Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Bibliographic Information: Meyer, C. (2005). Twilight. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Co.. ISBN: 0316160172.  544 pages.

Plot Summary: Isabella “Bella” Swan has recently moved from sunny and dry Arizona, where she lived with her mother, to cloudy, moist, and often overcast Forks, Washington.  Bella loves the sun and, at first, feels overwhelmed by the darkness of Forks, but, eventually, she starts to get used to the climate and finds a welcome distraction in Edward Cullen.  Edward is from a somewhat unusual family of adopted teens, each one as strikingly beautiful as the next, but it is the beautiful and seemingly endlessly talented Edward who has caught Bella’s eye.  To say Edward makes Bella swoon would be an understatement and when at first his interactions with her seem to try to push her away she is confused, hurt, and disappointed.  But, then Edward seems to feel as intensely about Bella as she does about him and they touch.  That touch tells Bella there is something even more different about Edward than the fact that he seems like a boy genius in every school subject.  The touch tells Bella that Edward’s blood runs cold; he is a vampire.  And though this fact does not seem to bother Bella in the least, Edward has made it his life’s goal to protect Bella from himself and others of his kind.  Bella and Edward are drawn to each other in such a way that staying apart to keep Bella safe seems impossible.  But, is it possible?  Can their love survive the fact that they are creatures from different worlds?  Can Bella survive at all?

Critical Evaluation: Twilight is not your average fairy tale romance, nor is it Romeo and Juliet, though the book has things in common with both of these.  In many ways, Bella and Edwards really should not be together.  After all, vampires drink blood for sustenance, and even though Edward is of a family of more “civilized” vampires, who only kill animals to survive, his instincts are still to kill.  And though, as mentioned above, his primary goal is to keep his love Bella safe, he does not even always trust himself with her.  But Bella is very trusting, or, more accurately, her love and passion for Edward override her natural instincts to fear for her life.  The connection between Bella and Edward is magical and their feelings for each other are palpable through Meyer’s elaborate writing.  And even though, due to their circumstances, Bella and Edward’s physical relationship is explored less than in many teen novels, their romance is steamy and exciting.  A feminist reading of Twilight leaves a bit to be desired, but as far as engaging the reader and taking us on a journey to place where vampires attend school with mortals, this book is an exhilarating thrill ride.  Twilight was one of Publishers Weekly‘s “Best Children’s Books of 2005, one of School Library Journal’s “Best Books of 2005” and was number two (after Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) on YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten, “a ‘teen choice’ list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year!” (YALSA, 2006)

Reader’s Annotation: Bella Swan moves from her mother’s home in sunny Arizona to damp and overcast Forks, Washington where the climate difference takes a back seat to the beautiful and enthralling Edward Cullen.  But there is something different about Edward, and Bella is soon going to find out what it is.

Information about the Author: Stephenie Meyer’s inspiration for Twilight was a dream she had one evening.  She was a full-time mom at the time and had not done any writing in years, but she was compelled to eke out time in her day to write down the dream, and the next day to write more of what she imagined and then write even more the next day and the next.  Readers can basically read what Meyers dreamed; she says, “For what is essentially a transcript of my dream, please see Chapter 13 (‘Confessions’) of the book.” (Meyers, n.d., The Story Behind Twilight).

Twilight is the first of four books in the Twilight series, books two through four are: New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn.  Meyers’ other books include graphic novels of the Twilight series, The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella (Twilight Saga), and The Host, an adult science fiction thriller.  All four books of the Twilight series have been made into movies. Meyers lives with her husband and three sons in Arizona, Bella’s previous place of residence before moving to Forks, WA. (Meyers, n.d., Bio).

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy

Categories/Themes: Paranormal: Werefolk and Vampires

Curriculum Ties: Forbidden love stories, how does this compare?

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Would you be willing to die for love?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 – 19

Challenge Issues: Twilight was number five in the ALA’s 10 most frequently challenged books of 2009.  The reasons given were: “religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group,” (ALA, 2009).

In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.  Also, there are several positive reviews of the book, and it has won several awards and honors, three are mentioned above.

Why is this book included? Because t

Because this book and the vampire novel craze, that the Twilight series inspired, are ubiquitous in teen literature today,  I felt the need to read at least one book in the series, in order to more fully serve young adults.

