Finally, another reason to geek out about Twilight.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the series, Stephenie Meyer released a gender-swapped edition of her original story. Why? To make a point that Bella was not just a damsel in distress needing rescue from her vampire boyfriend; vampires are scary, no matter what their supposed gender roles are. Nearly all of the names and genders have been changed, but it is not just a cut-and-paste job. Quite a few plot points have been altered, as well.
Be still, my heart.
This second time around, Meyer has the opportunity to improve what tics she felt the story had, and what an improvement. As a stand alone story, Life and Death has well thought-out, comedic moments, artfully slid in among the gloom of Forks. Beaufort (Bella’s doppelganger) is a more outgoing, sarcastic version of Bella, but this is not necessarily an edit. The new characters are nearly just like their Twilight counterparts, if not for some tweaks and surprising characteristics that set them apart. One of the most exciting treats is the new perspective we view the Twilight universe with. Those cracks or angles we missed with Bella are explored by Beau, and this new light casts intriguing shadows.
Whether Meyer knew it or not, her readers (myself included) expected the same show with different players. She had to know, because the twists and sharp turns the novel takes are sheer, cackling brilliance. There were times when I was torn between not breathing and, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Nevertheless, even flawless vampires have their faults. Life and Death is a story unto itself; it has no sequels. As result, squeezing all of the Twilight universe into one novel is not an easy task and, although I applaud Meyer for her work, a good number of characters, scenes, and elements got the short end of the pencil. Some of the integral characters that are included in the narrative have little to no character development, and their relationships with Beau and other characters suffer similarly. Also, the novel’s young-adult genre label reveals itself in Beau’s and Edythe’s (Edward) romance, their emotions cutting to the chase without any real insight into the causes. It genuinely feels like Meyer relies on our knowledge of the previous books to fuel the urgency between our star-crossed heroes. 300-some pages is nowhere near enough to capture the relationship between Bella and Edward’s four-book romance, and besides: Beau is more reasonable than Bella. Love at first sight does not feel to be his metaphorical cup of tea, but would we really have a story, then?
Among all the cut corners, though, Life and Death is a genuine joy to read. Meyer also seems to have just as much fun as her audience, re-imagining the vampiric world that captured our attention ten years ago. For all Twilight fans, Life and Death is a definite must-read, if not an automatic impulse purchase (like your’s truly). So run, don’t walk, and read it right now. Run like your mother is being held captive by a vampire that wants to track you and subsequently drain your delicious blood.
Reviewed by Catherine Mesure