Sunday, November 15, 2015

Em's Review... Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined

Celebrate the tenth anniversary of Twilight! This special double-feature book includes the classic novel, Twilight, and a bold and surprising reimagining, Life and Death, by Stephenie Meyer.
Packaged as an oversize, jacketed hardcover “flip book,” this edition features nearly 400 pages of new content as well as exquisite new back cover art. Readers will relish experiencing the deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful love story of Bella and Edward through fresh eyes.
It’s Twilight, with all the genders swapped.

Buy Links:
Amazon US : AU : CA : UK

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Well alrighty then.  **cracks knuckles**  It’s Twilight, redone with all the genders swapped around.  When I first heard that I really did wonder if it was a LGBT Twi….I would have been more impressed it was a male/male version.  Barb would tell me Edward was already a girl, so a Bella/Edyth would have worked as well.  (Just sayin…)  I just went into it hoping that I wouldn’t have to endure endless droning about Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, or the whole lion/lamb line, please no.  Maybe it was mostly nostalgia, but I found myself not loathing it.  I almost feel like I should apologize for not loathing it.  But in the end, despite all of my jokes, I have to give Meyer credit for this: she created an unkillable vampire.  Humans have NO defense or advantage whatsoever over these S.O.B.s.  I’ve always said that just the world that she created was worth some merit - even if they do sparkle.  I would love to read some non YA tales set in this same world.  Tales of the Volturi, anyone?  

**Hit play on House of Pain’s “Jump Around”**

Bella is now Beau, and comes to Forks just as Bella did, because Renee has remarried and wishes to travel with her new baseball playing husband.  Meyer didn’t change Renee and Charlie around, due to the custody trends of the time, which actually made sense.  She was right, a mother would have to have been basically proven unfit to have custody of a child before the father would have been awarded custody over her.  Today, not so much, and I’m glad to see how the laws have changed over the years.  Be that as it may, the story unfolds as it did in Twilight.  

I’ve never been in the head of a teenage boy, so I really can’t judge if Beau is reacting more like a boy than a girl.  He seems a little more direct, a little less concerned with the minutia of describing life.  I like that, and if that’s a male trait then she’s nailed that so far.   I don’t think he would be than concerned with feeding Charlie, and making the household run.  I think left to his own devices he would eat hamburgers every day at the diner just like Charlie.  He’s less of a drama queen than Bella, but I’m reading this I’m reminded that I actually thought Bella was moderately intelligent before she lost all her marbles over Edward.

I’ve gone back and forth a few times comparing scenes.  Meyer mentioned that in this version she did get to go back and fix things that she wished she had done differently in the original, and I can understand wanting to do that.  Whenever I write, I go over it again and again, tweaking it for flow and such, and I’m sure it was a great relief to her to be able to “fix it”.  Shame she didn’t “fix” everything that was wrong with the original story.  

With that in mind, Edyth as Edward has some differences that I’ve noticed right off.   I haven’t noticed the sense of arrogance and overbearing superiority coming off of Edyth that I did Edward.  Arrogance is one of my major pet peeves, and original Edward had it in spades.  

Frankly Edward lost me about halfway through the original, specifically when he told Bella that in his humble opinion no good music had been made since the fifties.  Y’all know me, I’m a music freak.  Had I been Bella at that point I would have informed him that opinions are indeed like assholes, and yes, while we all have them I don’t have to put up with yours.  GTFO out my truck.  Also, GTFO out of my bedroom unless you want to eat buckshot, fucker.  And no, the watching-Beau-sleep angle wasn’t any LESS creepy in this version because Edyth is a female.  

So that brings us to the question, has she written Edyth like a female raised 100 years ago?  (No, sorry to say she didn’t)  Much was made of in the original of how “old fashioned” Edward was, and I’m pretty sure a woman raised 100 years ago wouldn’t react the same way as a man raised 100 years ago would.  Would a woman raised 100 years ago even attempt the relationship that Edward did?  That leads us into a whole other debate about gender roles and how Meyer has totally changed what happened to members of the Cullens due to their new genders.  For example:

Carlisle is now Carine.  She is still a doctor, the leader of the coven and the most chill vamp that ever vamped, but the circumstances of her change weren’t because she was out hunting vamps for her preacher father, but because a vamp broke in and bit her in front of him, as a warning.  

Esme is now Earnest...his alcoholic wife flung herself off a cliff with their baby girl.  Distraught with grief over his dead child, he did the same.  Like the original, I like Earnest/Esme’s character and thought that this would have been a interesting character to explore in depth.  I’ve seen far more character development of the Cullens in (good) fanfiction that I ever saw in either version of Twilight.  **Good fanfiction exists, ya’ll I promise ya**

Rose is Royal, and just as big of a dick as Rose was.  I wondered if this was because Royal was gang raped in an alley too.  And if not, why not?  Well, he wasn’t.  And this was the situation that most made me sit up and pay attention to the differences.  The fact that Rose was gang raped to death in an alley was the main motivator in her nasty attitude and character.  Her whole world was destroyed in that alley, and even a hundred years later she still wished that her life had ended that night.  Rose is a hard character to like, and I wanted to smack her upside the head more times than I can count, but she has depth, and is probably one of the best characters Meyer ever wrote.  Royal got BEATEN to death, betrayed by his fiance.  Yeah, he’s pissy, but he doesn’t have the reasons for his rage that Rose has.

