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'Twilight' still a craze with bite

Saturday, December 27, 2008 | 9:14 p.m. CST; updated 10:10 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 27, 2008

COLUMBIA — The story is timeless. Sort of.

The players: klutzy heroine Bella Swan, who upon moving to a dreary town far from home falls for the mysterious Edward Cullen, a boy with otherworldly good looks who broods more than most.

A few things set this narrative apart from the classic "girl falls hard for bad boy" scenario. The boy is not a boy at all — he’s been 17 for about 100 years now. Oh, and the bad boy thirsts for Bella’s blood. It's the basis for the best-selling "Twilight" series by Stephenie Meyer.

Their turbulent relationship plays out over four novels that have spawned something of a craze. With "Breaking Dawn," the last installment released in August, and the first "Twilight" film, which grossed $35.7 million on opening day Nov. 21, pop culture is feeling the bite of a new attraction.

So, what is it about these vampire books?

“They have everything in them,” said Ellen Thieme, 14. “Romance, horror and humor.” Thieme participated in a “Twilight” book discussion for teens at the Columbia Public Library in November; registration took place ahead of time, and 10 spots were added to the original 20 because of high interest.

But the teens weren’t the only ones interested in discussing their favorite series.

“We had a lot of adults want to sign up for the program,” said Hilary Aid, a library associate. According to Aid, so many adults were interested that the library will be hosting a "Twilight" series party in the spring. Parties with discussions and crafts will take place in the Columbia, Ashland and Fulton branches of Daniel Boone Regional Library. They will be open to adults and teens.

“A lot of people like the romance, the vampires,” Aid, 30, said. “I liked the book because it was a book about an average teenage girl going through regular teenage problems.”

The supernatural element that has some people scratching their heads as to why legions of women, girls and men (those who are willing to admit it) are so enthralled with a vampire romance could also be because these vampires seem, well, human.

“(The books) seem real,” said Jami Dement, 21, a self-described mellow fan.  “But it’s still an escape.”  

Dement said the books serve to fill a “Harry Potter void.” This idea is reflected on Amazon.com, where the top five best-sellers are J.K. Rowling’s newly released “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” and the four “Twilight” books — “Twilight,” “New Moon,” “Eclipse” and “Breaking Dawn”.

Dement said her 25-year-old sister introduced her to the “Twilight” series over the summer, and in a matter of weeks, she finished the first three books — each about 500 pages. As with "Potter," "Twilight” readers aren’t just sinking their teeth into the books, they’re devouring them.

When “Breaking Dawn” was released Aug. 2, Dement and Thieme both attended midnight release parties at separate Barnes and Noble bookstores. Ryan McNeil was working at Barnes and Noble in the Columbia Mall that night.

“People really got into it,” McNeil said. “People started coming in in costume.” With trivia, a scavenger hunt and a countdown to midnight, the store was packed. McNeil said when he made the “15 minutes to midnight” announcement, he was “glad to be behind the counter.”

The film, starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, was received with equal levels of enthusiasm, despite mixed reviews.

“I have seen the movie three times in theaters,” Dement said. “Most people I know have seen it twice.” She thinks that with the film "Twilight" “isn’t just for girls anymore.”  

Like Dement, Steve Boeckmann attended the midnight release of the movie in Columbia among a large crowd that was decidedly female.

“We were there an hour early,” said Boeckmann, who found that despite some less than Oscar-worthy acting, the film was not bad overall. “They’re suspenseful,” said Boeckman of the series. “I’ve read weirder books.”

For Dement, the success of the movie had a lot to do with the fact that director Catherine Hardwicke stayed true to the book and didn’t disappoint readers. “I think that it was a great portrayal of the book,” Dement said.

If the appeal of the phenomenon is still unclear, the consensus seems to be: See for yourself.

“I always try to convince people to read (the books),” Thieme said. “I talk to them about it until they get curious.”

“I’m converting people,” Dement said. “My mom is reading them.”


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Comments

jill johnson December 27, 2008 | 9:34 p.m.

For the longest time, I refused to read the Twilight saga. I thought, "it's just bunch of vampire books, that's not my kind of thing." After my friend begged me to read it though, I finally gave in. I read the entire series in a week and I loved them. The Twilight series are books that people can relate to and that's what readers want. I went to see the movie and loved how it didn't stray too far from the book. Twilight is a book I'll be reading again and again.

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken December 28, 2008 | 1:20 a.m.

"'We had a lot of adults want to sign up for the program,' said Hilary Aid, a library associate."

That is just disgusting to read. Why is it that the trashiest, poorly written, Mary Sue-type books become popular with the masses? It says so much about our society.
What's more is that most Twilight-readers have never touched a piece of classic literature.
Wanna read a real vampire story? Try Dracula by Bram Stoker.
Sorry to say he didn't sparkle like a magical fairy.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich December 28, 2008 | 4:14 a.m.

or read I Am Legend. I assure you it is nothing like that crappy movie that bears no resemblance to the novel starring AW HELL NAW will smith

(Report Comment)
V Rohrback December 28, 2008 | 9:14 a.m.

I agree that a lot of the young people reading these books may have never picked up a piece of classic literature. For many, this is probably the first novel they have read by choice. I think it's a great step in the right direction. My niece read these, then wanted to read Jane Eyre, which was one of Meyers inspirations for writing the series, and Wurthering Heights, because its the herione's favorite book. Not a bad start in classic literature.

(Report Comment)
Kelsey Taylor December 28, 2008 | 10:27 a.m.

OMG The only reason every one likes Twilight the movie and all the books because Edward(hot, sexy vampire) is in there!!! But that is my opinon on the books and espically the movie!! If edward if you ever read this i just think you awesome and i dont want u to think i am a stalker or anything!!!I just thing you are increidelby HOT!!!! So if any one agrees with me Say yes if any ones doesnt agree with me the you were born wrong! My advice is to read the books for all people that havent because you will know a whole LOT more than just the movie!!! I love the movie and the books

(Report Comment)
Kelsey Taylor December 28, 2008 | 10:29 a.m.

Jill Johnson you are absolutly right!!

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich December 28, 2008 | 11:07 a.m.

OMG!

(Report Comment)
Matt Y December 28, 2008 | 4:17 p.m.

Couldn't have said it better myself, Art.

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken December 28, 2008 | 6:55 p.m.

Someone please tell me that Kelsey is a gimmick account.

I understand 13-year-old girls reading these books but the quotes in this story from 21-30 year old women are just plain sad. Stop trying to relive the glory days, ladies.

(Report Comment)
Kay Mac December 28, 2008 | 11:31 p.m.

I would like to disagree with some of these comments. These books are actually really great and very addicting to read. I'm a book worm, and I was up late every night because I just couldn't put these books down. I'm an English major in my third year of college, so I have read quite a bit of classic literature. I absolutely love these books though, and I think it is ignorant of you to suggest that anyone who enjoys these books is not well-read. Many other fans my age have read the classics. Sure several of the 14-year-old screaming girls who are jumping on the fad bandwagon haven't, but many well-read people enjoy these books as well.

There is no reason to call adults who read these books "disgusting" or call them sad. If you dislike the books so much then don't spend your time reading articles like this and complaining about them. Some people like the books. Can't you just let others enjoy what they like and focus your own energy on something you like? Just a thought...

(Report Comment)

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