Friday, 20 January 2017

Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer: Book Review

Celebrate the tenth anniversary of Twilight! This special double-feature book includes the classic novel, Twilight, and a bold and surprising reimagining, Life and Death, by Stephenie Meyer.

Packaged as an oversize, jacketed hardcover “flip book,” this edition features nearly 400 pages of new content as well as exquisite new back cover art. Readers will relish experiencing the deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful love story of Bella and Edward through fresh eyes.

Twilight has enraptured millions of readers since its first publication in 2005 and has become a modern classic, redefining genres within young adult literature and inspiring a phenomenon that has had readers yearning for more. The novel was a #1 New York Times bestseller, a #1 USA Today bestseller, a Time magazine Best Young Adult Book of All Time, an NPR Best-Ever Teen Novel, and a New York Times Editor’s Choice. The Twilight Saga, which also includes New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella, and The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide, has sold nearly 155 million copies worldwide.


I just want to start off by specifying one major detail: if Twilight had not been the one book that introduced me to the world of sleepless nights and days (months) of carrying Breaking Dawn around high school like my own little bible (my mum actually confiscated all my Twilight books off of me eventually because she thought I was acting too much like Bella and it was taking over my life–to be fully honest, it kind of did), then this review may not have been so difficult to write. So I’ve decided to keep it as simple as I can by critiquing the simple things I found did and didn’t work–considering the fact that I don’t want to be overly biased by my love for the original series and still be thought to be a mostly reliable reviewer–but also state exactly why I ended up loving Life and Death much more than I thought I would.

I’ll start off by explaining why I did not start reading this book months earlier when I actually first received my review copy from Hachette NZ. I was caught up with so much university work, as you might have expected, that I was stuck on other books for a while and never got around to it.
The second reason was because I had heard a few complaints from a few other original fans of Twilight that made me feel worried that it might ruin the whole vibe for me and wouldn’t be the same.
The third reason is because when I first read Twilight, I read it with a new and innocent perspective – at that time I wasn’t exactly aware of any cheesy and typical tropes that may have already presented themselves in YA literature many times before then. At that time I had no clue about how to review a book then and–with full disclosure: because I don’t want to be lying to y’all about my supposed advanced skills with literature–I didn’t actually learn how to critique a piece of writing until I took my course in applied writing at university last year.
So with full honesty, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will try to explain why without spoiling it for anyone that may feel like they want to give it a try.

It is a known fact that the prime reason this book exists is because Stephenie Meyer needed to come up with something new and interesting to present her readers with for Twilight’s 10th year anniversary – this eventually transformed into her idea to completely flip the story by retelling it through swapping the gender of almost every character within. Surprisingly enough, she was able to pull it off successfully by editing the same version, taking a bunch of the main facts and switching them around to ensure the scenario where Bella would be a boy named Beaufort “Beau”, and Edward would be a girl named Edythe. At first I was too nervous to go any further than the first few chapters because it felt like an awkward move from the original to a weak and slightly altered story of a human boy that fell in love with a female vampire, which included a lot of the original dialogue and descriptions. Fortunately I decided that I was dedicated enough to my very first favourite YA series and its author to see how the rest would play out, which was when I also started to notice that Stephenie had gone to further lengths to actually change a lot more than words like he/his/him to she/hers/her, etc. Dialogue had been added along with scenes and actions altered that may not have been in Twilight. I didn’t really start to realise how much I would regret not having any more of Life and Death to read until I got closer to the end. If I say too much I might spoil it so I’ll just leave you all with that and a quick reminder that I am literally tearing my skin off trying not to explain myself. How are you meant to write a review about a book stating why you loved it if the main reason you loved it the most would spoil the whole thing? I guess I’ll only be able to say to read it and find out – you will be absolutely satisfied if you are an original Twilight fan! Shutting up exactly at this moment about this particular thing that I cannot say. Zipped!

Things that I LOVED about Life and Death!

