Beauty & the Beast

By Megan Willome

28 tips for appreciating the "Twilight" series

Meet Edward Cullen, a kinder, gentler vampire, & his lovesick girlfriend, Bella.

I’ve never fancied vampires. I’ve never seen the television series “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.” I’ve never read any of Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles.” I’ve never seen a Dracula movie. However, it seems every eighth-grade girl in town is seriously into the “Twilight” series by Stephenie Meyer. Increasingly, quite a few of my adult friends are fans, too. What did they know that I did not? I decided to take a bite out of the bestselling series.

Before “New Moon” comes to movie theaters November 20, familiarize yourself with the saga. Here are 28 “Twilight” tips — one for each day of the lunar month.

Vampires Forever
Vampire legends are nothing new. They appear in tales from countries all over the world. The European legends date back to Vlad the Impaler from 15th century Transylvania. In 1819, John Polidori wrote the first vampire story in English called “The Vampyre.” That story influenced Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, who wrote about a female vampire in “Carmilla.” Those two stories significantly predate the most famous vampire story, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Read It
People are actually reading the books, even though the series spans more than 2,500 pages in all. Nevertheless, the American Library Association named “Twilight” in its “Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults” & its “Top Ten Books for Reluctant Readers.” Once you read the first, you’ll want to read the next three, possibly all in the same week.

Destination Vampire
Since the series debuted, 8,000 people each month visit Forks, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula. Meyer picked that location as the setting for the novels because it turned up on an internet query as the wettest spot in the United States. Obviously, if you’re a vampire, you don’t want to live in Miami Beach. “Twilight” fans can hike in the real Hoh Rain Forest, but they’re more likely to visit “Twilight”-themed shops.

Adolescent Angst
My favorite line from “Twilight” is in Chapter 15 when Edward says to Bella, “And you’re worried, not because you’re headed to meet a houseful of vampires, but because you think those vampires won’t approve of you, correct?” That quote sums up how I felt most of my teenaged days. Maybe your daughter feels the same way.

Merchandising Opportunity
The books were only the beginning. There’s also the illustrated movie companion, the Barbie Bella and Edward dolls, the “Twilight” board game, the “Twilight” soundtrack and the “Twilight” winter set with matching hat, glove and scarf. If you’re a fan, you’re salivating right now, like the vampire you wish you were. If you’re puzzled, use this list to make someone’s Christmas wish come true.

Marry Late
Bella’s parents, Renée and Charlie, married right after high school and later divorced. Bella doesn’t want to make the same mistake, and her mother doesn’t want her to marry before the age of 30. However, if Edward is Bella’s true love, then she wants to tie the knot with him as soon as possible, even if it alienates her parents. This dilemma is as old as Romeo and Juliet. Speaking of which…

There’s Shakespeare
In “Twilight,” Bella studies “Macbeth.” Meyer counts “Romeo and Juliet” as a major influence on “New Moon.” The book includes a lengthy discussion of the character Paris, virtually unremembered outside university English departments. Meyer used “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as inspiration to the fourth book, “Breaking Dawn,” which also includes elements from “The Merchant of Venice.”

Vampires vs. Werewolves
“New Moon” contains a conflict between vampires and werewolves. If you can’t have fun with that plotline then you aren’t trying very hard. Besides, haven’t you always wanted to know what life is like inside a wolf pack? It might give you insight into your own canines.

Deep Questions
In our busy lives, we need to pause to consider questions of eternal significance, such as how does a werewolf become a werewolf? Is a werewolf the victim of a savage bite, such as Remus Lupin of the “Harry Potter” series? Or is Jacob of “Twilight” a shape-shifter who just happens to shift into a wolf? Can girls be werewolves? Inquiring minds want to know.

Change Me
One of the plot points in “New Moon” is that love irreversibly alters us. My parents have been married 42 years — more than four decades of mutual influence over personalities, movies, vacation spots, hobbies and the like. We don’t all get special powers when we love someone, but we do all change.

Sick Secrets
You may have heard the saying, “secrets keep you sick.” Nevertheless, most of us can’t resist keeping secrets. Often those secrets protect people we love, especially our families. Sometimes those secrets create danger for our loved ones. Secrets play a vital role in the series, with almost every character keeping secrets from someone else.

Abstinence Rules
Remember the good old days, when the movie couple kissed and the lights dimmed and the rest was left to your imagination? If so, then the “Twilight” series will surprise you. In an April 24, 2008 Time magazine article titled “Stephenie Meyer: A New J.K. Rowling?” writer Lev Grossman referred to the passion of the book as “the erotics of abstinence.” Yes, parents, it’s sex-free until marriage, and even the post-nuptial descriptions are restrained.

Clean Language
The “Twilight series” is practically a clean-zone when it comes to language. There are no curse words in the books that don’t appear daily in traditional print venues such as newspapers and magazines. Remember, these are Young Adult novels, and the young adult category abides by certain rules.

