The Acorn and Thimble

The important things in children's books

Posts tagged twilight

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Wuthering Twilight - Edward and Heathcliff

To my mind, one of the greatest novels on the planet is Wuthering Heights. As I was discussing with people on twitter earlier, it’s not a love story. It’s a passion story - rage, love, envy, jealousy, betrayal - all the good and the bad are aggravated and exacerbated until there is not a single character in the books who is truly admirable (we might make a small exception for Hareton, due to circumstances). That’s part of the reason I love it - it’s wild, untamed as the moors that it’s set on, and contains characters you have to grapple with to understand.

Another reason I love it is that every reading is different. I genuinely now try not to read it more than once every two years, because each reading so far has been significantly different from the last and I don’t want that to diminish. For example, I used to think that the one redeemable part of Heathcliff was his love for Cathy. In spite of his obsession and desperation, at least Cathy had someone who loved her that much, unconditionally.

I don’t think this any more. I remember at an interview for a different sixth form college to my own, I was asked about my school reading. I said I thought Heathcliff was one of the best written characters in all of English Literature. The English teacher smirked. ‘Yes, we have noticed that young women tend to be, ah, ‘fond’ of him.’ I thought the man was an idiot, I didn’t fancy Heathcliff. Except I really do.

But not in a sweet, I’d like to introduce him to my parents way. More in a ‘that’d be a great weekend out on the moors’ sort of way. Because Heathcliff’s love for Cathy is not love, but a dangerous desire to possess her. I return to my one weekend on the moors suggestion. This is all well and good until you consider this monstrosity:

Normally, I’m all for teens reading classics. ‘Anything that gets them reading’ and all that jazz. But the idea here is that they’re parallel. Do you love how Edward is devoted to Bella? Then you’ll love Heathcliff. Like Bella. I’ve spoken at great length on the unsuitably of Edward anyway, but why on earth would you set up Heathcliff as a natural progression for young girls looking for romance?

I think everyone should read Wuthering Heights. I really do, it’s a masterpiece. But please, not as a suggestion of Wuthering Heights as the next romance with a sweetly devoted boyfriend. That is not devotion, it’s a desire for ownership, regardless of the desires and wishes of the desired.

Filed under wuthering heights twilight literature ya literature book covers

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The Thesis

Hello, small band of followers.

Just to let people know, my thesis is now available online:

Immortal Longings and Mortal Repression: The Dark Romance Genre and Young Girls

This is my thesis on, predominantly, the Twilight Saga and why it can be detrimental to read for younger readers. It is NOT a massive attack on Twilight as a series of books, but an exploration of why Meyers writing choices can endanger pre-teens attitudes to sexuality, maturation and their own self esteem. 

Here is a summary of the main body, from my extract:

The first chapter addresses the presentation of sex and sexuality itself, using the theories of Michel Foucault as demonstrated in his History of Sexuality. Using J. A. Appleyard’s theory of reading stages, I then argue that the messages portrayed are all the more dangerous for young female readers experiencing literature as Appleyard suggests. The second chapter details the difficulties of identity formation for young girls, affected by their self perception and their interactions with others, using Robyn McCallum’s theory of ideology and identity, with particular reference to the Young Adult Elements of the Saga. The final chapter explores the Saga’s presentation of Bella’s escape from adolescence into a perfect, un-aging vampire, and the unattainable ideals that this portrays. I examine this using Jaques Lacan and Julia Kristeva’s theories of development along with Rosemary Jackson’s views regarding fantasy.

Other series, including Vampire Academy and Vampire Beach are also touched upon. Since finishing my masters, this thesis has been read by another popular paranormal writer, and I have spoken to Greek newspaper To Vima to help them advise their concerned readers on the issue of young girls reading the Saga. Essentially then, this is not a rant, but an issue I believe to be pressing and important, and that hopefully others do too.



Filed under adolescence fantasy feminism gothic pre-teen sexuality twilight vampire vampire academy young adult fiction

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Breaking Dawn pt 1. Broken, then

So on Saturday, my friends and I headed to watch Breaking Dawn, partly because I wrote my thesis on the saga and partly because we thought it would be entertaining.

