Twilight Saga: Get ready to see Twilight like you’ve never seen it before (My thoughts on Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined by Stephenie Meyer)
Let me start of this review by saying that prior to Stephenie Meyer announcing that she would be releasing Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined as a part of the tenth anniversary edition of Twilight, I had actually been thinking a lot about possibly reading the original Twilight saga again and reviewing them at some point. While I’m not planning to do that any time soon, I decided to go ahead and read and review Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined now since so many other people are also posting reviews for the book and talking about it lately, especially on YouTube. For the record, I haven’t read the Twilight books since the beginning of 2009, so my memory of the first book isn’t perfect, but I did watch the movie as I was reading Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined to give myself somewhat of a refresher; that being said, here are my thoughts on the book.
I’m going to just come right out and say upfront that I didn’t like this book very much at all. Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined is definitely my absolute least favorite book that I’ve reviewed for my blog at this point in time. While I was immediately intrigued by the concept of Stephenie Meyer releasing a gender swap version of Twilight as a part of the tenth anniversary edition of the book, I was also immediately skeptical about the idea actually being able to work as soon as it was announced. Maybe other people will disagree with me, but in my mind Twilight just isn’t the kind of book that would translate very well if someone were to do a gender swap version of a book and publish it professionally as an actual book. To me, Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined is basically a Twilight fan fic that was written by Stephenie Meyer. I might be more forgiving of the writing for this book if it had been written by a random Twilight fan and posted on a website where people can post fan fiction for various TV shows, movies and books. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with this book.
I should also probably mention that I didn’t buy the actual anniversary edition of Twilight since I already own all of the books in the Twilight saga. I did, however, buy the audiobook version of the anniversary edition of Twilight, because as I said earlier, I’m kind of interested in reading all of the books again and reviewing them at some point, and I’ve been listening to audiobook versions of almost every single book that I’ve reviewed so far. The reason why I’m interested in reading and reviewing all of the books in the Twilight saga is because it’s a very well known fact by now that the Fifty Shades books by E.L. James apparently started out as a Twilight fan fic. Whenever I see people talking online about all of the creepy and controlling things that Christian Grey does in the Fifty Shades books, there are pretty much always several people who will mention some of the things that Edward does throughout the Twilight series that they think is creepy and inappropriate for a guy to do in a relationship. Since I haven’t read the original Twilight saga in over five years, I don’t really remember the examples of Edward’s behavior that people usually give when they’re comparing Christian Grey to Edward, which is one of the main reasons why I’m kind of interested in reading the entire Twilight series again.
Another thing that I’d like to mention in regards to the fact that Fifty Shades started out as a Twilight fan fic, is that I had always wondered where E.L. James got the idea to have Ana be the type of person that constantly blushes at the drop of a hat. Since I hadn’t read the Twilight series in years, I didn’t remember anything about Bella having the tendency to blush a lot, so I thought that was just a weird quirk E.L. James gave Ana when she was changing her original Twilight fan fic (Master of the Universe) to Fifty Shades of Grey in a failed attempt to make the character her own. However, after reading Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined and seeing that Beau had a tendency to blush quite a bit at times, I’d say that E.L. James got the idea for Ana having the tendency to blush practically nonstop from Twilight after all since Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined is in a lot of ways a note for note copy of Twilight. The problem with E.L. James having that aspect of Bella carry over into the writing for Ana in Fifty Shades of Grey is that while I don’t think Stephenie Meyer is the greatest writer ever, she’s still a good enough writer to give a character a quirk, like having a tendency to blush a lot, without constantly beating the reader over the head with it and making the whole thing seem ridiculous beyond words. E.L. James on the other hand, just isn’t a good enough writer to know how to handle characters having bizarre quirks without going completely overboard when it comes to portraying a character’s unique quirks, but I digress.
