book review for twilight

Book Review

Twilight — “twilight” series.

book review for twilight

Readability Age Range

Year Published

This romantic vampire fantasy is the first book in the ” Twilight ” series by Stephenie Meyer and is published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of the Hachette Book Group.

Twilight is written for kids ages 9 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Plot Summary

When 17-year-old Bella Swan moves to her dad’s home in perpetually-cloudy Forks, Wash., she has little hope of enjoying her new life. Her father, Charlie, is the small town’s police chief. He lives as a resigned bachelor in the same house he owned during his brief marriage to Bella’s mom. Bella enrolls in the high school and makes some new acquaintances. While sitting with them in the cafeteria, she spots a group of five strange and incredibly beautiful people and learns that they are the Cullens. Two sets of them (Alice and Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie) are couples, but they’re all in the same family, adopted by the town’s young doctor. They keep to themselves. Bella later shares a lab table with the fifth member of the group, named Edward. She’s taken aback by his hostile behavior toward her. He sits far away from her and casts searing glances in her direction. She later sees him in the office trying to change his schedule to avoid her. She wonders what could make him hate her so much.

When icy weather hits, Bella’s truck and another student’s car collide in the school parking lot. Edward, whom Bella had seen standing far away, is suddenly at her side and saves her life by holding back the other car. She’s perplexed by the deep hand indentions he’s left in the vehicle. He’s reticent when she asks how he got to her so fast and had the strength to save her. He does, however, begin to act more friendly toward her at school. Through their cryptic banter in class, Bella becomes more and more attracted to the pale, gorgeous boy whose eyes “smolder” and drive her wild.

On a day trip with other school friends, Bella runs into an old acquaintance who lives on the Indian reservation. Jacob Black, a few years younger than Bella, is eager to impress and reveals classified information about the Cullens when Bella prods him. Jacob explains that the ancestors of his tribe have a territorial agreement with the Cullens, as the Cullens and other “cold ones” are their mortal enemies. Back home on the Internet, Bella further investigates Jacob’s claims and discovers Edward’s chilling secret: He and his family are vampires.

Bella knows she should be more fearful, but Edward’s increasing attention, protective nature and passionate gazes have left her entranced. Bella travels to a larger city with two girls from school to help them shop for prom dresses. When she gets separated from her friends, a group of four men surround her in a dark alley. Just in time, Edward appears and saves her. She’s stunned by his intense anger and often witnesses it in the days thereafter. He takes her to dinner and calms down before driving her back to Forks.

Edward warns her that he’s dangerous and that she should stay away from him. Thoroughly smitten, Bella repeatedly tells him (and herself) she doesn’t care what happens to her. No fate could be worse than being separated from him. Edward takes Bella to a remote area in the forest, allowing her to see how his skin glows in the sunlight. The glow is just one of the reasons Edward and his “family” (the others in his vampire coven) must stay in places like Forks where there’s significant cloud cover. Edward explains that his family attempts to be civilized, eating only animals and not people (though it is like subsisting on a diet of tofu and soy milk). Bella’s scent is so tantalizing to Edward, he says she’s like a drug to him. The same urges that cause him to want to devour her (literally) also drive him to protect and love her. He’s tormented, knowing he should stay away from her for her own safety but feeling he can’t bear to be without her.

Edward takes Bella home to meet his family. Most of the clan welcomes her, though Rosalie feels Bella is a threat to their life in Forks. Alice foresees a thunderstorm, and the vampires make a plan to play baseball high in the forest. When Bella joins them, she understands why loud peals of thunder are necessary to cover up their powerful hits. In mid-game, the family catches the scent of other vampires. There isn’t time to get Bella out of the area, so they try their best to cover her scent as they talk to the new vampires Laurent, James and James’ mate, Victoria. But James, a tracker, quickly picks up Bella’s scent. When the two vampire clans part ways, Edward tells Bella he’s read James’ thoughts. James will stop at nothing to devour her.

