I finished Twilight a week ago. I read it in about two-and-a-half days, and then I had to spend three days in detox. I’ve been thinking since then about what – if anything – I would write in review. I could, I thought, decline to comment, as I have with a few other books – some of them books I really liked (see #5 on this post).

But I’m going to try to sort out some of my thoughts here anyway. There’s a movie release and it’s really popular, so I have some hesitations. For one thing, what if you don’t like me anymore? What if you slam me and insult me in the combox? Yes, I know…silly reasons to keep my mouth shut (especially here, in my corner of cyberspace). But…there you have it.

Also, not all of my thoughts are completely sorted out. Usually, I wouldn’t post. However, I feel like I should work some of these thoughts out, and the “E” side of my personality does that by talking, which I’ve done in person a bit, and which I would like to do a bit here too, if you don’t mind.

Twilight is a fast read, and it’s addictive. It’s full of action and all the things that usually send a book right to the top of the bestseller list. Yet it left me feeling…uncomfortable.

Twilight seems pretty harmless on the surface. After all, Edward, the book’s vampire hunk, doesn’t give in to his ultimate desire, killing Bella.

All the same, there’s an undercurrent in this book that I didn’t like, not even as it entered my dreams during those two-and-a-half days. It’s as though the book is full of a near occasion of sin, and it flirts with danger just enough to make you want MORE.

Edward and Bella have opposing desires. While her pulsating heart is enough to give him the urge to go for her neck, his touch is enough to make her want…well, what do you think she wants? Is it sex? That would make her a normal, healthy teenage girl. Or is it, instead, death that she longs for? That would make the whole thing a little…darker, wouldn’t it?

Here’s a book that seems to seek out the teenage experience and shed some light on it. It seems to make a hero out of a lover who puts his girl’s best interests ahead of his own desires. On the surface, it’s a call for abstinence, right? Shouldn’t I be thrilled and pleased and delighted with its message? Upon closer thought, though, I can’t help but remember that this is a “good” vampire, one who does not eat humans anyway. Is it really heroic, then, that he restrains himself? Isn’t he supposed to do that anyway?

A good healthy relationship, the kind we want our daughters to have, in real life, isn’t foreshadowed by one in which a vampire boyfriend is spying on a girl he’s battling not to…kill. The desire for sex seems to have been replaced with something far worse. Teenagers do have sexual urges, and good teen fiction, in my opinion, points them down the road to maturity and adulthood.

In terms of relationships, it’s safe to say that there is some room for improvement. In no way does Twilight model ideal relationships or interactions. It must hit the nail with how teens perceive themselves to be, I conclude, because of its success, but it came off feeling kind of fake to me. The teens I know in real life don’t act like Bella did. They don’t have the disregard for other people’s feelings and disdain for authority that I found throughout.

Don’t get me wrong – it all appealed to me. I liked it, the same way I liked the taste of beer in college when I was one away from being completely gone. It has a forbidden feel to it, and I’d be lying to you if I told you I didn’t enjoy it, in a can’t-put-it-down sort of way.

When I was discussing some of my concerns with a friend who simply loved the movie, Father Pat interjected. Ouija boards are harmless enough, on the surface, he said. Even so, they’re dangerous. Dabbling in the occult, on any level, has its dangers. And, with typical Father Pat flair, he left it at that. But that comparison with ouija boards as a fun party game and this book as a harmless teenage read hasn’t left me, so I leave it here with you as well. This book feels like it is dabbling with something dangerous.

Good fiction – for children, teens, or adults – should challenge us to more – more thinking, more maturity, more of what’s best in us. Twilight is not, in my opinion, good fiction. It is fiction, it is fast-paced, and it is a bestseller. If that’s what you’re looking for in a good read, then you’ve got it.

Yes, you should read this book. You should find out what YOU think of it. There’s a reason it’s on the bestseller lists. If you are an adult – JOIN those young people in your life as they read this book. Discuss it with them. Then consider finding contemporary teen fiction like this or this. You have all the makings of an intriguing afternoon of book talk, comparing different techniques and themes and relationships.

(That last is a bit on the asking-for-trouble-in-the-combox side of things, but I’ll stick with it, and if you think it’s all hokus pokus, listen to this series of podcasts and come back for a discussion.)