The Twilight series is the ultimate romance novel series. There I said it. Well, wrote it. Now, I am not addressing the content. I am not Edward coming in through Bella’s window to watch her sleep. I am not saying Edward and Bella’s baby falling in love with her almost-second boyfriend was normal. And I am not saying it deserved to win an Oscar. But I am saying that the series depicts the romance genre beautifully.
In YouTube livestream discussions, Twitter comments, and more, I’ve been asked, “What makes a romance novel?” a number of times. When the idea of a romance genre “series” comes up, many people struggle. There are series like Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor in which each book in the series focuses on a different couple, and the previously featured couples make appearances as secondary characters. Yet, the idea of following a singular couple over the course of a romance genre series is really difficult. Outlander is not a romance genre series. The creator, Diana Gabaldon, does not consider her books to be “romance genre.” She has been very vocal in interviews and even took to Twitter to clarify this common misconception. The Showrunners for Starz’s Outlander have said that it is not about Jamie and Claire’s “romance,” but “their love story.” While I don’t think their statements elaborate on the differences between romance and love story very well, I will. If Outlander, the first book in the series, was the only book, then heck, yes, it would be a romance genre novel. A reader follows a romance narrative that culminates in a happily ever after. Case closed. But the cliffhanger endings and the fact that their story is ongoing (i.e. not a true happily ever after since there is no real “after”) it does not meet the genre’s core requirements. Twilight, on the other hand, embraces the romance genre conventions to a T. Every single book in the series meets the romance genre requirement.
The readers are introduced to Isabella Swan; Bella for short. Upon transferring to Forks, Washington, she meets the mysterious Edward Cullen at her new school. She is taken with him from the start. Eventually, the two cultivate a romantic relationship, which is put to the test. By associating with Edward, a dangerous vampire, Bella meets James one day when the Cullens are epically playing baseball. James thinks it would be a fun challenge to kill her. Edward must defend her. Upon successfully keeping Bella alive, the two-attend prom. Other things happen, but that is my **super** brief summary.
Readers follow a first-love romance story. The two meet and at first Bella thinks Edward isn’t attracted to her (or even likes her). She contemplates how to approach him. From here, Edward and Bella begin interacting more. He saves her from getting run over by a car, from potentially getting gang raped, from a killer vampire who wants to turn her, and more. The story ends with them together. They might still be in high school and Edward might still be a vampire, but the narrative culminates in a happy for now ending. Yes, there are lingering questions, but there is a clear resolution: the two are in love and are happy together. That’s it. Right there. The End.
Now, the question of “romance genre series” is answered in the next three books.
Edward and Bella are happily dating. To celebrate her eighteenth birthday, Edward invites her over to his house for a party with his vampire family. While opening a present, Bella cuts her finger. (I’m still not sure how that paper cut drew so much blood, but whatever, I’m just going with it.) Jasper, the youngest of the Cullens, attempts to attack her. In the process, Bella falls and hurts herself causing her to bleed even more. To protect her from himself and his family, Edward decides to leave Forks and Bella behind.
Bella practically goes catatonic. She is devastated to say the least. Bella’s father is worried about her, she doesn’t hang out with her friends, nothing. All she does is sit in her room. To cope with this emotional loose, she forms a new friendship with Jacob Black.
Okay, honesty moment, I never considered this a true love triangle. Even when I first read this series when I was younger (high school, cough, cough). I never thought of Jacob as a viable choice. Bella was too in love with Edward. Just because Jacob loved Bella, that didn’t mean she had to love him back. Sure, she had the option to choose him, but she was never really going to.
Moving on, Jacob turns into a werewolf and Bella is thrust right back into the world of the paranormal. One day she decides to go cliff jumping (because that is what someone who is super clumsy should do) and Alice sees this in her visions. Like myself, she doesn’t think this is the best idea and concludes that Bella was trying to kill herself. Edward (who can read minds) sees Alice’s vision and decides that he doesn’t want to live in a world without Bella. Since he can’t kill himself, he goes to Italy to ask the old evil vampires if they could kill him.
Bella saves Edward from killing himself and the pair reconcile. The evil vampires issue an edict that in order to let Bella live (since she knows about the world of vampires), she must be turned into a vampire herself. The only way Edward will turn Bella is if she marries him first. Dun. Dun. Dun.
In the end, the audience knows Bella loves Edward and Edward loves Bella right back. If the reader were to stop with the second book in the series or if Meyers never published a third (or fourth) book, they would more than likely conclude the pair got engaged, Edward turned Bella, and they lived happily ever after. The ending is implied.
New Moon opens with Edward and Bella in love. Swoon. Young love. Edward wants to marry Bella, but she’s hesitant. Her parents got divorced and in her mind, marriage is a piece of paper. Remember James from book one? His mate, Victoria, decides that she wants revenge and in order to get it, she needs to kill Bella. Jacob and Edward, as well as their family and friends, come together to protect Bella. A battle ensues and the good guys win. YAY. Bella is safe again. Meyers concluded the story with the couple getting engaged.
Again, we don’t see Edward turn Bella into a vampire or the wedding itself, but if there wasn’t another book in the series, the reader could close the book and be satisfied with that ending. Bella is out of danger from Victoria, she is engaged to the man she loves, and the pair will have an eternity with one another. The romance genre check list is all marked off.
