Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

A few years ago, long before we knew the end of Harry Potter’s story, I was involved in a discussion in which I stated that J.K. Rowling is an excellent writer. Someone in the discussion felt differently, claiming that the “previously in Harry Potter” recaps at the beginning of the earlier books proved that she wasn’t a good author. I am kind of afraid of arguing with this person, to be honest, so I conceded the point, and we were able to agree that Rowling is an excellent storyteller. I have wondered, in the past year, how she feels about Rowling’s writing now, whether the detail and care that she brought to her tale (not to mention the fact that, once she had a little more clout with the publishers, the recaps stopped pretty abruptly) has changed her feelings about Rowling’s gifts as an author.

This summer, as we have been painting, I have been listening to Harry Potter on CD as read by Jim Dale (which makes us even more excited about Pushing Daisies coming back in the fall). This is my first time reading it now that I know the end, and it’s been interesting to watch it all come together. The Twilight saga, as I am sure you are aware, has been heralded as the next Harry Potter. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly (the issue with the revolting Twilight cover), Stephenie Meyer talked about her storytelling, and how she may not be the most gifted writer, but she can tell a story. But the simple truth is that people liked Harry Potter for more than just an entertaining story. We liked the world she created, we liked the characters, and, as the story continued, we liked the increasing depth of a story that was putting forth important ideas about friendship, loyalty, life, death, and love. Nothing in Stephenie Meyer’s books approaches that kind of depth. The Twilight saga, though deeply entertaining, is, in the end, nothing more than a series of vampire romance novels.

But, as I said, they are deeply entertaining. Exceptionally high on the unintentional comedy scale, no question, but the story itself was, for the most part, a page turner, even if the characters were not much more than empty shells that allowed readers to fill in the blanks with, well, themselves. (This does, after all, help explain much of the popularity of the books. What teenage girl would not want to fancy herself adored by two hot guys with special powers?) And so, on Saturday morning, Mike and I trekked to Wal-Mart so that I could purchase a copy of the final book in the saga, Breaking Dawn. Why did I buy it when I don’t have any of the others? Well, we were at the beach, and I thought, “Hey, I will just donate this book to my school when I am done.” I was a little ashamed to have it in my cart, but also a little excited to hear the end of the story. Six and a half hours later, I put the book down, a bit disappointed, relieved that it was finally over.

As Breaking Dawn begins, Bella’s wedding is in just a few days, and she continues to face the questions of whether sex with a vampire is going to be possible and also whether Edward will follow through with his promise to turn her into a vampire as well. I found the first half of the book to be as entertaining as the other parts of the series I had enjoyed, with twists and turns I hadn’t expected, not to mention the overly dramatic prose I have come to count on. (My family was quite entertained when I would read bits to them, things like Bella feeling that Edward is more angel than man.) By the second half, Stephenie Meyer herself seemed to lose interest in the story, and the climax toward which the story had been building sputtered out with a whimper rather than the bang of the Battle of Hogwarts. I think, in the end, maybe she should have kept the story to three books.

When I finished Breaking Dawn, I picked up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I had gotten about halfway through. I finished it on Sunday morning, cried a little bit, and marveled at J.K. Rowling’s gifts, especially as compared to what I had just read in Breaking Dawn. If the Twilight stories are the new Harry Potter, you can keep them. I will stick with the old Harry Potter, thanks.

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