Alice and Jasper go with Bella to her home, where she quickly packs and lies to her dad, telling him she can no longer live in Forks. They drive her to Phoenix while Edward and the others protect her father and track James. Alice, Jasper and Bella hole up in a Phoenix hotel and wait for directions from the others. One morning, Bella receives a call. James is on the other end of the line, telling her he has her mother. He orders her to pretend she’s talking to her mom so the vampires won’t catch on. James directs Bella to lose Alice and Jasper. She gets away from them in the airport where they’re supposed to pick up Edward. James directs her to the dance studio she attended as a child. When she arrives, she realized James has tricked her. Her mother’s voice on the phone was from an old videotape. James brutally attacks Bella. When she’s nearly lost consciousness, she hears Edward’s voice. He and the rest of his family have arrived to kill James. It’s up to Edward to suck the poison out of Bella’s blood without killing her or turning her into a vampire. Though it takes every ounce of self-control he has, Edward manages to save Bella’s life.

The Cullens help Bella make up a detailed story to calm her parents. She returns to Forks to recover. Edward tricks her into getting dressed up, leg cast and all, to go with him to the prom. She begs him to change her into a vampire so they can always be together, but he refuses.

Christian Beliefs

Carlisle, head of the Cullen clan, keeps a cross from the 1600s in their home. It was carved by his father and hung on the wall of the vicarage where he (the father) preached. Carlisle’s father was intolerant of Roman Catholics and other religions, and he led witch hunts in which many innocent people were burned based on accusations of practicing black magic or being werewolves and vampires. On one such raid, a real vampire attacked Carlisle and changed him.

Edward says it’s hard for him to believe that the world could have been created all on its own.

Other Belief Systems

Bella learns about vampire lore on the Internet, though Edward later dispels some misconceptions. In addition to their regular vampire qualities, which include incredible speed and strength, several of the Cullens have unique abilities. Edward can hear people’s thoughts, Alice can see the future, and Jasper has the ability to manipulate people’s emotional states.

Bella wonders if by saving her from the van, Edward was tampering with her fate. She says good luck avoids her and suggests at another time that luck or good odds were on her side. Edward gives in to his love for Bella because he says he’s decided if he’s going to hell, he might as well do it thoroughly. James says he has a sixth sense when he’s hunting.

Jacob tells Bella about Quileute Indian legends dating back to the time of Noah and the flood. The Indians supposedly survived by tying their canoes to the tops of the tallest trees. Another legend suggests the Quileutes descended from wolves.

When Bella hears Edward’s voice after James’ violent attack, she says she hears the sound of an angel calling her name, calling her to the only heaven she wants. Later, she says Edward is her life, and he’s the only thing it would hurt her to lose.

Authority Roles

Bella’s dad, Charlie, is a bachelor who spends most of his time fishing, watching sports or working. Unused to having parental responsibilities, he makes weak efforts to monitor Bella’s activities. Bella appears much smarter than her father since her frequent lies keep him thoroughly in the dark. At the outset, she “lets him know” where she’s going because she feels asking permission sets a bad precedent. Charlie imposes some rules and curfews after Bella’s attack, but he still has no idea what kind of boy his daughter is dating. Before Bella’s mom, Renee, remarried, Bella was in charge. She was the one making sure the bills were paid and that she and her “erratic, harebrained” mom had food on the table.

Profanity & Violence

The words d–n, h— and butt each appears a few times. Bella endures a violent attack by a vampire. He strikes her in the chest, throws her into mirrors and crushes her leg by stepping on it. Glass cuts into her scalp and she begins to bleed profusely before she blacks out.

Sexual Content

Edward and Bella engage in a good deal of kissing and sensual (not overtly sexual) caressing, primarily of the face and neck. “Smoldering” glances, passionate whispers and purposeful breathing of one another’s scents heighten their emotions. They are careful not to act too intensely on their passion for fear that Edward will lose control and bite Bella.

Though Edward is attracted to Bella physically to some degree, her scent is her most tantalizing attribute to him. His primary desire as a vampire is to devour her and taste her blood. Edward sometimes stays all night in Bella’s room to watch her sleep. Edward asks a suggestive question about Bella’s sexual history, and she indicates she is a virgin since she’s never felt about anyone like she does about him.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at .

Additional Comments

Anger: Edward longs to be with Bella, yet he knows his bloodlust puts her in mortal danger. He’s tormented and angered by the decisions he must make and by the intensity of effort required to maintain control when he’s with her. He never physically hurts Bella, but he often lashes out in ways that frighten her. He sometimes demonstrates “righteous indignation” toward evil people or other vampires. Still, his fierce temper and the magnitude of his fury produce fear and anxiety in Bella.