In Breaking Dawn, the final book in the series, our main couple, Edward and Bella, marry and have a child! Then, since Bella practically dies giving birth, Edward turns her into a vampire. YAY, vampire love.
Now, Stephanie Meyers received a lot of criticism for her battle that wasn’t a battle. If you have read the books or seen the movies, you know exactly what I am referring to. For those of you who might need a refresher or haven’t read the books (but you are reading this post), the evil vampires are coming to attack the Cullens for making an immortal child. They didn’t and the evil vampires are wrong. But the mean vampires are looking for a fight. The main evil vampire wants Alice (the Cullen with visions) as his latest acquisition; who doesn’t want a fashionable vampire on their arm who can see into the future? In order to get her to join the evil vampires, he thinks he needs to kill off her family. The readers and movie viewers alike witness a battle between the good vampires (the Cullens and their friends) and the bad vampires. Then, when it is all over, Alice reveals it was a vision. The battle didn’t actually happen. That entire action sequence was a dream of sorts. All the characters that died, didn’t die. By seeing their defeat in the “vision battle,” main evil vampire retreats, leaving the Cullens in peace.
I am going to defend this writing choice. In my own personal opinion, this raised the happily ever bar for the series. By not having a battle, readers don’t lose their favorite character. If any of the Cullens died, readers would be devastated. Readers might not have liked every character, but they probably had their favorites. If their favorite fell in the final battle, they would be disappointed. Now, I didn’t feel about the Cullens the way I do about Dobby, but that is one-character death I will never get over. I am emotionally scarred by that one. But that is the beauty of the romance genre, the certainty of a happily ever after. Other genres don’t have this safety net. By not killing any of her main characters, Meyers is cementing this series as a true romance. She not only gave the main characters their happily ever after, she gave the secondary characters theirs, too. All of the Cullens have their significant others forever.
The other controversial decision that Meyers made was to have Jacob end up with Bella and Edward’s daughter… Okay, here it goes. I wasn’t a member of the Jacob Black fan club, but a lot of readers were. They loved him. Do you remember those movie lines and screaming fans? I do. He needed his own happily ever after. Again, Meyers gave all of her characters satisfactory endings. Jacob couldn’t end the series alone and miserable. As a werewolf, his tribe imprints on their mate, and that’s it. They are in love forever. He imprinted on Edward and Bella’s baby,
Readers got to know Jacob’s pack. When Edward was gone, Jacob took Bella in to a certain degree. She would hang out with his family and friends. In turn, the readers got to spend time with them, too. Now, I’m not going to speculate what kind of attachments readers formed to these secondary (or more like tertiary characters), but they might have. In order to prevent his former pack (characters readers know) from attacking the Cullens (characters, whom they also know and have thoughts and feelings about), Edward reveals that Jacob imprinted on his daughter. With that knowledge, they can’t touch her. Again, a battle that isn’t a battle. None of the wolves are killed and the Cullens remain safe. Readers don’t have to mourn the loss of any characters. Meyers tied this up in a beautiful little bow. No bloodshed. All love. Sounds like a good combination.
The fact that Jacob fell in love with the daughter… Here it goes. He loved Bella or, in the very least, he thought he did. By ending up with Renesmee, you could say Jacob gets a piece of Bella…which again leaves a little bit of a bitter taste to some. However, I think of it as a way to redeem his relationship with Bella. The time he spent with her was not wasted. Any feelings he had could be because his wolf knew that there was something about her. That something being her half of a genetic gene pool that created a baby, but, hey, this is a supernatural story. Maybe wolves can sense their future mates. His attraction to her could have been due to this.
Also, their relationship was pretty PG. He kissed Bella twice: once when he was declaring his feelings for her and the other time when he was about to go up against Victoria and her evil vampires and Bella wanted him to stay alive. Bella never lea him on. Everyone knew how she felt about Edward. I’ve read a lot (a real lot) of romance novels. I’ve come across stories with large age differences, women falling for their father’s friends/business partners, men falling for babysitters/nannies, men falling for their wards, and so much more. Falling for the daughter of a former love interest is not a totally unheard-of plot line in the world of romance. Unlike Jacob and Bella, some of those were not PG and those couples still ended up together.
To this day, Twilight is criticized. I’m not saying it is a perfect series. Hardly anything is “perfect.” Reading is subjective. Not everyone will enjoy the same thing. There are best-selling novels that I didn’t particularly enjoy. To each their own. But Twilight seems to have a special place for haters. I think this has to do with a stigma of the genre. Books by women, for women, about women, historically have drawn controversy. The romance genre is looked at as less than by some because of the happily ever after. Twilight was the ultimate happily ever after. Everyone, all of Meyers’s characters, lived happily ever after. I think this feeds into the ongoing backlash to some degree. By not killing any of the main characters in the final battle, some literary critics probably view it as less than. In actuality, Meyers was ensuring all of her readers’ happiness. No one would mourn the fictional death of anyone.
Twilight was a very successful book and movie series. To simply dismiss it, does the industry a disservice. Readers like what they like. Let them enjoy their books.
Be sure to tell me if you read the Twilight series down in the comment section.
Thank you so much for reading today’s blog post.
Stay Kind + Creative!