I made absolutely clear to her was, “I have to discuss Twilight… I can’t be the author of a relatable Young Adult Series like The Violet Hour without people knowing where I stand on Twilight.” 

“You’re right,” she said. “It may be a little risky, but you’re right… just as you were right nearly a decade ago when you badgered me to read the book, quizzed me to ensure I made it through, and notably had me accompany you to Walmart for a midnight release of the New Moon DVD.”

At that time, Christina was certain the world (and I) had gone mad: this large-print tome was being borrowed from teenage daughters, passed around like a holy relic, and pushed like a miracle drug. Friends from our inner-circle who proudly claimed they hadn’t read a book since high school were devouring 500+ page novels in one sleepless-night. And, wanting more. Stephen King famously criticized Meyers for being a poor writer and at the same time, she had topped the New York Times Best Seller list for 137 straight weeks.

I was and still am squarely on Team Edward, commonly referring to him as “my boyfriend.” I own the eBooks (just purely for displaying on my Kindle bookshelf), the hardcovers, and the softcovers of each book in the series and have even recently obtained the White Collection boxset. I also proudly owned and insisted on wearing a Robert Pattinson T-shirt. Christina, however, was bashfully loyal to that small bibliophile-segment who stuck their head out of another book just long enough to be sincerely happy people were excited about reading again, even if they had started a Twi-hard cult.

This October marks the 10th Anniversary of Twilight's release and yes, we can still justify talking about it because it wasn't short-term madness but a game-changer.

There likely isn't a work more different from Twilight when it comes to writing style than Alan Ginsberg's Howl. The Twilight Saga is young adult, romantic as it emotionally triumphs, and spans 591,434 pages of pure supernatural fiction. The full story is longer, by the way, than War and Peace. Conversely, Howl is not safe for even adults, a sharp painful sickening wail that stretches a mere 112 lines and was meant to be sputtered in a jerky rhythm on the stage and is not appropriate for cozy-up-with-a-warm-mug rainy day pleasure reading. Personally, reading Howl leaves me wanting to take a hot shower and watch a Disney movie to recover, but it still commands my respect: Howl is, after all, considered one of America's greatest literary contributions.

Surface and content differences aside, I dare to put up Twilight beside Howl. Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s words above were spoken before the San Francisco court in 1957 where Howl was put on trial. It was a poem so heavily criticized and simultaneously so infectious with fans, that unbelievers brought it before a court to ban it. According to critics, Ginsberg could not write, the text was obscene, it was a bad influence on young adult readers, and it portrayed unhealthy sexuality. And then, nearly fifty years later, Meyers was also put on trial in the media outlet courts: Anne Rice, author of The Vampire Chronicles blasted Meyers on Facebook for not being able to write, news outlets heavily criticized Twilight for glorifying abusive relationships, and it was widely panned as a negative influence on young adults, specifically teenage women. Just as the seriousness of Howl was parodied, Twilight likewise became a commonplace punchline, a lesser appreciated form of flattery. The times and the court room may have changed, but not the outrage.

Yet, the criticism of both works doesn't begin to overshadow the long-standing impact. Both works today are still polarizing with extremes on either side of the equation. Everyone that has come into contact has a strong opinion and you cannot be taken seriously in the poetry realm without knowing Howl and you cannot be taken seriously in Young Adult literature field without defending or tearing down Twilight. No other Young Adult book can claim such an honor because no other Young Adult book has commanded such literary longevity. 

Quite easily, Twilight is right on track to stand the test of time and thus, criticism aside, arguably has literary merit. Ten years later, Twilight ranks consistently in the top 100 in Amazon.com sales boasting over 7,000 reviews, tops Goodreads.com Listopia's in nearly all notable categories, and holds the achievement of selling 3.7 million copies of Breaking Dawn in the first 24 hours of release.

Young Adult books have boomed since the Twilight Saga and publishing houses are pointedly looking for, "the next Twilight." Twilight is the litmus test of which nearly all young adult novels published today are held against, either being "like Twilight" or "not like Twilight." Novels about Twilight have added a critical peer review element to the novelty, such as my recent read The Psychology of Twilight (review coming soon!), which added critical layers that focused on race relationships, Darwinism, and survival instincts. Academia have taken note and I recall years ago reading without surprise that Cambridge University was teaching Twilight alongside classic literature. In 2013, Forbes.com commented on the Twilight impact, claiming that off the bookshelf, it had additionally revitalized the cinema landscape proving Twilight and its respective sequels finally and indisputably proved that there was a real and potent market for blockbuster franchises explicitly aimed at, and unquestionably about, women.” 

Yes, it has been a decade - should we still be talking about Twilight? The simple answer is yes, because Twilight is standing the test of time. It is a groundbreaking work which revitalized and continues to influence an entire Young Adult genre, endures academic fascination, has outpaced criticism, and whose first book alone not only sold over 100 million copies but refuses to hop off the bestsellers list. With the 10th Anniversary approaching later this month, Twilight can no longer be pushed aside as a craze; it is enduring, and is actively transcending from fan-driven obsession to literature. If you love Young Adult writing, you don't necessarily need to be on Team Edward or Team Jacob, but you do need to recognize the literary merit and join Team Twilight.