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Review: Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined

Copyright Little, Brown and Company

Let me just get something off my chest. Once that’s done, we can move on and the issue at hand may be dealt with. Okay, here it goes. I love Twilight. I love the schmaltzy, hand-holding romance at the centre of the weirdly vampire-themed novel. When I first discovered it, I read the first book five times straight before moving onto the next one. I knew passages by heart for years –and I was mildly devastated when the meadow scene, so integral to the book, was cut and splashed over several scenes in the film. It’s fair to say, I was, and perhaps still am, a Twi-hard.

Good for you, you might think while giving your friend the sideways ‘oh my god she’s so weird’ look. But actually, it was a very important part of my life during my teenage years. So it would only be natural to assume that I would be ecstatic at the recent announcement that Stephenie Meyer, the author of this gargantuan success, had released another book. However, I wasn’t. When I found out that Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined was just a rewriting of the first book but with a gender swap –Bella has now become Beau (short for Beaufort) and Edward has become Edythe – I was both angry and disappointed.

Primarily because the stench of a quick money-making scheme was quite potent. There is nothing new, nothing original about the story. Meyer has admitted that it is exactly the same, apart from the necessary changes to accommodate a gender swap, and a closed ending (that I won’t spoil for you). But this begs the question of why bother?

Meyer claims that it was feminist reactions to Bella’s character that inspired her to make the swap, and that she wanted to point out that a boy could experience the weird and wonderful world of the supernatural in the same way as Bella; to be powerless against those with superpowers. But did that really require another book? Yes, Bella was lobbied as an anti-feminist sissy, and yes that is probably a correct summary of her character, but Meyer did not need to address the accusations in this way, especially not as the tenth anniversary release.

The release of Midnight Sun (Twilight from Edward’s perspective which Meyer had begun writing before a leak in 2008 forced her to abandon the project indefinitely) would have been slightly better. It would have allowed greater character development on his part, through narrative in particular, and the fact that he’s over 100 years old would have lent gravity and insight to his voice. Sadly, this was not to be. Instead, Beau’s narration is just as bland as Bella’s, minus the feminine frills like the appreciation of the beauty of the trees in Forks, shrugged off as ‘probably beautiful or something’. And we have Edythe who, like Edward, is reduced to the rank of a stock love interest –apart from getting to fight like a superhero(ine), which is empowering to a certain extent. She is exposed to more lurid remarks from Beau’s friends than Edward ever was from Bella’s, and is constantly afraid of overpowering Beau’s masculinity by, you know, being able to kill him. The third point in the love triangle central to the original series, Jacob, has now become Julie, which will make the werewolf transformation interesting should there be a sequel.

Now, I’m not joining the bandwagon of ‘things most people have a propensity to hate’. I liked Twilight when it was reasonably successful on its own –none of my friends had heard of it when I first read it. But this media juggernaut has turned into a monster, spawning five mega movies (probably soon to be six), novellas, and God knows what else, and at the end of the day it’s the fans who are losing out.