Some books start conversations. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga has started lots of conversations.

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2006) is the second book of a series called the Twilight Saga. In this novel Bella, the main character, faces deep depression when her vampire boyfriend, Edward, leaves her because he fears he is too dangerous for her. But he didn’t just break up with her. No, he ran away with his whole family, far away. He told her he would make it like he never existed, and he succeeded. Everything Bella had to remind her of him was mysteriously gone. With no trace of him, or any of the vampire clan, Bella falls into a deep depression: screaming in her sleep, staying in her room all day, and ignoring anyone on the outside.
When all hope seems lost for Bella, her old friend Jacob comes and makes the pain of losing Edward slowly fade. Bella and Jake get quite close and soon hang out practically everyday and along the way, Bella discovers a secret about Jake that he didn’t even know about for the longest time. Jacob is a werewolf. But then one night, Alice, Edwards “sister”, shows up to tell Bella that Edward is going to kill himself because he thinks she is dead! Bella must then decide whether to stay with Jacob, her new found interest with his toned body, shaggy hair, dare devil and fun spirited attitude, or go and stop her first love Edward from killing himself. (Katrina in grade eight)

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (Little Brown Books for Young Readers 2007) is the third romantic and mysterious book in the Twilight Saga. In this novel, Bella and Edward face the fact that Victoria, the partner of a vampire whom Edward killed, is out to get Bella to even the score. They soon discover that Victoria has created an army to attack the entire Cullen Clan so getting to Bella will be easier. The vampires then must join together with the werewolves to protect Bella and fight the newborn vampires Victoria has created. But where will Bella be safe? The first place Victoria will look is her house, and the Cullen’s big open house is not a great plan either. So Edward and Jacob, Bella’s werewolf friend, come up with a plan to take Bella up to the top of a huge mountain and along the way, attempt to put Victoria off track by leaving Bella’s scent in the wrong direction. But will it be enough? (Katrina in grade eight)

Anna, in grade eight, reflected on the vampire genre: We all know the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer, but what makes vampire romance novels so popular? It seems that since this series has been released, many previously unknown authors are popping up with books on the same theme: vampires, mystical creatures and romance. Something else that you and I have probably probably noticed is that young females are the ones picking up these books. I mean, what’s not appealing about the forbidden love of a human girl and vampire boy? One factor that I think makes the novels very attractive for teens and young adults is that the female characters in the novels are very close to the reader’s age and may even be going through the similar things. Everyone has their own struggles, so the young women who are reading these books can most likely relate in some way. Personally, sometimes I even want to be the main character, to have her life and be a part of her insane world. So if vampires are what the female generation is crazy about, what’s next?

Yasmine is in grade eight. She responded to this question:  “What is the author trying to say about life in this novel?”
I think the message that Stephenie Meyer is trying to convey is that people can get along even if they are from different worlds. Bella is a teenager who moves to a small town to live with her father. While she is there, she falls in love with a boy who has a secret. Later on in the story, Bella notices Edward has unique abilities. He is able to stop a car with his bare hands, he can read minds and he can survive without eating. Edward is a vampire, and Bella is a human. However, they manage to have a relationship despite their differences. Throughout the novel, Stephenie Meyer shows that you don’t have to be of the same race, religion or culture in order to get along.

Natalie is in grade eight. This is how she describes the novel:
“Is it safe for vampires and humans to be in love? In the novel Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, there is one major conflict: Edward and Bella’s forbidden love. Edward Cullen, a vampire, and Bella, a human, are in love but they live in totally separate worlds. It is dangerous for Bella to be around the Cullens, especially because of Bella’s strong scent and her blood that the vampires crave. When James, Victoria and Laurent unexpectedly arrive in Forks,  becomes a target. James likes challenges and wants to kill Bella but the Cullens fight for their lives to defend her. The world of vampires is a very dangerous place, especially for humans, but Bella takes the chance just so she can be with Edward.”

Rachel who is grade seven said that Twilight “is a hard book to put down. It’s, like, romantic and adventurous at the same time. And the book is, like, a thousand times better than the movie.”

Aisa in grade seven said Twilight “blends romance and fear into one great saga. It is a great book for girls who need a person to dream about. With Twilight, it just get you hooked and with all the rest, well, they are the icing on the cake.”

Adriana in grade seven said that her parents won’t allow her to read the Twilight series. She said that it’s because they are a Christian family and that they don’t read books about vampires. “There are a lot of other books that aren’t about vampires that are interesting to read, so I’d encourage kids to read more valuable life-lesson books,” she said.

