Younger version of me read Twilight and loved it. I was swept away by the atmosphere and the forbidden love and the whole magical quality to the story. Now I’ve grown up and realised how unhealthy and terrifying the relationship between Edward and Bella really is, but I’ve never let go of the enjoyment and love I felt for this story when I first read it.
So it was a no-brainer that I was going to read this re-imagined version when I heard about it, no matter what my logical brain might be screaming at me. But yeah curiosity won over me.
When Meyer says she’s gender swapped everyone apart from Charlie and Renee, she means everyone. Down to really bizarre things like the school nurse being an old man. There were moments like that where I really feel like as if she was taking it a bit far, as if she’s trying to make a point of “Look how much re-writing I’ve done!” rather than serving an actual purpose to the story.
The gender swapped characters are a bit of a mixed bag. Who would name their kid Royal?! On the other hand, I was quite interested in Edythe – she’s still got all the creepy over possessiveness of Edward, but nearly as terrifying i her displays of anger which made me warm to her a little. However, she’s juxtaposed against Beau,who I really did not get along with. I found him infinitely less interesting than Bella (which is saying something given how bland Bella has a tendency to be.) and thoughts and actions which could be (sort of) forgiven with Bella came across as creepy and downright disturbing with Beau. Maybe Meyer cannot write un-alarming male characters, particularly not in this particular world, because almost all of her male characters in both this version and the original are terrifying. They’re possessive, angry and have a tendency to be emotionally manipulative. Bella and Edward’s relationship was a classic case of abuse, which is why it’s so alarming that a generation of teenagers grew up thinking that Edward and Bella had a perfect romance, and saying that they wanted to find their own Edward.
Whilst the gender swapped version manages to avoid some of the issues of the original. It is more than a little alarming in places both with Edythe’s control issues and actions (still not over how creepy Edythe/Edward watching Beau/Bella sleeping) and Beau’s actions toward Edythe. This is the very definition of unhealthy relationship with a whole heap of insta-love thrown in for good measure, and a gender swap doesn’t change that.
In fact, gender swapping brings up a whole host of new issues. In Twilight, there were no real moments when Bella talked about Edward’s physicality. Not so with Beau who judges every woman/girl he meets by their physicality. Meyer seems to think that turning Bella into Beau means that because he’s a boy, he must be more fixated on how girls look. Iffy at its best, but when you start looking at the things he focuses on it becomes much more alarming. He fixates on how you can see the sharp angles on Edythe’s collar bones and shoulder blades. How you can count all her ribs through her t-shirt and then waxes lyrical about how this is the epitome of attractiveness. Not even remotely, okay?!
In fact, aside from these blatant “Look I can totally write from a male perspective! Look at these male thoughts!” moments, Beau never actually feels like a guy. I kept forgetting that he was a guy (until there would be the inevitable reminder and it would jolt me into remembering again) and most of the story he was actually a she – which made for much more interesting reading to have a female/female relationship. Alas! The possibilities that could have given this story a much needed shake up.
If you’re hoping that Meyer might provide an insightful and much better version of Twilight with this gender swapped version, you may not as well bother. The majority of the novel is just a “find and replace” on pronouns and names. The novel is still filled with problems – some the same as the original, a few delightful ones brought to light with the swap. There were a few scenes which hardcore fans will be delighted in reading, and there was of course the alternate ending essentially a hotmess of explosion and Meyer attempting to cram the three books of the the quartet into fifty pages. In fact, I found the alternate ending thoroughly depressing, fitting in quite nicely with the feeling of reading the rest of the novel.
Ir’s expensive even on kindle. And if you buy the hardback you get a thoroughly unnecessary extra copy of Twilight so that the book becomes even more unwieldy. You can use it to smack anyone’s head and will put them into coma. The entire thing smacks of being a money grab rather than what it’s pretending to be – a tribute to the fans of the the book that despite its problems helped to put young adult fiction on the map ten years ago.