Lying: Bella frequently lies to her parents about her activities or relationships, even when she knows the lies put her in dangerous situations. She lies to her friends to get out of things. She often lies to Edward, telling him she’s not afraid or conflicted. After she is attacked by another vampire, the Cullen family helps her concoct an elaborate lie about why she left Forks and how she got hurt.

Substances: Bella admits to “gratuitously” taking cold medicine on one occasion to help her sleep. Edward compares the scent of blood to a drug or alcohol addiction. He says Bella’s scent is like his “exact brand of heroine.”

Theft: Edward steals a car in his effort to get to Bella before James devours her.

Suicide: Before her vampire days, Esme lost a baby. She jumped off a cliff in her grief. , an entertainment and media ministry of Focus on the Family, has written an article that offers an overview of the whole “Twilight” series: Darkness Falls After Twilight .

Producers often use a book as a springboard for a movie idea or to earn a specific rating. Because of this, a movie may differ from the novel. To better understand how this book and movie differ, compare the book review with Plugged In’s movie review.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book’s inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected] .

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About Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English Literature, and she lives with her husband and three young sons in Arizona. She is the author of international bestsellers TWILIGHT, NEW MOON, ECLIPSE, BREAKING DAWN and THE HOST.

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by Stephenie Meyer

Twilight – Review

For my second book review attempt, I chose another series by a well heard of and much loved and hated writer : Stephenie Meyer.  

I have not seen as many negative reviews about this series, but it does seem to be one that people certainly love to hate.

Despite not finding anyone who actually LIKED the books, they were selling like hotcakes.  But then again, maybe I just don’t know enough of the right people.

Naturally, I had to find out what all the fuss was about, so I went out and bought the first book.

When I read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight it went down surprisingly fast, like a plate of spaghetti when you didn’t even think you were hungry.

It’s not that the book was particularly gripping or fast-paced.  It’s not.  I burned through the pages with amazing speed because it was such an easy read.  But it was easy in a natural way, not stilted like many other overly simply written books.  Before I knew it, I had finished the book and was looking for something else to read.

I suspect this is why so many people don’t like the book.

The plot is fairly simple, without many intricate plot twists.  The characters are transparent, their motives and feelings all too easily slipping through while they run about brashly acting without proper thought.  Sometimes the characters behave with some responsibility and maturity; often they behave with reckless immaturity.  But of course, they do, the characters are all teenagers, and even many adults act the same way at times.

With the straightforward plot and sometimes bratty characters all rolled into pages of simple writing , this book is not going to be a great read for people like me who have been reading novels for decades.  And it’s all people like me who I’ve come across complaining about the series.

But, do you know what?  The Twilight books were not written for middle-aged wives.  I would have to compare the complaints I’ve heard about these books to my seven year old complaining that Alyssa Satin Capucilli’s Biscuit books are too boring.  Well, of course they’re boring – they’re not written for seven year olds who have started reading their first chapter books.

Biscuit is for kids like her younger sister who are just learning to read; her sister who, by the way , absolutely loves the Biscuit books.  The Twilight series is written about teenagers for teenagers.

I went on to buy and read the other books of the Twilight series out of curiosity, and because I had to find out who gets the girl.

The main characters in the series are all teenagers, behaving in the usual rash teenager fashion.

Bella Swan is a teenager who is dissatisfied with the changes in her life brought on by her mother ’s focus changing to revolve more around her new husband than her daughter .  Like any other moody teenager, the first response is to sulk off into the corner – she goes to live with her father, who is a stranger to both her and to parenting.

With an independent teenage daughter so close to adulthood who he doesn’t know, and knowing nothing about how to be her dad, Charlie Swan seems content to give Bella her freedom .  He passively lets her exert her need to nurture someone on him, while Bella convinces herself Charlie could not possibly survive without her feeding and taking care of him despite the fact he had done so just fine for many decades already.

Charlie steps in to exert his parental control only when necessary, after things seem to be getting too rough for Bella’s mental well-being.

This series has the typical elements of a romance .  Our heroine Bella is a young and naive girl who finds herself torn between two loves and tormented by her desire for the typical bad boy.  In this case both of her suitors seem to be the bad boy.

The main difference is that while one relentlessly pursues the girl, making his desires clear every chance he has and exhibiting a protectiveness that combines her well-being with his own selfish need for her; the other suitor is the typical romance novel jerk.  He is outright rude to Bella at times, constantly pushing her away and telling her why they can’t be together, and yet he always seems to be right there to make her feel miserable.  He just can’t seem to leave her alone.