While I didn’t buy the book version of the tenth anniversary edition of Twilight, I did read the forward and afterward that Meyer wrote for the book when I was at Barnes & Noble this past week. In the forward, Meyer said that she was asked if she had anything new that she had written that could be included in the tenth anniversary edition of Twilight, and it sounds like she did consider finishing Midnight Sun for the tenth anniversary edition of Twilight, but ultimately decided not to since she apparently didn’t feel like she had enough time to finish writing Midnight Sun in time for the book’s release. I’ve also read multiple articles (Stephenie Meyer has no plans to release ‘Midnight Sun’ after Grey’ | EW.com; Stephenie Meyer says ‘Fifty Shades’ stopped ‘Midnight Sun’) where Stephenie Meyer revealed that she had actually started writing Midnight Sun again, only to have the release of Grey be announced the next day (apparently).
In case anybody reading this review isn’t all that familiar with the Fifty Shades books by E.L. James, a lot of people have been referring to Grey as “Fifty Shades of Midnight Sun” since Fifty Shades started out as a Twilight fan fic, and E.L. James basically did the same thing as Stephenie Meyer was doing with Midnight Sun, writing Twilight from Edward’s point of view. Grey is Fifty Shades of Grey written from Christian Grey’s point of view. Maybe people will think I’m a hypocrite for saying that I’m mad that Stephenie Meyer is using the fact that E.L. James published Grey as a reason for why she has once again stopped working on Midnight Sun given the fact I bought both the book and the audiobook version of Grey, I reviewed the book, and I didn’t completely hate it, but I am mad about that being Stephenie Meyer’s latest reason for not finally finishing Midnight Sun. If I had to choose between E.L. James publishing Fifty Shades of Midnight Sun Grey, and Stephenie Meyer finally publishing Midnight Sun, I would choose Midnight Sun over Grey every time, but I digress.
I’m not going to try and pretend to be an authority on the definition of masculinity, femininity or gender roles, especially when it comes to gender roles in romantic relationships. That being said, one thing that my dad did a lot when I was growing up was make comments to me that began with the words, “Real men…” as if he had the right to define how boys are supposed to act or dictate how they express their emotions. For example, there were many times over the years where he told me that “Real Men don’t cry”. I always thought that was pretty cruel of him to say that if he ever saw me crying when I was growing up, and after a while I became afraid to show any sign of vulnerability around him. If I did, he’d basically use my vulnerability as a weapon against me. We have an incredibly strained relationship now that I’m an adult, and he often times has a tendency to cry whenever we talk to each other on the phone or spend time together, and having him cry when we’re interacting with each other triggers all sorts of negative emotions and painful memories for me.
The reason I mention this is because despite the fact that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with men crying or displaying some vulnerability at times, and I usually hate anybody telling somebody how they think a “Real Man” is supposed to act, I couldn’t help but think that Beau constantly acted the way that I would expect a girl to act in a story like this, while Edythe seemed to constantly act the way I would expect the guy to act in this kind of story. For the record, I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with a woman taking the lead in relationship like Edythe often seemed to do throughout the book. However, that might lead some people to say that the woman is a “castrating bitch” or to simply say that she’s trying to emasculate the man, which I think would be a somewhat nicer to way to convey my first hypothetical comment.
Personally, I think that Stephenie Meyer doing this gender swap version of Twilight where most of the plot and the writing in general is exactly the same as Twilight and the plot doesn’t truly go off in its own direction until basically the last two chapters creates all sorts of potential problems that aren’t really ever addressed. For starters, Stephenie Meyer said that a part of why she did this gender swap was to try and prove that Bella Swan isn’t a damsel in distress. However, simply redoing the story with a boy (Beau) in Bella’s place and having almost the exact same stuff that Bella dealt with happen to a guy doesn’t magically scream, “Oh, I guess Bella Swan isn’t a damsel in distress that needs a man to constantly save her after all.” to me.
Meyer just ended up turning Beau into a damsel in distress (of sorts), which required Edythe to save him. While I love the idea of a female character that’s tough and not afraid to take charge and risk her own life to save somebody, having a woman (Edythe) save a boy version of Bella (Beau) doesn’t prove or disprove anything about Bella not being a damsel in distress. If Meyer really wanted to write a story to try and show that Bella isn’t a damsel in distress, then she should have done some other kind of alternate universe version of Twilight where the gender of almost all of the characters hadn’t been swapped, but Bella is shown to be tougher, more independent and able to defend herself without Edward or Jacob constantly needing to come to her rescue while she’s still a human.
