A review of “Life and Death”

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A review of “Life and Death”

art by Anna Darnold

art by Anna Darnold

art by Anna Darnold

I’m a huge Twilight fan. But when Twilight’s creator, Stephenie Meyer, released a new spin on the original book, I didn’t know how to react. I realized she was trying to acknowledge the ten year anniversary of Twilight, but Life and Death seems to be more of a reaction to Twilight’s many critics.

One of the biggest criticisms for Twilight is the stereotypical gender roles. Bella is a human girl and Edward is a super strong, fast, smart, and attractive vampire. Bella spends her time tripping on her own feet or fainting. Edward is constantly saving her from herself. She is weak and feeble; he is strong and indestructible. And according to the second book in the saga, New Moon, Bella can’t live without Edward. Some criticize  Meyer’s repetitive word choice throughout the book and stereotypical gender roles (females are weak, males are strong).

As the anniversary of Twilight’s publication neared, many Twilight fans were hoping for a continuation of the saga, or at least an official publication of  Midnight Sun. Midnight Sun is basically Twilight told from Edward’s point of view rather than Bella’s, which was never published because someone close to Meyer leaked a partial draft online. But Stephenie Meyer threw us a curve ball. In Life and Death, all genders are reversed. Edward is now Edythe (yes, it’s spelled that way) and Bella is now Beau (short for Beaufort, and no, I’m not kidding). Besides Bella/Beau’s parents, every character in the book is now the opposite gender. It’s a bit disorienting at first, especially since I’ve read Twilight multiple times and I was constantly trying to figure out who was who (Mike is now McKayla, Jessica is now Jeremy). I also kept seeing too much of Bella in Beau and too much of Edward in Edythe.

At times, Beau’s internal monologue sounds very feminine, too much like my own. According to Meyer, she enlisted the help of her three teenage sons to get Beau’s mannerisms less like those of a teenage girl and more like that of a teenage boy. Slowly, I began to realize that Beau didn’t sound feminine at all. Thought-wise, boys and girls are really very similar. They both have similar problems (homework, dating, trying to figure out who they are, etc.).

However, sometimes authors have a hard time writing in the mindset of a teenager of the opposite gender. I’ve read books by male authors who don’t understand teenage girls because the internal monologue and the character’s actions are a bit too stereotypical. I liked what Meyer did when she worked with her boys to truly write as accurately as possible.

When I first opened Life and Death, the first thing I noticed was the lengthy forward. In this, Meyer basically explains why Life and Death is a response to the gender stereotypical roles of Bella and Edward, and she literally gives a percentage estimate of the amount of changes she made to the original publication of Twilight. She’s defending why she did what she did with the book, and it’s not completely unwarranted.

So I started reading the book thinking I was going to hate it. Yes, I was prepared to throw my “twihard’ tendencies to the side and tear this book apart because I thought it would be a huge failure of a book that no one really asked for. Turns out, I was very wrong. I started out being nitpicky, thinking about how Beau makes dinner for his dad every night and how I can barely make a bowl of cereal. Then I internally and very sarcastically thanked Stephenie Meyer for making me feel like a failure at responsibility because I don’t read classics and I don’t cook dinner. Finally, I realized that it really doesn’t matter whether or not a fictional character cooks dinner, and it doesn’t matter that I think omelettes are challenging. I also realized that by having Beau make dinner, Meyer is tearing down gender stereotypes, so I internally and legitimately thanked the author who made vampires sparkle. Not because I ended up thoroughly enjoying Life and Death, but because it made me think about what is considered feminine and what is considered masculine. I decided that it really doesn’t matter at all. If you switch the genders of an entire book full of characters, they’re still the same person.