Being a romance novel heroine, Bella has no choice .  She falls hard for the more bad of the two bad boys.  The worse he treats her, the more he pushes her away and turns her into an emotional wreck with his self-centered behavior and selfish emotional games , the more Bella is pulled by the need to be with him.  The other suitor doesn’t seem to know how the romance novel game is played.

His every expression of love, promise to always look after her, and show of abject devotion, seem to only push her further into the arms of his rival who is more than willing to take her despite his behavior that implies the opposite.

Bella’s main goal is to be with Edward Cullen , a vampire of dubious character quality who I suspect is just as emotionally and developmentally trapped forever at the same tender age of seventeen as his body is, and has been for more than a hundred years.

Of course, it makes perfect sense that if the body is frozen at seventeen years old and unable to age, the same would apply to the physical development and maturity of the brain and teenaged hormones, physical changes that come with aging.  No wonder he’s so moody and self-centered!  He’s been playing the same teenaged game for longer than most people spend an entire lifetime of birth, growing, maturing and withering into old age.

Edward’s rival, Jacob Black , is hopelessly in love with Bella.  In fact, he is so much in love with her that he is willing to stand aside and let her be with his rival if she thinks that is what will make her happy.  Of course this causes him great torment, watching Bella suffer emotionally at the hands of Edward’s selfish moodiness, especially when everyone except Bella and Edward’s family seems to see what a louse Edward is.

Of course, during this I (the reader) am smacking my head and swearing at the little ninny for being so naive and mindlessly chasing after the abusive treatment of the more bad boy when she could have the other guy, the other one she also loves and who genuinely cares for her and isn’t purposely making her unhappy and an emotionally scarred mess.

This is one of the points I dislike the most about all romance novels.  While it is necessary to build tension and throw obstacles in the way of love, does it always have to be in the form of the more mature man who is acting like an immature buffoon, abusive, mean and nasty to the naive young woman , making her fall hopelessly and desperately in love with him through his abuse and cruelty?

Must the girl always defer to his rather dubious maturity, while she herself behaves with a much greater level of it, all while he treats her worse than a pile of cow dung he might have accidentally stepped in?  Must romance novel heroines always be drawn with an uncontrollable lust and yearning for love only towards men who make them miserable and treat them badly?

In this case, our heroine does have a choice.  She is drawn to both men (more boys than men really).  She even seems to sometimes be more drawn to Jacob, giving us hope that she may wise up and choose happiness instead of confused hormones.  The love triangle twists and teases, with Edward and Jacob, forced to make an unlikely allegiance for the sake of Bella despite their mutual rivalry and dislike of each other.

This is one of very few series I have read that were what I would consider an actual series.  Most series have a feel as though the subsequent books are an afterthought, like a hit movie where the writer, director, actors, and everyone else put everything into making that one movie, and then years later are told to do a sequel.  The sequel is seldom more than a lesser quality remake of the first movie.

The Twilight saga is a true series, each book following easily on the heels of the one before to continue the drama of Bella’s life.  Meyer did a great job of keeping the story feeling the same from one book to the next, carrying the momentum of the drama across covers, so that it felt more like reading one long book instead of individual books months apart.

While I would suggest that anyone older than thirty, and anyone younger with more mature literary tastes, might want to find a more mature read, I think Stephenie Meyer hit it dead on for her target audience.  It is an easy enough read with a simple plot that has enough twists to keep a young mind questioning and interested in the story.

I won’t reveal who gets the girl, for those who haven’t read the whole saga yet, but I’m sure it’s pretty clear from my review that I was rooting for Jacob Black right from the start.

Face it, girls , there is no happily ever after with the Edward Cullen’s of the real world .


LV Gaudet is a Canadian writer and mother of two. Her writing endeavors range from stories written for her young children to the realm of horror.

Some of her short stories can be found scattered in the dark void of the internet.

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Avatar of joanie murray

I love the story in this series. The characters are relatable and the tension between Jacob and Edward is thrilling. Stephenie Myers can tell a great story. I too was turned off in the beginning of Twilight, but once I got into the characters, I was hooked, and could not read the next three books fast enough.