References

ALA. (2010). Top ten most frequently challenged books of 2009. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/21stcenturychallenged/2009/index.cfm

Meyers, S. (n.d.) Bio.  Retrieved from http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/bio.html

Meyers, S. (n.d.) The story behind Twilight.  Retrieved from http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/twilight.html

YALSA. (2006). Teens vote for favorite young adult book.  Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/yalsa/teenreading/teenstopten/06ttt

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Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Bibliographic Information: Leitich Smith, C. (2007). Tantalize. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN: 0763627917.  310 pages.

Plot Summary: Since the death of her parents at age 13, Quincie Morris has been in the care of her uncle Davidson.  With her parents gone, the place that has felt the most like home to her is Fat Lorenzo’s, the Italian restaurant that has been in her family for generations.  And Fat Lorenzo’s chef, Vaggio, and the rest of the staff were like Quincie’s extended family.  But there was a problem, competition, from other local Italian restaurants, was cutting into Fat Lorenzo’s business. Quincie, who, at 17, helped manage the restaurant, and Uncle Davidson came up with a plan: turn the restaurant into a Sanguini’s, an Italian restaurant, with a vampire theme.  From the food to the décor to the wardrobe of the staff, everything had to be planned out perfectly.  But, in Quincie’s world, in Austin, Texas, there really are vampires and werewolves.  In fact, Kieren, her best friend since childhood, and current love obsession, is a hybrid werewolf.  So, when Vaggio is literally torn apart in a brutal murder in the restaurant kitchen, while Quincie, unawares, watches a nature special in the break room, the spotlight turns to the non-humans around her, including Kieren.  In the shadow of Viggio’s unsolved murder, Quincie must focus on Sanguini’s and get it up and running for the reopening in a few weeks.  She also must deal with the fact that Kieren is just about at the age where he will be leaving Austin to join a wolf pack, and Sanguini’s new, young, and handsome, chef seems to have more than a fleeting interest in Quincie.

Critical Evaluation: Leitich Smith manages to take a vampire story with all the fantasy and darkness that comes with vampire novels and merge it with a young adult story that feels realistic and even relatable to many teens.  After all, problems with love and attraction are universal themes, even if the one loved is not always a hybrid werewolf.  Written in first person from Quincie’s perspective, readers learn information as Quincie does.  Her voice is honest and down to earth, even while dealing with otherworldly topics.  Adding to the immersive experience, that reading this book brings, are special pages sprinkled throughout.  A restaurant critique looks like a clipping on the page, the restaurant’s menus are presented in menu style complete with fancy script.  For those who can not get enough Tantalize, Leitich Smith has written others in the series: Eternal, Blessed, and Tantalize: Kieren’s Story.

Reader’s Annotation: When 17-year-old Quincie Morris and her uncle open a new vampire-themed restaurant, there are many changes afoot.  With vampires and werewolves, new love and old, will Quincie make it?

Information about the Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith writes books for all ages, from young children to young adult and adult.  She has published picture books, in addition to short stories, essays, and young adult novels.  Leitich Smith’s website (http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/) is a wonder of resources for readers and writers.  It includes recommended reading lists, advice for those interested in becoming writers, and extensive information about Leitich Smith and her writing.

Leitich Smith is genuinely interested in the world and people around her and generously shares her talents and insights.  She is a tribal member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and some of her works include authentically portrayed American Indian characters, something that is unfortunately often lacking in books about American Indians.  She currently lives in Austin, Texas, the setting for Tantalize, with her husband, also a writer, Greg Leitich Smith (http://gregleitichsmith.com/).

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy

Categories/Themes: Paranormal: Werefolk and Vampires, Fantasy: Myth and Legend

Curriculum Ties: Reading comparison between this novel and Stoker’s Dracula and ancient vampire legends

Booktalking Ideas:

  • How would you feel about your love interest being a hybrid werewolf?
  • Would you go to Sanguini’s?  Which menu would you pick?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 19

Challenge Issues: Underage drinking, sexuality, mythical creatures.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.  Additionally, there are several positive reviews of the book.

Why is this book included? This book was assigned reading, which is how I learned about it, though I was already a fan of Leitich Smith.  Also, I wanted to include some novels with vampires and werewolves, as they are currently very popular among young adults.