Confession time. I haven’t managed to make myself read the last 25% of Life and Death. I fully intend to one day when I am bored as hell and trapped on a subway with nothing else loaded on my iPhone and there is a creepy man with onion-breath leering at me with whom I would prefer not to make eye contact with. Until then, I am so fine with not finishing it.
I will admit that the first time I read Twilight I loved it. At the time I was the book’s target demographic. I had also spend 2 weeks babysitting a rowdy cabin of little girls as a camp counselor. I was in the mood for some untaxing fluff. Reading Life and Death now, at 25 and hunting for a job, reminded me how my relationship to YA has evolved over the years. It started out earnestly, where I ate up the tropes of forever love, passive heroines, meaningful hand-holding, and chosen ones who were awesome because they were chosen. Over the years, though, I became harder and harder to please, always looking for that something that broke the mold I had molded by.
By the time I hit university age the cynicism that coloured my relationship with YA was not something that I alone was feeling. With the popularity increase that sent the YA industry into a boom came a lot of discussions about the problems people saw with the “genre” and how we wanted it to change. Up came the We Need Diverse Books movement and heroines that were more likely to assassinate you in your sleep than scream in abject terror.
Twilight, bless it’s heart, started a lot of those discussions. First of all, it was the immense success of the Twilight franchise that started the YA craze and got publishers looking at the profitability of of the teen demographic. Then it was people examining the Bella-Edward relationship, gender dynamics and writing style that fueled the backlash against the tropes that we were fed for so long. Twilight had enough of following that everyone could get in on the conversation in one form or another. Over time it meant that publishers, looking to find the next big thing, were willing to take chances on the new and the different and listen to some of those conversations. To sound like some sort of business analyst in a cubicle under florescent lights, Twilight stimulated growth.
But we’re now living in a post-Twilight world. Life and Death is a desperate bid to be relevant again. Released on the 10th anniversary of Twilight, it practically shouted “look at me, I’m still have things to say”. And while it may have things to say, these things are not new things. If you’re looking to write an essay on gender dynamics in Twilight then Life and Death is your perfect compare-and-contrast. You don’t have to go into what-ifs and hypothetical, Stephenie Meyer has reversed the genders for you and proved beyond a doubt that Bella and Edward were very stereotypically gendered characters. But you didn’t actually need her to go and write a whole new book to prove that. You could have done the leg work yourself.
Twilight is very much a product of the early 2000’s and to recycle it like the last 10 years of conversations never happened is a little hard to swallow. It is one of those rare artifacts of pop culture that, by virtue of its popularity, became dated fairly quickly. Since its been gone we’ve had new conversations, moved on to new issues, and generally grown as people and as an industry. Twilight has had its impact and it is time to let it go and other than for research purposes, you can skip Life and Death. It suffers from the same pitfalls as Twilight without the bragging rights that it is at least its own unique entity.
If you want a perfect metaphor its an old boyfriend that keeps texting you long after your relationship is clearly over. Block sender.