Yes Joanie, this is one thing she certainly did right in this series. Even with the target audience being much younger and their reading tastes requiring a simpler read, I still found myself getting mad at the characters and wanting to read the next book to find out what happens.

Avatar of Erin O'Riordan

I thought the first third of the first book was a little boring, but by the end I was totally caught up in the romance. The rivalry between Jacob and Edward is, surely, the most exciting thing about the series. I, too, read through the remaining three books rapidly, determined to find out how it would end.

When I did get to the end, I decided Meyer was trying to do a Chronicles of Narnia thing, with Edward in the place of Aslan. Aslan, as you know, is not a tame lion, and Edward Cullen is not a tame vampire.

Would he be a terrible boyfriend in real life? Absolutely. Charlie’s real-life equivalent would quite possibly have “accidentally” shot him (or at least threatened to when Bella was out of earshot). Of course, fantasy novels are not real life. Lots of fantasy romance readers want the alpha male with magical powers who will sweep us off our feet. I do.

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book review for twilight

Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies , blogger, author, and book reviewer.


Book Review – Twilight

Book Review – Twilight

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I found Twilight surprisingly well-written, at least for the genre. This is not to say it will be supplanting Jane Austen in the university lecture hall, but merely that it is readable and reasonably good as fiction. The dialog, the characters, the pacing, the prose–all of it, at the very least, is good enough that it does not detract from the story. This is more than I can say for many novels.

The book begins with seventeen year-old Bella Swan moving from Phoenix, Arizona to Forks, Washington, so she can live with her father, Charlie. Her mother, meanwhile, is traveling with her boyfriend Phil, a minor league baseball player. A too-typical teenage girl, Bella is convinced she is an ugly duckling when in reality she is a swan (the inspiration for her last name, perhaps?). Where in Phoenix she had been a social outcast, in Forks she is immediately popular and she catches the eye of several boys.

I’ll continue this plot summary by (lazily) quoting from Wikipedia: “When Bella sits next to Edward Cullen in class on her first day of school, Edward seems utterly repulsed by her. He even attempts to change his schedule to avoid her, leaving Bella completely puzzled about his attitude towards her. After tricking a family friend, Jacob Black, into telling her the local tribal legends, Bella concludes that Edward and his family are vampires. Although she was inexplicably attracted to him even when she thought Edward drank human blood, she is much relieved to learn that the Cullens choose to abstain from drinking human blood, and drink animal blood instead. Edward reveals that he initially avoided Bella because the scent of her blood was so desirable. Over time, Edward and Bella fall in love.” Without spoiling the plot, the book concludes with some page-turning action involving a vampire tracker (which, for those who are as ignorant as myself, is a vampire who tracks humans, not a human who tracks vampires) who seeks to hunt Bella as a sick kind of sport.

I am sure that the subject matter will immediately convince some parents that the book is unsuitable for their girls. This was my initial reaction–why would I allow my daughter to read a book about vampires? But I know there are some, perhaps myself included, who may allow an older teenager to read it. It is primarily to assist such parents that I write this review.

The book is relatively clean. That is to say that there is little explicit violence and no overt sexual activity. However, I think this bears some further discussion. While there is no sexual activity portrayed in the book, it really does ooze with a kind of teen or tween sexuality. The book is, at its heart, the story of a young girl’s sexual awakening. It may be that the tween reader will be sufficiently young and innocent that this is lost on her, but I’m convinced the older teenage girl will find it in the story. The most explicit sexuality is found in a brief discussion between Edward and Bella where they talk about whether they desire one another in that way and whether Bella has ever been with another boy. Edward declares that he may be a vampire, but he is still a man. The quiet sensuality is far more pervasive and, I would suggest, far more powerful. There is scene after scene where Edward and Bella gently stroke one another, softly and slowly running their hands over each other’s bodies, exploring, pressing their heads against each other’s chests to hear their hearts pounding, feeling electric shocks as their fingers touch flesh, twisting and cavorting with their lips on one another’s faces and necks. Bella is inflamed by Edward and, while there may be no explicit mention of sexuality, it is clear that she desires Edward– all of Edward.