Emmett is Eleanor, and still got ate by a bear.  (lol) I really liked Eleanor, just as I really liked Emmett.   I think this character translated the best from male to female.  I don’t mean to sound like Emmett was a one note character, cause he’s not!  (Please Barb, put the baseball bat down!)   I’ve always thought that Emmett was the most suited to vampire life, and he didn’t seem to carry a big load of unnecessary guilt around with him,either about his change or his life since the change.  Eleanor/Emmett just takes life as it comes, and that’s what makes her/him the vamp I’d most like to sit and smoke a bowl with.  

Alice is now a dude named Archie, and like Alice, also spent time in the nut house.  Archie has a buzz cut, which would have been correct for the period. I found it amusing that she merely described Alice's hair as short and choppy, when in reality, she would have had a buzz cut as well.  Archie comes off as more mysterious and cosmic than Alice did with the flighty pixie angle.  Less fey, more wizard.  He’s not as bouncy, and in his character you can feel the weight of his gift more keenly than Alice ever let on.  Him and Beau don’t interact the same way that Alice and Bella did, but it’s made known that Archie thinks of Beau as family immediately, just as Alice did.

Jasper is now Jessamine.  My poor sweet Jasper.  **shakes head** I highly doubt that any woman in Civil War times would have been a major in the Confederate army, which only leaves open a couple of fates for Jessamine.  It’s not spelled out, but  I’m guessing that Jessamine was a sweet little Southern belle who was lured off of her family plantation (cause where else would she have been) by some Latin dude named either Manuel or Miguel (choose your male form of Maria) and made into his own little empathic weapon.    Meyer takes away his own charisma, his own bravery that he showed by joining the army underage in the first place. And makes him/her even more of a victim.

I’ll admit, I was vaguely offended.  It seems that it’s only the female versions of these characters that suffer sexual assault and abuse.  When Edyth rescues Beau in Port Angeles, she says his assailants wanted to kill him, thinking that he was an undercover cop.  Bella, on the other hand, was in danger of rape at the hands of her attackers.  Meyer states that Twilight wasn’t intended to be a damsel-in-distress type of story, but a human-in-distress story.  Yeah, I’ll give you that Beau had his fair share of distress, but Bella had the fear of having her sex used against her that Beau just didn’t seem to have to worry about.  

The story itself felt more compact, even if it was mostly copy and paste.  I didn’t get spared the “lion and lamb” line, but I did shudder when I read it.   I can tell just from the bits that she has changed the she has gotten better as a writer.  I thought the ending in this version was appropriate, even if it did seem rushed and like she was trying to pack a lot of information into a short space. Which she totally was, of course.  It would have made more sense to me for them to have axed the whole scene with the funeral and just made peace with the tribe before picking up and leaving, but hey, it’s not my book.  So to sum it all up, I found Life and Death to leave me feeling much like the original Twilight did: like there could have been ever so much more.  

Now, if you want to see something made by adults that celebrates the anniversary of Twilight, and is both thought provoking and well done - watch these.


About the Author:

I was born in Connecticut in 1973, during a brief blip in my family's otherwise western U.S. existence. We were settled in Phoenix by the time I was four, and I think of myself as a native. The unusual spelling of my name was a gift from my father, Stephen (+ ie = me). Though I have had my name spelled wrong on pretty much everything my entire life long, I must admit that it makes it easier to google myself now.

I filled the "Jan Brady" spot in my family-the second of three girls. Unlike the Brady's, none of my three brothers are steps, and all of them are younger than all the girls. I went to high school in Scottsdale, Arizona, the kind of place where every fall a few girls would come back to school with new noses and there were Porsches in the student lot (for the record, I have my original nose, and never had a car until after I was in my twenties). I was awarded a National Merit Scholarship, and I used it to pay my way to Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah. I majored in English, but concentrated on literature rather than creative writing, mostly because I didn't consider reading books "work" (as long as I was going to be doing something anyway, I might as well get course credit for it, right?).

I met my husband, Pancho (his real name is Christiaan), when I was four, but we were never anywhere close to being childhood sweethearts. In fact, though we saw each other at least weekly through church activities, I can't recall a single instance when we so much as greeted each other with a friendly wave, let alone exchanged actual words. This may have been for the best, because when we did eventually get around to exchanging words, sixteen years after our first meeting, it only took nine months from the first "hello" to the wedding. Of course, we were able to skip over a lot of the getting to know you parts (many of our conversations would go something like this: "This one time, when I was ten, I broke my hand at a party when-" "Yeah, I know what happened. I was there, remember?") We've been married for ten and a half years now, and have three beautiful, brilliant, wonderful boys who often remind me chimpanzees on crack.

I can't write without music, and my biggest muse is, ironically enough, the band Muse. My other favorite sources of inspiration are Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Coldplay, The All American Rejects, Travis, The Strokes, Brand New, U2, Kasabian, Jimmy Eat World, and Weezer, to mention a few.

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