A Look Back on Twilight: Vampires, Romance, and Nostalgia

Madison Donenfeld, Literature Review Editor

“That’s the beautiful thing about being human: Things change.”

When the first book of the Twilight saga was released on October 5, 2005, teenagers and adults alike ran to their nearest Barnes & Noble to purchase the new book that was seemingly taking over the world. Written by Stephenie Meyer, Twilight quickly became a cultural phenomenon, captivating readers with its resurgence of the vampire/human romance trope. 

Twilight is undeniably one of the most popular romance novels of all time. The book chronicles the “epic love” between seventeen year old teenager Bella Swan, and one-hundred-and-four year old vampire Edward Cullen (age is just a number!). Even though Edward is in the body of a seventeen year old, mentally, he is one-hundred-four, creating a maturity and power imbalance within the relationship and bringing up quite a few…red flags among the readers. The story begins with Bella moving away from her mother to a rainy town in Washington to live with her father. Upon starting at a new, seemingly boring high school, Bella meets the beautiful, mystifying Edward Cullen. Unfortunately for her, she draws the attention of the gorgeous man, who just so happens to have a thirst for blood – her blood. After a bit of back and forth, awkward tension, and some arguments, Bella and Edward become friends and eventually start dating. Soon after, Bella discovers that Edward is a vampire. Luckily for him, she doesn’t seem to mind. At all. In fact, Bella seems to like the fact that Edward is a vampire.

The pair spend most of the novel either falling in love, risking their lives, or fighting with each other. Against Edward’s better judgment, he ends up falling for Bella, as Bella does for him. For a certain (younger) age group, the book appears romantic, with phrases such as “I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.” and “…so the lion fell in love with the lamb.” But, as I have grown older, the book has become creepy and off-putting. 

When I first read Twilight at about 12 years old, I was absolutely obsessed. The writing style of the book is almost addictive, drawing every reader in. It’s the perfect young-adult, supernatural romance read. It has the vampires, the moody, attractive, overprotective love interest, the “I’m not like others girls” main character, as well as the frustrating love triangle. All of the characters have both likable and unlikable traits. Even though at times Edward is extremely patronizing and just plain annoying, his love for Bella is sweet and pure. Bella, although often cliché, has very relatable moments. She’s a sixteen year old girl going through friendship problems, relationship trouble, and family drama. Despite dating a vampire (and then a werewolf…and then a vampire again), she feels like a real person, whom the audience can relate to.  All of the characters have excellent development throughout the novel, and you can’t help but root for them.

Between the murderous vampires, the drama, and the situations that keep Bella’s life constantly in danger, the book becomes a page turner. It feels impossible to stop reading- you need to know what happens to them. But, after a while, the book gets repetitive and annoying. Bella gets in a bad situation, Edward comes to save her, they kiss and rejoice. Every few chapters, Bella almost dies. At first, the reader worries, biting their nails in stress, but, after the same situation occurs for the 10th time, you know that she will be okay, and so the book loses its suspense.  

As an ex-Twilight fan coming back to this book after a few years, I have realized that it is…not great. Twilight is full of cringey quotes such as “You’re intoxicated by my very presence,” and “‘I’ll always want you.’” It romanticizes a questionable romance (especially considering the insane age gap). The book doesn’t contain any lessons nor deeper meaning, and just feels completely meaningless at times. I didn’t feel like I gained anything from reading it. 

But, although the book is filled with some horrible scenes, and makes you want to throw it across the room most of the time, it does have the perfect mix of tragedy, humor, romance, action, and fantasy. The book is filled with feelings of childhood nostalgia and reminisce of an easier time. While rereading, I found myself enjoying the book, possibly even more than the first time. It is enthralling, romantic and overall very amusing, despite its many flaws. The romance between Edward and Bella is sweet, although saccharine. The novel is clearly meant for teenage girls, but anyone could find something to enjoy within it. Whether it’s through the (shockingly) well-written fight sequences or the supernatural creatures, the book is bound to find a special place in your heart. It’s almost impossible to hate. Is it questionable? Yes. Does it deserve an abundance of criticism? Definitely. But, sometimes, Twilight is the perfect book to stick your fangs into (Get it?). Might as well read the next two!