Edward, meanwhile, has a creepy kind of love for Bella. As a vampire he cannot sleep, so he spends his nights sneaking into Bella’s room to watch her sleep (as if this is sweet, not perverse) and often follows her unnoticed as she goes about her business. He reveals that her scent–the scent of her blood–drives him wild. His overwhelming love for her is sometimes nearly indistinguishable from revulsion or hatred. There is part of him that wishes to hold her, to make love to her, and another part that wants to attack her and to drink her blood. In one scene she has been bitten and Edward needs to suck some poison from her if he is to save her life. After he does so he discusses both her taste and her smell and how enchanting it is to him. Is this love or is this perverse obsession?

While the love between the two of them is meant to be real, it also has a strange, unearthly quality to it. It also has an obsessive, idolatrous quality. Perhaps this is true of any love story, but I wonder whether girls are well-served by reading of a young woman who is so utterly consumed with her boyfriend that she seeks and desires and thinks of nothing else. She lies, she disobeys her parents, she does whatever is necessary to be with him. She is convinced that in this boy she will find her all-in-all. All she desires–to the point of wanting him to drink her blood so she, too, can be a vampire–is to be with him forever. She would rather be undead eternally than live without him.

I just don’t know that young girls will derive any benefit from spending hours reading and thinking about such an unrealistic, unobtainable, perverse kind of love. It glories in love that is forbidden, dangerous and just plain weird. The fact that the story involves vampires may be beside the point. My primary concern with Twilight , as I consider handing it to a girl of thirteen or fifteen or seventeen, is its sensuous quality. The lack of overt sexuality means that it is not an erotic book, but it is very nearly so. It oozes sensuality even without an act of consummation.

It is not insignificant that on the cover of Twilight is the simple image of hands–female hands–holding out an apple. This clearly evokes the forbidden fruit of Genesis 2:17, verses that are quoted at the beginning of the book. This represents not only the forbidden love between a human and a vampire, but Edward himself as Bella considers partaking of him . My suggestion to parents would be to leave this book on the shelf instead of handing it to your teenage girl (and especially your young teenage girl). At the very least, read it yourself and see if your conscience is clear before you hand it to her.

Postscript: Aileen read this book and promptly read the other three volumes in the series. Her assessment of the sensuality and the violence in Twilight : “that’s nothing compared to the other three books.” It should be noted, however, that Edward and Bella marry in book four and that they do so as virgins.

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From the Twilight series , Vol. 1

by Stephenie Meyer ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 2005

Sun-loving Bella meets her demon lover in a vampire tale strongly reminiscent of Robin McKinley’s Sunshine . When Bella moves to rainy Forks, Wash., to live with her father, she just wants to fit in without drawing any attention. Unfortunately, she’s drawn the eye of aloof, gorgeous and wealthy classmate Edward. His behavior toward Bella wavers wildly between apparent distaste and seductive flirtation. Bella learns Edward’s appalling (and appealing) secret: He and his family are vampires. Though Edward nobly warns Bella away, she ignores the human boys who court her and chooses her vampiric suitor. An all-vampire baseball game in a late-night thunderstorm—an amusing gothic take on American family togetherness that balances some of the tale’s romantic excesses—draws Bella and her loved ones into terrible danger. This is far from perfect: Edward’s portrayal as monstrous tragic hero is overly Byronic, and Bella’s appeal is based on magic rather than character. Nonetheless, the portrayal of dangerous lovers hits the spot; fans of dark romance will find it hard to resist. (Fantasy. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-316-16017-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005


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by Kathleen Glasgow ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 28, 2021

A gut-wrenching look at how addiction affects a family and a town.

Emory Ward, 16, has long been invisible. Everyone in the town of Mill Haven knows her as the rich girl; her workaholic parents see her as their good child. Then Emory and her 17-year-old brother, Joey, are in a car accident in which a girl dies. Joey wasn’t driving, but he had nearly overdosed on heroin. When Joey returns from rehab, his parents make Emory his keeper and try to corral his addictions with a punitive list of rules. Emory rebels in secret, stealing small items and hooking up with hot neighbor Gage, but her drama class and the friends she gradually begins to be honest with help her reach her own truth. Glasgow, who has personal experience with substance abuse, bases this story on the classic play Our Town but with a twist: The characters learn to see and reach out to each other. The cast members, especially Emory and Joey, are exceptionally well drawn in both their struggles and their joys. Joey’s addiction is horrifying and dark, but it doesn’t define who he is. The portrayal of small-town life and its interconnectedness also rings true. Emory’s family is White; there is racial diversity in the supporting cast, and an important adult mentor is gay. Glasgow mentions in her author’s note that over 20 million Americans struggle with substance abuse; she includes resources for teens seeking help.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-70804-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021


More by Kathleen Glasgow


by Kathleen Glasgow & Liz Lawson


by Kathleen Glasgow




A great read offering entertainment, encouragement, and plenty to reflect upon.


by David Valdes ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 4, 2022

A gay teen contends with time travel—and homophobia through the decades.