I think it was an interesting start to the evening when we sat down to an advert about abusive relationships. Part of me rolled my eyes, part of me laughed at the irony, but actually the larger part of me was thrilled that ‘cinema people’ were being responsible. Showing teenagers having a seemingly innocuous argument which then escalated, it was a great representation of how easily abuse can be masked as a ‘mistake.’

With that in place, the film proceeded to show why it was necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed elements of the film. Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson are, in my opinion, actually rather skilled. It is not their fault they have a weak plot and uninspiring script to work with. Some bits were lovely - Bella’s preparation for the wedding, the pause in Rio on the way to their honeymoon, and so on. Bella’s first time and her feelings about have the potential to be a wonderful example of losing virginity, at least until Edward decides that he’s hurt her and refuses to discuss continuing a physical relationship. Whilst this is promoted as loving and caring, he refuses to engage in discussion about this hugely important topic, much as he refuses to listen to his wife’s views on her pregnancy. The biggest problem with the film as a piece of cinema is that there wasn’t enough plot to sustain the film - the action scenes and human interest are all going to be in the second film. Bella and Edward essentially get married, go on honeymoon, and she gets pregnant. The main misery of the film enters at this point, which is too late to make the first part exciting enough.

And the second half of the film was one of the most horrific things I have ever seen - had I seen it as a 12 year old, I’d have been traumatised. Not only was it the most obvious and cruel piece of anti-abortion work I have ever seen, but childbirth itself was made out to be a thing of nightmare. Now, I know that we aren’t all going to carry demon babies, and so it’s different, but the emaciated, broken Bella who could only think of her baby and scream in agony was horrific. Let alone the fact they cut her open before her husband ate his way in to get their child out, and then fussed over the child till Bella ‘died’ and laid there, glazed eyes open, covered in her own blood. 

But to me, this wasn’t the worst part. The film walks a careful line between anti-abortion (Bella is rewarded with vampirism and the other girls’ friendship for successfully giving birth) and anti-choice (‘what do you mean it’s killing her? Get it OUT of her?), and doesn’t really end up backing either. I actually started choking on my drink when Bella told Edward that if she died he’d still have a part of her in their child, and he scathingly insisted that he could never love a thing that killed her. I was shocked - men do just this, every day, across the world. Women die in childbirth and we do not blame the innocent child. I could not believe such an argument was included in a film that pre-teens would be seeing. I had been laughing at incredibly emo talking werewolves who had been sulking all film, but this utterly removed the enjoyment.

I really, really hope the second film is better. And I really, really recommend that if you know a pre-teen female you don’t take them to see this film, or if you do, then at least with a proper discussion of the implications of Bella’s story. I have rarely experienced something so anti-feminist and oppressive, and I wrote a thesis on the books that inspired this film (this will soon be available to read at http://cambridge.academia.edu/HannahLove). This film suggests you should comply with your boyfriend wishes in anything except motherhood, and has a terrible view on babies and childbirth in general, regardless of the vampiric context.

Filed under breaking dawn twilight abortion teenagers review

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You could see it coming…

I never fail to be intrigued by endings of books. For children, who are far more likely to be fully engaged rather than looking at the text with a critical eye, they’re hugely important. Particularly if it’s a series or trilogy ending – you’ve invested so much time, energy, and very often emotions in the process – so disappointments are more pronounced.

The ways endings can be disappointing are varied. The book cannot end the way you want in terms of plot (having looked at Twilight fansites and books, an awful lot of fans were annoyed that the saga didn’t end with a good vampire/bad vampire showdown), or character journey (a friend who recently finished The Hunger Games Trilogy was so devastated by Katniss’ lack of agency at the end of Mockingjay has now gone off the books), or the whole thing can seem incomplete.

What really tickles me, however, is predictable endings. Much as the way you can look at a rom-com and know that Hugh Grant will end up happy and get the girl (Bridget Jones only breaks this by replacing him with Colin Firth, an altogether admirable decision), many children’s books have an outcome that you see coming. Obviously Bella wouldn’t abandon Edward for Jacob – although Jacob would still have a happy ending. Of course Harry would defeat Voldemort.The weasels would lose Toad Hall. ‘It was a bit predictable’ is a common criticism I hear of children’s books.