The other issue that I think the gender swap creates is that I’m honestly rather surprised that Beau didn’t display any kind of insecurities about Edythe repeatedly coming to his rescue. I don’t mean to come across as being sexist or anything, but I personally think that in real life it would be perfectly natural for Beau to have at least some feelings of insecurity and frustration about having a girl come to his rescue on multiple occasions. I also think it could have been pretty realistic if some of the kids at Beau’s school had teased him about Edythe repeatedly coming to his rescue. Sure, their behavior would probably come across as being sexist and immature if the other guys at school teased him about a girl coming to his rescue, especially when it comes to the incident in the school’s parking lot, but then again, these characters are pretty much all teenagers, and teenagers can be incredibly mean and immature at times.
To be fair, much like Edward did in Twilight, Edythe did promptly flee the scene after she stopped the car from hitting Beau, so the other kids didn’t actually see her rescue him. Edythe did do a pretty good job of covering her tracks for the most part like Edward did. Much like Bella did with Edward in Twilight, Beau was pretty much the only person who thought Edythe’s behavior towards him specifically was bizarre, which if you ask me, makes the people who live in Forks look like a bunch of idiots. However, Beau did tell a variety of people that Edythe had saved him, so word would probably have gotten out that Edythe had been the one who had saved him, which I think in real life might lead to some of the other guys at school teasing him and giving him a hard time. Even if Meyer hadn’t made it a plot point that Beau got teased about Edythe saving him, I really think that it doesn’t make Beau come across as being believable as a boy by not having him express some insecurities about the way Edythe treats him at times throughout the book.
One of the differences between Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined and Twilight that really, really, really bugs me is the part where Beau is being threatened by several guys in Port Angeles, especially compared to how that moment played out with Bella in Twilight. In Twilight, those guys seemed to be trying to rape Bella, or at least attack her, whereas in the case of Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined, those guys kind of acted like they wanted to kill Beau. Rape and murder are both horrible crimes, and in my opinion raping or sexually abusing somebody is a lot worse than murdering someone. In some ways, I feel like Meyer really had that incident completely escalate beyond what happened to Bella in Twilight, which seemed unnecessary on her part, and it really felt absolutely bizarre to me.
I just don’t understand why Meyer felt the need to have the story completely escalate to a situation that seemed much more dangerous and serious compared to the incident in Twilight at that particular point in the story. I feel like by changing the threatening situation that Beau was faced with from rape to murder, she’s acting like boys/men can’t end up being victims of sexual abuse or rape, which is just infuriating to me, because I know that guys can be victims of sexual abuse, too. It’s not a problem that only women can be faced with, and I feel like she’s doing boys/men a huge disservice by acting like being victims of rape or sexual abuse is a problem that’s exclusively affecting women. Unfortunately, I don’t think that Stephenie Meyer was trying to make some kind of commentary on sexual abuse, rape, gender roles, and the dynamics of a romantic relationship.
For the record, I think that doing a gender swap version of Twilight might, and that’s a huge might, might have worked if Meyer had spent more time writing it and if she had made more changes to the story and the characters. The biggest problem that I have with Beau is that his internal thought process is almost exactly like Bella, which is why I don’t think that Stephenie Meyer did a good job of making Beau feel all that believable as a boy, in my opinion. However, the way Beau acts and interacts with people does kind of make him seem like his own character. The reason I say this is because Beau comes across as having more of a sense of humor than I remember Bella having. Plus, there were some fun and playful moments between Beau and Charlie that I enjoyed.
As I said earlier, the plot of Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined itself is for the most part exactly the same as the original version of Twilight. It does eventually completely breakaway from the original version of Twilight and becomes its own story though. The problem is the fact that that doesn’t happen until Beau goes to the ballet studio where he thinks his mother is being held hostage by James. I think it was simply too little too late if Meyer wanted to try and make Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined its own story. Once you get to that point in the book, the rest of the story plays out how Twilight most likely would have played out if Edward and Carlisle hadn’t gotten to the ballet studio in time to keep the venom from James’ bite from spreading throughout Bella’s entire body, turning her into a vampire.