·      CHAPTER 24. That is all I can say (*Laughs evilly and waits for everyone to read Life and Death too so they finally get in on the punch line*).
·      Edythe was so much more likeable than Edward in my opinion. She seemed to fit the emotional PMS episodes a little more so it was less annoying and more understandable. I felt less relatable to Beau, not just because he’s a boy. He overthinks things a lot less than Bella and is a bit rude to his friends when discussing Edythe or anything that he doesn’t want to talk about. Edythe made the first half of the book interesting and helped me feel like I wanted to read more.
·      Jessamine was also a bit more likeable and fit a bit better into the story than Jasper did (again, my own personal opinion!). I don’t know whether it was the whole female thing that made me like him better as a girl but it just fit much better to me and less distant. Archie, who is the male version of Alice, is a very relaxed and emotionally flexible individual so there was a smoother flow to the storyline and characters. Archie was intriguing as well but I wouldn’t say he or Alice were better than each other – both were awesome to read about.
·      McKayla (Mike), Erica (Eric), and Taylor (Tyler) all make really annoyingly funny girls. One of the things that really got my mind in a twist was trying to remember who was who but the fact that the guys from Twilight finally got their five minutes of fame as girls in their alternate universe made everything so much more worth the read. McKayla ended up being really emotional, jealous and overprotective over Beau, Erica was simply the same as Eric but just a little more female-like, and Taylor, just like Tyler, was the one who was cool and good looking and knew it too. Jules was the female version of Jacob and unfortunately we don’t get to see much of her but she is pretty similar to her original in the way that she is young, innocent, and has a major crush on Beau.
·      Like I said before, much of the content has either been re-edited or had stuff added in, which completely transforms the story into something beautifully new but still a classic. I will always love the original Twilight, but Stephenie has taken the time specially to provide her fans with content that is not exactly new or what we wanted, but it has refreshed our minds in a different way and allowed us to re-live the story that changed our lives for the better in a slightly different context. Now I will be patiently waiting for either Forever Dawn to be published or Renesmee’s and Jacob’s story to be written (which apparently Stephenie has already written a few chapters for and actually plans to come back to one day so keep your fingers crossed that it’s very soon!). Either way I’ll be happy to have more Twilight related content and more from Stephenie Meyer who is one of the most underrated authors of the 21st century.

Things I didn’t LOVE about Life and Death

·      Some of the content seemed a bit cheesy and not exactly as delicately written as Twilight once was. It could just be plainly because it has been at least eight years since I read Twilight with fresh eyes, not being as particularly picky as I’ve most recently become. I tried to see past it so that it would help my enjoyment of the story a little more, which seemed to work because I ended up loving it but I still had to mention it because it might be slightly annoying to others. However it is hardly a reason to not read it, it’s just my silly mind being influenced by the culture of reviewing and being overly accurate with literature. It could also be because Stephenie has had a lot longer to think about her fantasy world and come back a whole new, and much more experienced, author. Maybe she felt the mood needed to be a little lighter and not so typically old fashioned like the Brontë sisters’ or Shakespeare’s works, some of which Stephenie had been profusely influenced by originally.
·      Beau was a very fussy and clumsy male, which was a little hard for me to accept after being so used to Bella. Though this was the case, I felt like I needed to drop the expectations of perfect male characters–especially since I hardly read books with male protagonists–and realise that there are actually many males out in the real world that struggle with basic co-ordination and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder every day. Beau seemed a bit like a loose cannon though and felt he could have been a bit more respectful towards his friends. Stephenie did state that he did overthink things a lot less than Bella so maybe that was the reason he didn’t care too much about his random outbursts, saying what he truly felt rather than just quietly informing them later like Bella would to prevent a scene; Beau didn’t seem to mind the popularity as much.
·      That we’ll get no more of Beau and Edythe! For once I actually enjoyed reading about the love interest (I wasn’t ever Team Edward or Team Jacob – I was Team Bella haha) so it’s a little disappointing that this is all we get of their story. It is no secret that the possibility of Renesmee happening in their reality is officially void due to the fact that Edythe’s vampire body would not be able to change like Bella’s human one. I’d love to read some fan-fiction just to continue on the feels, but I know in my heart that it would feel wrong as Beau and Edythe belong to Stephenie and no one else. I’d rather leave their story where she left them – you never know what she may decide in the future. I mean, we never saw this novel coming, right? So yeah, now I’m Team Edythe and I’m totally fine with it.

I have decided to give this book a 4.9 out of 5 stars. What, no 5 stars, Ella? Are you serious? Well I did say that I wanted to remain as a reliable reviewer and be completely honest about how I felt about the book. There is always going to be something about a book that isn’t perfect or up to everyone’s standard but I feel like if you enjoy a book enough from its plot, characters, themes, and vibe, then that is totally fine. With Life and Death, I wanted to enjoy it and then try think back about the things I didn’t quite like, rather than going in with a critiquing mind, which might have ruined everything for me. It’s hard to remember to enjoy a book when you know you’re just going to have to let the world know your thoughts afterwards but at least with passion and the thrill of a read, you can easily write a review off of that – unfortunately writing about the spoilers can’t exactly help your case, especially when they’re the reason the book was so good (Yes, I’m still trying to explain to you why it is a perfectly good idea that you go buy the book now and read it. * Links are below if you decide to do so!).

So now that the excitement of the gender-swapped reimagined version of Twilight is over, it is time for me to start another book of Stephenie’s - a highly anticipated sci-fi thriller novel called The Chemist. It is the first book of her third YA series and I am super excited to read something new and read a genre I don’t normally pick up. Here’s to an author who started her career thanks to the inkling of a dream and decided that she would continue writing no matter what anyone thought of her. I guess there is really no shortage of inspirational authors in the world for me to follow after!

Thank you Hachette NZ for the review copy!

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