Note I am a Sociologist by training and a feminist by logic and rational thought and those things influence my reading of many things. I have issues with the things we feed our children as happy endings and how we get there. Also, be aware that Twilight is not the only children’s/YA story I take issue with. It has become a thing in our house now that if we are going to watch Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” the pre-show conversation goes something like this:
“We know, Mom”
“What do we know?”
“We know that if you meet a boy and he is mean and a beast that no matter how much you love him you can’t change him and he will always be mean.”
“Yes, grasshoppers. You may watch your movie now.”
But Twilight is even more insidious. I know that it is fiction; that he is vampire and it is all pretend but I also am convinced that we are absolute sure that children learn from books. There are thousands of books which are written every year with that in mind from the blatantly obvious like Manners Can Be Fun by Munro Leaf and A Children’s Book About Disobeying by Joy Berry to the less so like Henry Builds a Cabin by D.B. Johnson and Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. So, do we honestly believe that once we remove pictures from the book we remove lessons from the book as well?
Edward, the Sparkle Vampire**, is a horrible boyfriend and Bella, the Personality-less Waif, is an ever worse role model. Edward is all things that send up warning flares and hackles. He is much older. He is controlling. He is jealous. Search for abusive edward twilight on Google and you will see I am not alone in my linking the two. But Bella, oh Bella, she is not the teen I want my daughters to be. One of my favorite descriptions of her is from a semi-review over on The Oatmeal:
First off, the author creates a main character which is an empty shell. Her appearance isn’t described in detail; that way, any female can slip into it and easily fantasize about being this person. I read 400 pages of that book and barely had any idea of what the main character looked like; as far as I was concerned she was a giant Lego brick. Appearance aside, her personality is portrayed as insecure, fumbling, and awkward – a combination anyone who ever went through puberty can relate to. By creating this “empty shell,” the character becomes less of a person and more of something a female reader can put on and wear. Because I forgot her name (I think it was Barbara or Brando or something like that), I’m going to refer to her as “Pants” from here on out.
And she is all this and more. She can’t live without Edward. She goes to great lengths to show us that in book 2. No, no and hells no! I want girls with personality and backbones and feelings and opinions and all the things.
Get to the point you say? Well, I was ranting to The Husband about this the other day when he looked at me and said “So what book do you want her to read that is contemporary YA love story and has a self-actualized female lead and a caring sensitive leading male?” Insert very long pause here. Insert mumbling about books which are in no way contemporary. Insert another long pause. Insert comment about women who are self-actualized female leads in love stories which are set in Victorian London and therefore not contemporary either. Fast forward to a dinner with my favorite YA librarian and I posit the same question to her. And she is stumped!
So am I alone? Are there really no good contemporary YA paranormalish love stories with girls I want my girls to be and boys I want them to be with?
*It all started when The Girl came home and said that one of her friends asked if she was Team Edward or Team Jacob. Her reply was “I am Team Vampires Do Not Sparkle In The Sun.”
**For other fabulous names including Sir Sparklepants and Captain Glitter read Miss Banshee’s reviews of the Twilight Films.