And yet – I cannot help but think that whilst people might claim that they don’t like predictable endings, that actually, particularly in children’s books, we do. The greatest grievance I have heard of a children’s book is from Little Women. No one has ever really forgiven Louisa May Alcott for not letting Jo and Laurie get married. And that’s because she was determined to not be predictable and bow to what people wanted. Yet I have friends who still grieve about it, just a little.

Clearly, we want happy endings for characters that we give our affection to. And maybe that’s because we want happy endings for our friends, and particularly as children we are led to expect a happy resolution. As loving people, it’s natural. It’s just in the strange world of fiction where we’d like some real trauma along the way – and this holds as true for children’s books as any other. There’s nothing so predictable as that.

Filed under book endings the hunger games little women twilight children's literature children's books

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I don’t like it…it’s too popular

The above sentence has always, always baffled me. It’s been applied to books from Twilight to Harry Potter, and at one point, to Roald Dahl. And that’s just the children’s books.

I’m afraid I don’t understand. It seems a little like forced snobbery that could lead to you missing out on something great. I get it to the degree that books that you love are special to you, and it’s not something you want to share with everyone. I fully understand. This crops up in all walks of life. When I was 14, it was a shock to the system to realise, when I went to see my beloved Busted in concert (don’t laugh), that there were people who possibly loved them more than I did. When I saw people with tour tshirts on, I felt like random strangers were wearing a piece of me, and I didn’t like it.

I’m still choosy about who I recommend bands and books to - things that inspire you are deeply personal. And thus I can see that actually, a hugely popular book, particularly a children’s one, if you are an adult, might be unattractive. You don’t want to come late to something that so many people have made their own, when your attachment can be categorised more easily under ‘fandom.’ For examples, see the communities formed by some fans of books- Harry Potter’s ‘Potterheads,’ Twilight’s ‘Twihards’ and even The Hunger Games’ worrying band of ‘Tributes.’

But this, surely, is only one facet? I’ve heard the accusation that ‘if it’s that popular, it can’t be good?’ Because the majority have terrible taste? I agree that sometimes, lots of people like bad books. It happens. But I think that it’s a ridiculous assumption to make for all books. It could just be possible that lots of people like a book because it’s good. Because it touches a nerve for lots of people or inspires them, and that lots of them are less selfish than me with recommendations.

Charles Dickens was pretty popular in his time. His books were all serialised and people eagerly awaited the next instalment like a TV show or magazine. Hugely tacky really. And yet Dickens is one of our literary greats, and he’s certainly not regarded as ‘too popular’ today. Roald Dahl was too popular with children, and so apparently there couldn’t possibly be any literary merit? Yet he’s still one of the best selling authors in the world and is now seen as ‘good children’s literature,’ important in getting children reading. Time should not be the only thing that gives us perspective. If you don’t like a book fine, but don’t refuse to read it because other people like it.

Filed under children's books popular fiction twilight harry potter charles dickens roald dahl

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Supernatural Romance Mutations

It’s not going to be a surprise to anyone who’s been in a bookshop to know that there’s been a explosion of supernatural romance in recent years. Also known as ‘dark romance’ this emerging genre has seen red and black (with a smattering of white or silver) covers taking over bookshelves. Often there’s a moody boy (some of Twilight, and Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy) or a pale girl (see Lauren Kate’s Fallen series or the Cast’s House of Night, or even Lee Weatherly’s Angel), or a single object looking sinister in the centre of the page (see Vampire Academy, Twilight, Vampire Beach and countless others).

Inside the pages, stereotypes often further abound. One member of the relationship will be a vampire, werewolf, angel or some form of the undead/mythical. At least one half of the fated relationship is irritatingly, unavailably beautiful - Edward, Sienna, Daniel - and one is generally a bit of an outsider - Bella, Luce, Willow. Sometimes they may combine in one (Looking at you, Edward), but generally the rule is that the protagonist only truly feels comfortable with their supernatural partner, and realise that that person’s all they’ve been wanting. But this is generally fraught with danger for the couple (Bella and Edward, Rose and Dimitri, Luce and Daniel, Willow and Alex, Grace and Sam, Jason and Sienna, Phoenix and Darina- actually I think that’s nearly every supernatural romance I’ve read - (yes, I’ll put a key at the bottom). Generally though, after a life threatening situation and family and friends who just don’t understand, the pair end up together. Sometimes human becomes non human. In one, the non human became human. It happens.