All Cuban American Luis wants is to be prom king with his boyfriend, but tiny upstate New York boarding school Antic Springs Academy, with its strict, Christian code of conduct, won’t even let them hold hands in public. After a disastrous prom committee meeting at which his attempt to make the event welcoming of queer couples is rejected by the principal, Luis gets quite literally knocked into the past—specifically, ASA in the year 1985. There he meets Chaz, a Black student who attended the school at the same time as Luis’ parents and who died under mysterious circumstances after being bullied for his sexuality. Luis now faces a choice between changing the past to help Chaz and preserving his own future existence. Fortunately, he has Ms. Silverthorn, a Black English teacher and beloved mentor, who offers him support in both timelines. The narrative explores the impacts of homophobia and being closeted, remaining optimistic without shying away from the more brutal aspects. Luis is a multifaceted character with an engaging voice whose flaws are confronted and examined throughout. The solid pacing and pleasant, fluid prose make this a page-turner. Luis’ boyfriend is cued as Chinese American, and his best friend is nonbinary; there is some diversity in ethnicity and sexuality in background characters, although the school is predominantly White.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0710-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021


More by David Valdes


by David Valdes

book review for twilight

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book review for twilight


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Two Men of the Jungle Meet in Herzog’s First Novel

In “The Twilight World,” the filmmaker Werner Herzog vividly reconstructs the personal war of Hiroo Onoda, who stayed in the jungle for years after World War II ended.

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book review for twilight

By Liesl Schillinger

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THE TWILIGHT WORLD , by Werner Herzog, translated by Michael Hofmann

Twenty-five years ago in Tokyo, where he had come to direct the world premiere of the opera “Chushingura,” the German filmmaker Werner Herzog received an enviable invitation. At a dinner of the cast and crew, the opera’s composer greeted Herzog with the thrilling news that the emperor of Japan would welcome a private audience with him. “My goodness, I have no idea what I would talk about with the emperor,” Herzog responded. The room froze. “I wish to this day that the earth had swallowed me up,” Herzog recalls dramatically in his first novel, “The Twilight World” — a book in which, his epigraph explains, “most details are factually correct; some are not.” When a guest broke the silence to ask if there was anyone in Japan he would, in fact, like to meet, Herzog answered: “Onoda.” He elaborated: “Hiroo Onoda.”

Unless you are a World War II buff with a passion for the Pacific theater, you may ask: Who? Hiroo Onoda was the Imperial Japanese Army lieutenant who landed on the Philippine island of Lubang late in the war, as Japanese forces were retreating, and hid in its jungles until 1974, refusing to believe the war had ended. Camouflaging his clothing and weapons with clay, leaves and bark, he emerged sporadically from the trees like “an ambulating piece of the jungle” to attack perceived foes. In December 1944, Onoda’s commanding officer, Maj. Yoshimi Taniguchi, had ordered him to “hold the island until the Imperial Army’s return” and to “defend its territory by guerrilla tactics, at all costs.” Onoda obeyed. “Your base of operations will be the jungle,” the major said. He added: “You will be like a ghost, elusive, a continuing nightmare to the enemy.” Onoda fulfilled that superhuman assignment.

These details and quoted words come from encounters Herzog had with Onoda in Japan after he turned down the emperor’s invitation. Herzog understood the thrall that the jungle holds on a man who has entwined a fanatical mission with that treacherous terrain. Fifty years ago, Herzog entered the Amazonian rainforests of Peru to film masterworks about monomaniacal dreamers. First came “Aguirre: The Wrath of God” (1972), a historical fiction about a 16th-century explorer who led a doomed expedition to find a fabled city of gold. Next came “Fitzcarraldo” (1982), a drama about an opera-mad entrepreneur who hauled a steamship over a mountain to finance the construction of an opera house in the Amazon. In the early 1890s, the real Carlos Fitzcarrald transported a boat that weighed some 30 tons over a mountain in pieces. Herzog (and his cast and crew) magnified that feat beyond reason (and safety), hauling a steamship that weighed 10 times more — intact — over that same mountain to achieve Herzog’s cinematic vision.