Raven, another seventh grader, said that “it’s a really good series but students younger than grade six shouldn’t be allowed to read them.” She explained that her nine-year-old sister read all of the books and then had nightmares.

Andrea said that she liked “the writing structure” of the books which have “good descriptions that build up to the climax.” She noted that they are written in the voice of a teenager.

Sydney said she thought “Breaking Dawn was a good book, even though there is sex and violence . . . girls in grade seven, I think, are mature enough to read it. Also, I think the whole series is a good life experience and just fun to read.”

Luisa, in grade six, has read all the books in the series. Well, she’s just finishing Breaking Dawn now. She likes the series “because the writing makes you feel like you’re right there in the book.”

Her friend Chelsea said that there might be a bit too much sex and violence in the last book, but she added that there “isn’t really a description of it, just sort of the idea. It actually says in the fourth book that they go into the ocean and wake up in the bed. Nothing is told about what happens in between.”

Luisa and Chelsea talked more about the series. The first one, Twilight, “shows that love has no boundaries.” The second, New Moon, shows that “if someone you love, goes away, part of you goes away with them.” The third, Eclipse, “it shows how much you would go through to protect someone you love.”

Isaac, in grade 7, provided the male perspective on this series: “Almost every girl, and even some guys, in Middle School has probably read Twilight. Written by Stephenie Meyer, the book tells a tale of vampires and humans falling in love. At first glance, this might seem like a miss for most people but after the first couple chapters, the plot is really set in motion. It’s your typical Romeo and Juliet spin off, except this Romeo likes nothing more than blood; fortunately, he has chosen to drink animal blood rather than the human variety. Some of the writing is a bit dramatic, and the descriptions of bedroom scenes give enough to disturb although leaving a lot to the imagination. As a guy, it’s a little hard to enjoy this book, as it seems to be aimed at a girl audience. It’s like going to see a chick flick with friends: hard to enjoy, but endearing nonetheless.”

Mikaela, grade 8, wrote this review:
Breaking Dawn, by Stephanie Meyer the fourth book in the beloved Twilight series is just as good as the first three but I would not reccomend it for everyone, it should be okay for grade 7 and up but is a little graphic for grade 6’s.
There is quite a bit of violence, and unappropreate content including some talk about sex. In the book Bella and Edward go on a honey moon and come home with a little surprise! In the “birth” scene there is a lot of talk about some pretty graphic mental images and it is not for the “faint of heart”.
In all it is a very good book and I could not take my eyes off it, but it is not for everyone including the squeamish and the immature. Stephanie has hit the nail on thre head once again and I quite enjoy her books but this one I think would be enjoyed more by the people who can look past the gross/mature content and enjoy the book without getting grossed out.
Twilight, a novel told from the point of view of Bella, a seventeen-year-old girl infatuated with a vampire, is suitable for more mature readers. Here are a couple of sentences: “I couldn’t think of anything, except that he was touching me” (p. 276). “Perhaps he would hesitate to prolong the moment, that ideal moment of anticipation, sometimes better than the kiss itself” (p. 282).
There are other indications that this novel is not for young students. Physical attraction is associated with the possibility of physical violence: Edward is a vampire who has to resist biting Bella. She, meanwhile, lies to her parents, speaks disparagingly about them and generally behaves not unlike many self-centred adolescents; in fact, that self-centredness is why many students laughingly said they liked the story: Bella reminded them of themselves.
While the plot line moves forward, Bella does not. Her character does not change in a positive way. She doesn’t grow up.  More mature readers are capable of detaching from what they read, of enjoying a storyline without thinking that they might like to emulate the main character, Younger readers, inexperienced with the relationship issues in the story, are are less likely to have the ability to critically evaluate this novel.
Middle school students with whom I spoke did show an ability to evaluate Twilight and the other books in the series. One seventh grader said that “students younger than grade six shouldn’t be allowed to read the stories,” adding that her nine-year-old sister read all of the books and then had nightmares. In fact, various eighth graders said that Breaking Dawn, the last book in the series, was not suitable for students in grade six and seven.
Two sixth graders who read the first three books said that the physical details of Edward’s and Bella’s relationship didn’t bother them and that instead they noticed these themes: Twilight, “shows that love has no boundaries.” The second book, New Moon, shows that “if someone you love goes away, part of you goes away with them.” The third, Eclipse, “shows how much you would go through to protect someone you love.”
A seventh grader summed up the opinions of many students: Twilight “blends romance and fear into one great saga. It is a great book for girls who need a person to dream about.”
The School Library Journal annotation on the Amazon website recommends Twilight for grades nine and up. (S. Rosen)

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