A book you love, and one you didn’t

I love the Harry Potter series, and I loathed Twilight. Surprise, surprise.

I remember the day I finished reading Book 7 of the HP series. I had that sense of disappointment that always accompanies the end of a really good series, and it was amplified by the fact that at that point, I’d been reading the series for seven years. I was introduced to the first volume of the series in 2000 by a college roommate, and quickly raced through the four volumes in print at the time. I eagerly awaited each installment, and re-read the entire series before she released each book.

I hated the films, so for me, the final book was the end of the experience. Sure, I can always go back and re-read, but that’s a different experience. The discovery portion was over.

I called my older sister, who was also an HP fan, to talk about the finale. In the course of the conversation, I expressed my disappointment that the series was over and wondered aloud what I would read next. She said, “Well, if you like fantasy, there’s this new series everyone at church is talking about.”

I said, “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah. It’s about vampires and werewolves and all those things you like.”

I twisted my lip a little at the vampires bit, and figured I would not read the series. Generally speaking, I am not a vampire fan. There’s a vampire anime I liked as a teen (Vampire Hunter D), and I swooned over Brad Pitt in Interview With a Vampire, and Spike on Buffy brought a little tingle of joy to my heart when he was onscreen, but mostly I just detested vampire stores.

Why? Because for the most part, vampire stories are love stories. I hate that dynamic. If it’s fucking creepy when a 40 year old hits on a 16 year old, why is it suddenly better when the older person is a young-looking vampire? Answer: It’s not. It’s gross and predatory. There is no way in goddamn hell that an immortal being would look at a teenage naif and think, “Yeah. That. That is who I want tailing around me for the rest of my immortal life. That’ll be awesome.”

Here’s how that situation would actually play out: The gross old vampire would seduce her, bang her, and leave her. Maybe suck her blood and kill her. But there’s no rational situation where an immortal decides that a teenage ingenue is exactly what he needs in a life partner. Actually, there’s no rational situation where an immortal of any stripe goes for a human. It never makes sense. Ever. Their backgrounds and personalities and values are just way too different. What the hell is a 20 something, or 30 something, or even 40 something gonna have to say to a vampire? “Oh, you saw the Civil War? Cool, cool. I think my great-great-grandad fought in that. So … do you miss Victorian fashion?”

There’s just no goddamn overlap in life experiences. Everything the human thinks is worth worrying or complaining about is just petty humanity in the eyes of someone who has seen centuries go by.

Anyway, so I clearly wasn’t interested in Twilight, and had no plans to read it. Then, that summer, I was taking this Statistics course. First day, I walk in and see a girl reading this big thick book, and I say, “Whatcha reading?”

Immediately, I wince. I hate it when people ask me what I’m reading when I am reading. But the girl looks up with a wide-eyed, bright smile and says in a breathless, gushy sort of voice, “Eclipse.”

“Yeah? What is that, about the phases of the moon or something?” I joke, dropping into the chair beside her. She gives me a horrified look, as though I’ve said some very unfunny sacrilege (it was unfunny, I admit. Sacrilege? No.), and says, “No, it’s the third book in the Twilight series.”

I wrinkle my eyebrows in thought. “I think I’ve heard of that.”

“You haven’t read it?”

She gasps in horror and real pity, and touched my hand lightly. “I’ll bring it next week. You’re going to love it.”

She did bring it the next week. A hardcover copy. She put it down in front of me with the triumphant air of a messenger delivering a precious jewel, and said, “This is seriously the most amazing book in the entire world. I’m not usually a reader, but I cannot put this down. It’s the best thing I’ve ever read.”

Okay, quick note: The more effusively someone raves over something, the more concerned I am about consuming that particular media, or food, or whatever. I have learned through painful experience that when someone raves about a thing being the most amazing thing in the history of ever, I am bound to be disappointed (ironically, this does not stop me from raving about things being the most amazing things in the history of ever, haha).

So I looked at her with a slightly concerned look, but I accepted the book. During the class, I kind of skimmed it … looked at the title page and whatnot. Saw that despite this being a hardcover copy of her self-professed favoritest book ever, she had not put her name or contact info on the inside cover.

I’ve lost way too many books to that kind of trustworthy lending, so after class I pointed out the lack of info to her and invited her to mark her property. She gave me a suspicious look, like I was crazypants or a lesbian trying to subtly hit on her, but wrote her name and number in an illegible scrawl and pushed the book back at me.

I read it that night, and the only thing that prevented me from throwing the damn tome across the room was the fact that it was not mine. I returned it to her the next day, and studiously avoided her for the remainder of the class.

As offensively bad as the book was, I think I especially hated it because people were recommending it to me as I came off the tail of Harry Potter, and comparing it to Harry Potter. That’s like comparing … Sherlock Holmes with The Hardy Boys. One can read The Hardy Boys and graduate to Sherlock Holmes, but it is much more difficult to appreciate them in the opposite order. This is the case with Twilight.

Perhaps if I had never before read a fantasy story or a YA novel, I could have read Twilight and found it transformative and imaginative and amazing. But I came to Twilight after reading the likes of Harry Potter and Narnia and The Golden Compass and The Enchanted Forest Chroniclesand a hundred thousand other fantasy books I won’t bother to look up the authors and titles of. Twilight was doomed for me long before it was a wet dream in the author’s bed, because I’d been on a steady diet of fantasy for two decades before it was published, and I’d developed a taste for really great fantasy. There was just no possibility of me ever liking it.

 

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