Girl Power
Some people see Bella as the quintessential damsel in distress. I don’t think today’s young women would accept that kind of heroine, much less create fan clubs in her honor. To see where the series is headed, look no further than the cover of the final book, “Breaking Dawn.” It shows a chessboard, symbolizing the choices Bella makes to turn her from pawn to queen.

Food Fetish
Meet the Cullens, one happy vampire clan with no need for their sparkling kitchen. They give an entirely new meaning to the word “vegetarian.” Edward’s family restrains from sucking human blood, preying on animals instead. Following this diet takes centuries of discipline. It’s a good thing vampires are immortal (mostly).

Drama Queen
Perhaps you, like me, have a special girl in your life who is a complete klutz, like Bella. Normally this quirk is a source of frustration. In Bella’s case a simple paper cut can incite frenzy among certain members of her boyfriend’s family. Oh, the drama!

It’s Biblical (sort of)
“Twilight” begins with Genesis 2:17 and a reference to the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “New Moon” considers what God, heaven and hell have to do with vampires. “Eclipse” contains a discussion of whether one of the Ten Commandments supersedes another. Although I wouldn’t call it Christian fiction, the series has appeal for people of faith.

Romance Retold
Meyer admits to stealing from more than the Bard. “Twilight” has parallels to Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” “Eclipse” is partially based on Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights.” Do yourself a favor, “Twilight” fans. Now that your romance meter is up in the stratosphere, read these romance classics, as well as others Meyer mentions as general influences, including “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë and the “Anne of Green Gables” series by L.M. Montgomery.

Daddy-Daughter Thing
Malia Obama has read them with her father, President Obama. I know two ministers who have bonded with their tween or teen daughters over the series. It’s hard to talk about love and its consequences. Sometimes a story can be a good vehicle to discuss personal matters.

Love triangle
A love triangle develops as the series progresses. This triangle is not a nice, neat equilateral triangle. It’s a scalene triangle — no sides of equal length. If you had to choose between the moon (Edward) and the sun (Jacob), which would you choose? Sometimes we fall head over heels in love and sometimes we inch into love slowly. Both experiences are valid, albeit confusing when they occur simultaneously.

Auto Appeal
The cars driven by the “Twilight” characters were not thrown in willy-nilly. Meyer has two brothers who are car buffs, and every vehicle was chosen with their approval. A red 1953 Chevy pickup. A silver Volvo S60R. A black Mercedes S55 AMG. A yellow Porsche 911 Turbo. A red 1986 Volkswagen Rabbit. A pair of motorcycles — a Honda and a Harley. Finally, a Mercedes S600 and a Ferrari F430. Don’t tell me “Twilight” isn’t for boys, too.

Teen Thing
When have teenagers not been obsessed with death? They think they’re immortal, yet they obsessively dwell on their own mortality. During the “Twilight” series, characters will recklessly put themselves in danger. They will even consider suicide. Sounds like every teenager I’ve ever known.

Bad Boys
What is it with good girls and bad boys? In my generation, it was Sandy falling for Danny in “Grease.” In “Twilight,” it’s Bella’s preference for mythical boyfriends. Let’s face it, girls; we like a little danger in our romance. “Twilight” offers the ultimate danger — death — with the ultimate thrill —
true love.

Special Gifts
In addition to super-strength and super-speed, many of the “Twilight” vampires have special gifts. Sometimes those gifts make the characters feel isolated. Sometimes those gifts enable them to help others. Sometimes those gifts become liabilities. During the series, Bella learns to appreciate and use her own talents.

Monster Madness
As we grow up, we learn to admit our faults. In “Eclipse,” Bella wonders whether she is like the character Cathy in “Wuthering Heights” — a person who hurts others by being passive. Bella even questions whether she, not Edward or Jacob, is the real monster. It’s rare to find a book that honestly examines the darker side of human nature.

Live Eternally
Alas, the only way to eternal youth is as a vampire. Even if you never receive the immortal bite, you will be faced with vampires everywhere you look in popular culture. No amount of garlic or petitions will eliminate them. Whether it’s the Count from “Sesame Street” or the empousa from the “Percy Jackson” series, vampires are here to stay. Be nice to them.

Classical Taste
There is something irresistible about a man at the piano. Edward not only collects music, he composes it. Be still my heart! While writing this article, I could not resist cranking up the classical music for atmosphere.

Fantasy Nerds
For those of us who love nothing more than curling up with a book about another world, the “Twilight” series provides a wonderful blend of fantasy and reality. The idea that another world is right around the corner — through a wardrobe or aboard Platform 9 ¾ — is irresistible to people like me. In Chapter 12 of “New Moon,” Bella wonders, “Did this mean every impossible fairy tale was grounded somewhere in absolute truth?” For fantasy nerds like me, I hope the answer is yes.

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