O Me of Little Faith

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read more. Specifically, to read 12 books. Which sounds like a lame goal, but considering that I spend a lot of my free time writing my own books and working on other writing assignments, is about as do-able as I can manage.

The good news is that, so far, I’m on pace. It’s March. I just finished my fourth book of 2009. And they were long books.

The bad news — at least for some of you, I suspect — is that you might be less than satisfied with the books I read. (Some of you, though, will be thrilled.) Here they are:

1. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
2. New Moon, by Stephenie Meyer
3. Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer
4. Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer

That’s right: I read all four books in the Twilight Saga and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Before I tell you what in the world I was doing engrossing myself in the bestselling series of vampire romance books for teen girls, I first want to acknowledge that I’m probably not in the target demographic. I also want to make it clear that I didn’t wake up on January 1 and decide to read them. I was approached by a publisher sometime in the middle of the month and asked if I was interested in writing a pop-culturish book about vampires, in order to coattail on the whole Twilight phenomenon.

I was skeptical from the beginning — other than a love for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my interest in vampires has been pretty much non-existent. And at the time, I hadn’t read any Anne Rice and was pretty unfamiliar with Twilight. So I decided I’d better start reading in order to make an informed decision on the project.

Ultimately I turned the project down, as vampires didn’t seem to fit within my publishing goals or the “Jason Boyett” brand (to use a marketing term). But once I started reading Twilight, I wanted to finish the series. I made time to finish the series. To steal from Bryan Allain’s “Cannarf” rating system, the books rose above my expectations. I was pleasantly surprised by the strength of the story.

Two things to note:

1. Stephenie Meyer may have been writing YA novels for girls, but she can tell a good story and create a compelling world. I was hooked by the plot and storytelling despite the pulpy writing. I wasn’t drawn in as much by the romantic dreaminess of Edward Cullen as I was by the story arc, which was creative, suspenseful, and fulfilling.

2. No, Stephenie Meyer is not the world’s best writer if you’re judging on technical prowess or the beauty of her prose. It’s pretty boilerplate stuff, as Stephen King has pointed out (in what some might suggest was a pot-kettle-black moment). But she’s successful in that she turned a great idea into a well-plotted series of books written for a specific audience, and she did so with excellence. This led to the incredible word-of-mouth that drove book sales into the millions. And those things, when combined with some good luck, are required for a book to become a runaway bestseller.

Do I recommend them? Sure. I think most open-minded readers will enjoy them, as long as you’re not looking for something high-brow, or literary, or not about mythological creatures with stunning good looks, charisma, and self-control. Probably women more than men. But that’s to be expected, right?

Anyway, that’s my confession. Have you read the Twilight books? If so, what did you think?

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