In “ Burden of Dreams ” (1982), a documentary on the making of “Fitzcarraldo,” Herzog mused on the “articulate vileness and baseness and obscenity” of the jungle. “The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing, they just screech in pain,” he said, continuing, “We are cursed with what we are doing here.” And yet, he affirmed, he loved the jungle, “against my better judgment.” With Onoda, he was able to share what Joseph Conrad called “the peculiar blackness of that experience.” In “The Twilight World,” Herzog explains, “I had worked under difficult conditions in the jungle myself and could ask him questions that no one else asked him.” This long-steeped book distills their conversations into a potent, vaporous fever dream; a meditation on truth, lie, illusion and time that floats like an aromatic haze through Herzog’s vivid reconstruction of Onoda’s war.

In the jungles of Lubang, first with other Imperial Army holdouts, later on his own, Onoda subsisted on stolen rice, scavenged fruit and, on occasion, water buffalo meat (smoked under cover of fog). When a leaflet landed on the forest floor in the fall of 1945, announcing the war’s end, Onoda took it as forgery, “the work of American agents.” When one of his band, Yuichi Akatsu, surrendered to the Philippine Army in 1950, loudspeakers appeared on a mountaintop, playing a recording of Akatsu assuring Onoda that he was being treated well. Onoda decided that the voice was a simulation or that, if genuine, Akatsu had been tortured to produce it.

As days melted into months, decades, Herzog writes, time slowed, congealed, evaporated: “A night bird shrieks and a year passes. A fat drop of water on the waxy leaf of a banana plant glistens briefly in the sun and another year is gone.” Michael Hofmann’s resonant translation conveys the portentous shimmer of Herzog’s voice. Sometimes, Herzog writes, Onoda had doubts; not of his duty but of the reality of his experience. “Is it possible that I am dreaming this war?” he asked himself. “Could it be that I’m wounded in some hospital and will finally come out of a coma years later, and someone will tell me it was all a dream? Is the jungle, the rain — everything here — a dream?”

But more than a quarter-century into his campaign, when a plane looped above the island, broadcasting a direct appeal to Onoda from President Ferdinand Marcos, assuring him of amnesty, he suspected a trap. And when his own brother recorded a message that echoed across the treetops for weeks, begging “Hiroo, my brother” to come out of hiding, Onoda’s self-deluding mind recast it as a cryptic hint that the Imperial Army was about to retake the island.

It was not until February 1974 that a hippie Onoda stan, Norio Suzuki, flushed the soldier out. Spotting Suzuki, Onoda leaped at him and pointed a gun at his chest. “How could I be an American agent?” Suzuki protested. “I’m only 22.” Many men in mufti had tried to take him before, Onoda responded. “I have survived 111 ambushes,” he said, adding: “Every human being on this island is my enemy.” Suzuki had to promise to fly in a commanding officer from 1944 before he would stand down.

When Major Taniguchi arrived on Lubang two weeks later and told Onoda, face-to-face, “Lieutenant, your war is over,” Onoda still hoped it might be an elaborate ruse, a loyalty test. He handed over his rifle to a Filipino general nonetheless, and then his family sword, which he had preserved from rust with palm oil he had made himself. The general handed it back. “The true samurai keeps his sword,” he told Onoda. Later, Herzog writes, “he will admit that inside everything in him was bawling.”

Onoda, who died in 2014 at age 91, lived in the jungle for almost 30 years; Herzog arguably has never left it. Only a few years back, he returned to the Amazon to induct four dozen budding filmmakers into his mythic practice. He told them, “It is the job of the filmmaker to jump out of the window into the boat even if he has no confidence there is water beneath it.” Onoda surely would have agreed. In “The Twilight World,” Herzog presents a kind of dual libretto to the operas both men conducted in their different jungles. They worked on different continents, in different eras and to different ends, but they served the same inexorable impulse: to lead a life of archetype in the modern day, outside of time, eternal.

Liesl Schillinger is a critic and translator and teaches journalism at the New School in New York City. Her translation of the novel “Stella,” by Takis Würger, came out in paperback this year.

THE TWILIGHT WORLD, by Werner Herzog. Translated by Michael Hofmann. | Penguin Press | 144 pp. | $25

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