Now I realise the above seems overtly cynical, and like a typical 22 year old who’s SO over Harry Potter, Twilight, Narnia etc. I even wrote a whole 20,000 word thesis on the dangers of dark romance for young girls.

But actually, I quite like some of it. Not all, and there are some I just like bits here and there. But I think it’s important to consider that a lot of it works because a lot of adolescents do feel that genuine isolation, and for some this leads to negative comparisons of the self with others. Dark Romance therefore gives a happier outlet for these feelings, adding an element of fantasy that makes being a teenager a bit more special. The idea of a supernatural partner filled with devotion isn’t an unattractive prospect, after all. But, as I detail in my thesis and won’t go into now, there are parts that aren’t helpful, and can heighten feelings of worthlessness and encourage self deprecation.

This stated however, I briefly want to mention a few supernatural romances that I think actually have some merit, or at least, that I have enjoyed and that have not made me want to throw things.

1. Lee Weatherly’s Angel. This series hasn’t even released its second book yet but I think it’s a good one. Willow has always been able to sense people’s futures, and knows her father was a bit mysterious, but hasn’t bothered otherwise. Alex is an angel killer, as angels actually feed off the life essence of people, gradually driving them insane. Asked to kill Willow for a reason he doesn’t understand, the two end up on the run together. 

It’s a bit different to some of the others in the genre, and the two have to change and adapt around one another. I like books where both characters have to compromise and learn. I’m looking forward to the next one and think the premise of angels as soul destroying beings from another dimension is interesting.

2. Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy. Rose is a dhampir - half vampire, half human, with the best traits of both, which means her life has been about training to be a guardian to her best friend Lissa, a mortal vampire princess. The six book series follows Rose’s attempts to come to terms with her dictated future, and what it requires her to give up, including the love of her life, Dimitri, who happens to be her teacher.

Despite the awful title, and some weaknesses, I really like this series and will probably read the spin off. I didn’t like how blood drinking was associated with sex and thus was seen as a taboo and dirty. But I liked how Rose was the least perfect heroine I’ve ever read, and yet still somehow admirable. She has to control her rage and yet simultaneously work out if she can accept a prescribed life. It’s got some proper character development, but I still wouldn’t recommend it to younger girls.

3. Maggie Stiefvater’s The Wolves of Mercy Falls. Grace was attacked by wolves as a child, yet has always felt a strange draw to them, dreaming of the woods. In particular she is attached a blue grey wolf with yellow eyes. When a local boy is killed by wolves, the town goes out with guns and Grace comes home to find a seriously wounded boy with yellow eyes lying on her porch. Sam is only human when it’s warm, and this is his last year of changing. It’s already September.

In all honesty, whilst all three books are out (and I own them all) I’ve only read the first one, Shiver. Several times. Because I love it. This is the first supernatural romance I’ve read and adored the language used. Initially I was put off by the yellow eye thing. I’m bored of boys with entrancing, trippy coloured eyes. But actually, it works in context and I adored the character of Sam. I only read the book for a job interview but I got rather hooked. Grace is a gutsy, independent girl who is aware of the strangeness of her life but makes the best of it. And it’s beautifully written.

So these are my favourites. When I finish Linger and Forever there’ll probably be another post. But I just wanted to stick up for paranormal romance, even though I might tear it apart with my next breath.

Here’s the key! If only one book is listed, I haven’t read the whole series yet, or never will.

Author   Book   Girl   Boy

Lee Weatherly Angel Willow Alex

Stephenie Meyer Twilight Saga Bella Edward

Maggie Stiefvater Wolves of Mercy Chase Grace Sam

P.C and Kristin Cast Marked Zoey Erik

Alex Duval Vampire Beach Sienna Jason

Lauren Kate Fallen Luce Daniel

Eden Maguire The Beautiful Dead Darina Phoenix

Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Rose Dimitri


Filed under twilight dark romance vampire academy werewolf wolves angel house of night heroine