Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Biggest Debate Since Evolution: "Harry Potter" or "Twilight"?

Twi-hards. Fanpires. Officially, Twilighters.

Oh Em Gee, another tween book craze has taken over the country. Years ago, Harry Potter ruled the       best-seller lists, with people old and young rushing out to the bookstore to read the next installment in the saga of the boy wizard.

Then the Twilight books came along and shit all over everything that Harry Potter built.

Okay, maybe that was too harsh. I have such great respect for J.K. Rowling and what she created with HP, that it's almost insulting that this Stephanie Meyer chick and her goddamn sparkly vampires have made her almost obsolete. If they would hurry up and get the seventh HP movie out, perhaps people would remember what they are missing. Instead, we have to deal with repetitive, gag-me-with-a-spoon romantic, vegetarian vampire stories with the totally NOT CUTE Robert Pattinson as the lamest vampire in the history of vampires.

I was against the HP craze at the start, not thinking those books were for me or that they could really be THAT good. Then the first movie came out and I decided I would give the book a chance before I saw it, even though most of the time I would rather waste two hours on a stupid movie than a few days on a stupid book. But you know what? I loved it. I LOVE HARRY POTTER. After the first one, I devoured all the other books, sometimes having to wait a painful amount of time for the paperback to come out because I'm too cheap to buy hardbacks and I wanted my collection to be all the same format. Yeah, I'm a dork.

Then the Twilight craze started. I was mildly curious because of the whole vampire thing it had going on, but also because I wanted to see what the big effing deal was. So I read the books and saw the movie. I wasn't impressed. Especially once I got to the second book, which was full of so much teenage DRAMA and angst that I wanted to puke. Edward left and Bella turned into this zombie - it wasn't sad, it was just really annoying. But what annoyed me the most when I got to the second book and then the third book was how repetitive Meyer can be. Every time Edward and Bella kiss, we have to read the same g-darn description of how kissing him makes Bella weak in the knees and how she can't remember her name even anymore because Edward's face is just so PERFECT and he's the most gorgeous thing on the planet. Those who've read it, you know it's true. You've read this same description over and over. 

I will admit that the story is interesting enough to make you at least want to finish the book to find out what happens. It's not the most original take on the vampire or werewolf lore (vampires that sparkle in the sunlight is I'm sure one thing we will not see copied by any other person), and I've never heard of vampires that were so hard to kill. Having to go to Italy to commit suicide must be a real inconvenience. 

I must agree with critics in that the books are not that well written. The style is immature, with repetitive descriptions as I mentioned, plus some people also talked about the heavy use of adjectives and adverbs in dialog, which I seem to remember there being a lot of that as well. They're easy to read, and that's okay for the target audience of young, annoying teenage girls but not for me. 

And perhaps I'm not the best to review a novel that's mostly romance - I hate romance novels, and especially the idea of vampires as romantic figures. Sure, they're hot and immortal and all that sexy stuff but they're monsters, vegetarian or not. And why are they presented in these novels as so much better than their monstrous counterparts, the werewolves? Bella is constantly pissed at Jacob for being all macho and werewolf-y, but I always thought she should be with him than Edward anyway. It's like a teen version of Phantom of the Opera - the Phantom or Raoul? Who will she choose? Of course, she chooses the vampire, with whom, as we learned from Buffy, she could never have a normal life. Unless she becomes a vampire, too...

Okay, I hate to say it, since I've been railing on the series this whole time, but I really need to read the last book. Hey, after 3 books you want to find out how it ends! Whether or not Bella becomes a vampire, or I even heard that she was going to end up pregnant or something. Don't spoil it for me.

And then we have Harry Potter. These books are, if I may, about 100 times better than the Twilight books. I love stories that create their own whole new world for the reader (or watcher) to get into and that is exactly what we get with HP. A world that takes all the cliches of witches and wizards - like cauldrons and potions and familiars and flying on broomsticks - and makes it fun and funny. These books are so clever in the writing and so immensely well thought-out that it really just baffles me. This is Rowling's world and she could make up whatever the fuck she wanted to, but she took it seriously and thought of every minute detail having to do with the characters and especially the plot.

That's what gets me the most about these books. I know Rowling spent like 20 years or something writing them, which gave her plenty of time to plan them all out it, but it's like she knew every major or minor plot point that was going to happen in each book. There's lots of foreshadowing, but there's also weird little details that show up in one book and turn out to be majorly important two books later. Like when Harry hides his Potions book in the Room of Requirement, and he puts that crown on top of the statue's head to remember where it is, then the crown turns out to be Ravenclaw's diadem which Voldemort made into a horcrux that Harry must destroy. Sure, Rowling could have made that shit up in between the books, but based on how everything ties together in the end, I don't believe she did. These books were her life for two decades, so I would imagine that nothing in them is there without reason.

And though the books get more serious and darker as the series progresses, they are still so funny to read. The dialog is hilarious and has a lot of British wit to it that I love. The books also don't seem to dumbed down for their audience, so adults can, and obviously do, enjoy reading them just as much as their 10-year-old kids. The names she gives objects and people alike are also very clever, although to some they may seem too obvious. I can't believe that I never figured out that Remus LUPin was a werewolf.  

Referring back to how serious the books get, however, I'm not sure if that's exactly a good thing or not. The first couple of books and their movies were fun and perfect for kids and adults. But then people started dying. The series really took a turn with the end of The Goblet of Fire and Cedric's death (who, strangely, is the sparkly vampire Edward Cullen from Twilight!). Whoa, is this still a kid's book? Reading the first book, you would never imagine that this is how the story of the cute boy wizard would play out. I mean, the story is amazing and I love how the plot progresses right until the end of the last book, but Rowling was dangerously close to losing her target audience. I don't want to know what the hoards of 11-year-old wannabe wizards out there would have done if Harry had actually died at the end!

The books teach a good lesson about many things: the bonds of friendship, loyalty, doing what's right even when it's dangerous or hard, never letting evil win. What do we learn from Twilight?  Hang on, lemme think for a minute ...............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Okay I got nothing. But see? HP is a phenomenon that I think will last. It leads itself to discuss so many different topics, both plot-wise and in the way it is written, whereas Twilight doesn't have anything to say. 

But also in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter if the books are good or bad if people enjoy them. Heck, I absolutely love those MEG books, the ones about the giant prehistoric shark that attacks and eats a bunch of people. There is nothing even remotely clever or scholarly about these books but they are a good time, and that's what is important when it comes to reading. Twilight is no classic, but is has kept people, young people especially, interested in books. This is my plea to all: Read books, have fun reading them, read more books, and then teach your children to love books, too.

On a side note, I helped throw a Harry Potter party. I was working at Gerbes and our GM manager got news that she had to throw a midnight release party for the final book in the series. We set up a cute little table, had a cake walk to the HP theme music, asked some trivia questions for prizes, had a guy from our store dress up like Harry so kids could take pictures with him, and had a little Easter egg hunt type thing with these coins I found and little gold trophies that I called Triwizard Cups (if you found those, you got a bigger prize). There were only about five kids that showed up, but it was fun, they were totally into it.

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