Edythe and Carine do give Beau a choice between becoming a vampire, or basically dying a painful death, and Beau chooses to become a vampire like Edythe and the rest of the Cullens. That brings me to another thing that really bugged me about Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined. The ending of the book feels incredibly rushed. While I do like that the story does eventually kind of go off in its own direction, the last two chapters of the book felt like Meyer was trying to cram a lot of the things that happened throughout the original Twilight saga into two chapters of the book. Fortunately, we were spared any kind of reimagining of Renesmee or the creepy relationship between Jacob and Renesmee. For the record, Renesmee’s existence has never really bothered me all that much, although I do think the circumstances of her birth are incredibly weird and ridiculous, even for a book that’s in the fantasy genre. What has always really, really, really bothered me about Renesmee is the whole thing with Jacob imprinting on her, basically making them bound together for life and soul mates, when Renesmee was just a baby. That aspect of Breaking Dawn really made Jacob come across as a bit of a pedophile, if you ask me.
One of my absolute biggest pet peeves when it comes to reading any story, regardless of whether it’s a short story or a book like this, is not being able to get a clear image in my mind of what the characters are supposed to look like. I mention this because a major problem that I have with Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined is that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get a clear, concrete picture in my mind of what the characters were supposed to look like, which is one of the main reasons why I had an extremely difficult time getting invested in the book. I just kept picturing the original characters from Twilight, and usually I was picturing Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, etc. as their respective characters in my mind as I was reading this book. I’ve seen a lot of other reviews for Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined where people said that they also had the same problem as I did when they were reading the book.
While I’ve often found that the problem of not being able to picture what a fictional character is supposed to look like happens when the author of a short story or a book doesn’t give very good and detailed descriptions of the characters’ physical appearance; I don’t think that Stephenie Meyer is entirely to blame for people having so much trouble getting a clear picture in their minds of what Beau and Edythe are supposed to look like. I think a big part of the problem is that the characters from the original Twilight series have been around for years. The Twilight saga has been a big part of pop culture for ten years now, and the movies also helped create a clear picture of what the characters are supposed to look like. Plus, as I said earlier, the overall plot of the book is exactly the same as the plot of Twilight for the most part, so I’d say that it’s almost impossible for people to just switch out their mental images of Bella, Edward, Jacob and pretty much all of the other characters from Twilight for the characters from Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined. I think that if Stephenie Meyer had made more changes to the plot of the book aside from just the ending, and if she had done more to make Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined its own story, as well as some additional tweaks to Beau and Edythe and have them feel like characters that are much more different from Bella and Edward than they currently are, I think it might have been easier to create a mental picture of all the characters from Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined.
I should probably mention that Jacob’s female counterpart, Jules, isn’t in the book all that much, which makes sense to me since this is somewhat of a re-telling of Twilight, and I don’t remember Jacob being featured in the first book of the series all that much. Plus, none of the plot details about Jacob becoming a werewolf are included in the book, which also makes sense since that didn’t happen until New Moon.
One last thing that really bugged me about this book is the bizarre names that Stephenie Meyer chose for the gender swap. For example, instead of Beau, why couldn’t she have just named him Billy? For the girl version of Edward, why couldn’t she have named her Edie? Instead of Archie, why not Alan? That’s much more similar to Alice than Archie is for a name, if you ask me. The weirdest name changes in my opinion are definitely Royal for the Rosalie character, and Earnest for the Esme character. I honesty have no idea where Stephenie Meyer got the idea to use the names Royal and Earnest for Rosalie and Esme’s gender swapped counterparts.
All things considered, while I do appreciate that Stephenie Meyer wanted to do something special for the tenth anniversary edition of Twilight instead of simply writing a forward for the book, Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined just doesn’t work for me at all. When it comes to the writing for the book, it’s pretty obvious that Stephenie Meyer wrote this very quickly. I think it could have potentially been better than it is if she had put some more time and thought into it. This book truly was a chore to get through, and while I’m really interested in reading the original Twilight saga, along with The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner again, I don’t think I’ll have any interest in reading Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined again in the future.
That being said, my final score for Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined is 2 out of 10.
Posted on November 2, 2015, in Book Reviews and tagged book review, E.L. James, Fifty Shades, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Trilogy, Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined, Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer, Twilight, Twilight saga. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.