Archive for the 'books' Category

Why I hate the search for “the next Twilight”

In the world of advertising, “If you liked THAT, you’ll looooove THIS” is a traditional method of getting people’s attention. Sometimes a comparison makes sense, and sometimes it’s a stretch. Once in a while, when one of the two compared things is something you love and the other is something you hate, you’re going to need to blog about it.

The gargantuan success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series makes the search for “the next Twilight” inevitable. It’s hardly controversial for me to say at this point that the Twilight books are very badly written showcases for incredibly questionable themes, such as the idea that if a guy “loves” you enough you should stay with him even though it may literally result in your death (abusive relationships, so romantic!). I truly find them deplorable, even if I can get the appeal to young girls. I read a lot of crap in my day, much of which fed into that same desire girls are taught to have: the longing that a male will find you “special” (ahem….The Valley of Horses. Ladies, I know you know that of which I speak). But none of it was life-saturating on the level of these damn Twilight books/movies.

These concerns have been written about by other people in multiple spaces, and with thoroughness that I can’t match (because I never finished the series, since I refuse to spend any more of my life actually reading those books, BECAUSE THEY PUT ME INTO A RAGE, but I have been told what happens in the series and can I just say, EW, GROSS). I highly recommend the recent series on NPR’s Monkey See blog, wherein they book club their way through the first installment. It is hilarious and also dead-on commentary.

My newest rage—the rage I actually want to speak of today—is the tactic of comparing things to Twilight as an attempt to woo teenage girls into reading something else. As I said, I realize that this is a long-standing method of advertisement. It is also deeply insulting to the intellect of said teenage girls, many of whom, like young me, probably read crap such as Twilight but ALSO will read other things that are not crap, but actual literature. (Or even actual non-fiction! Sometimes girls also like facts, and not just stories! Although stories are so awesome!) Unfortunately, “fans of Twilight” has become its own target demographic, and these girls become defined by their very fandom. (Sidenote: I realize there are many grown women and also probably many males who enjoy Twilight. I’m just talking about YA fiction aimed at and advertised for teenage girls.)

Most of the Twilight-comparison ads I’ve seen so far have at least been for other entries in the supernatural/vampire/werewolf genre. I am sure that some of these books are better than Twilight, and some are not. I roll my eyes at these ads, and feel sympathy for the books’ authors, who probably would prefer people noticed their name, and not Stephenie Meyer’s, on their own damn book. But, such is the nature of genre fiction.

Sadly, though, it seems that now ANY novel for girls featuring a girl as the main character is fair game for the Twilight comparison. Even if it means distorting the very nature of the book! It is just such an advertisement that prompted me to start this post.

The print ad reads “If I Stay by Gayle Forman—a New York Times bestseller soon to be a major motion picture from the studio behind Twilight.” It is accompanied by a photo of the paperback version of the book, which dispenses with the beautiful, spare cover of the hardback edition in favor of a generic picture of a young girl, meant to represent our main character. Above the title on the book cover: “‘Will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer’s TWILIGHT.’ -USA Today”. Below, a question: “what would you do if you had to choose?”

Let’s assume that you are completely unfamiliar with the novel If I Stay, but—since it is nearly impossible not to be—you are aware of the whole Team Edward/Team Jacob piece of the Twilight phenomenon. Might you think that this tagline, “what would you do if you had to choose?” on this novel being touted as appealing to Twilight fans, might refer to a similar situation? “Shall she choose Guy A, or guy B?! I know I want to find out!” This is the clear intention of the people behind this new book cover and this print ad.

In truth, though, the actual dilemma of the main character of this wonderful novel is a bit different than Bella Swan’s. Our heroine, Mia, has been in a horrible car accident. She is in a coma. And the choice she must make is whether to let herself die or to try to live in a world where both of her parents and her little brother have just been killed.

If I Stay is one of the best YA novels I have ever read, and I still read a lot of them. Mia—a classical cellist in love with a punk-rock boy; ever-so-slightly a misfit, but adored by her best friend—feels like a real teen in a way that Bella Swan simply never can. The prose and structure of the story work together to create a three-hanky weeper that is somehow never melodramatic. It is simply beautiful. Every single person I have recommended it to has also loved it. It affected me so much that I am literally tearing up just recalling the experience of reading it.

This book is no Twilight. Comparing it to Twilight is an insult. There must be many, many girls who like both Twilight and If I Stay, and perhaps this line of advertising will help even more discover If I Stay (though, let’s not forget—it was a New York Times bestseller in its hardback edition, with no helpful comparison blurb to be seen). But, I think it is low to frame this novel about sudden and unspeakable loss as a great companion piece to a ridiculous series about obsessive “love” at first sight/scent.

If you see this ad, please know that If I Stay is not a book to be dismissed as “the next Twilight”. It is a masterpiece. Some people do still try to write those for teenage girls.


Other projects:

Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

Grand Dames: collecting sundry achievements of admirable women

The MacGuffin: archive of my days as a film critic

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