Night Shift

My job periodically takes me to wonderful, exotic places around the world…Japan, Germany, Texas…the list goes on.  This month, I’m in Florida making my little contribution to national defense, and I drew the night shift.  8pm to 8am with not very much to do a lot of the time, so I have a golden opportunity to catch up on my reading.

Coincident with my arrival in Florida, I received an e-mail from a long-time friend (since grade school) who I periodically lose touch with for several years until she finds me again (not that I’m trying to avoid her, I’m just a lousy penpal).  Anyhow, this time she came bearing a book recommendation: Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer.  Since we are both happily-married parents of teenaged kids, she thought this might be a good family read.  It definitely beat staring at the walls for eight hours.  I managed to chew through it in a single night-shift shift.

Overall, I liked it.  Definitely a page-turner.  There’s a lot of stuff going on in there, and it’ll probably take me a few days to process it all.  Quick synopsis…lonely girl from broken home moves to isolated town in northwest Washington state, falls in love with well-coiffed vampire boy, many complications and much heavy breathing ensue.

My grandparents used to live on Puget Sound, and I have many fond memories of hiking through the Olympic National Forest and visiting the little towns along the northwest coast.  I thought it made a great setting for the story.

It has a broader appeal, I think, than most “chick lit,” but this is clearly romance as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl.  I didn’t try counting the number of references to smoldering amber eyes, chiseled musculature, and icy cold lips on the heroine’s neck (ice on the neck is an aphrodesiac?  Who knew?).  As a guy, that sort of thing had me looking around to make sure nobody was reading over my shoulder.  To the author’s credit, she kept the relationship chaste, despite pressure from her “progressive” editor.   Vampires, by the way, enjoy baseball.  Yes, they do use bats.

I thought the author’s “true-mythological” approach to the vampires & werewolves was good, as opposed to the usual semi-occult narrative.  C.S. Lewis said something to the effect that all great myths have a basis in fact, and we love “fairy-stories” not because they provide escape from reality, but because they communicate fundamental truths.  I expect we’re fascinated by vampires because we’ve all got a little of that in us deep inside, and we’re constantly fighting to keep it at bay.

As a parent, I was a tiny bit discouraged to see another young-adult book featuring a teenager trapped in a dysfunctional family and surrounded by clueless adults, even though the heroine makes the best of things and copes pretty well.  Sure, it’s reality for a lot of kids, but I’d like to see more reinforcement of the fact that families don’t have to be broken, and adults have something other than obstacles to offer young people.  This really isn’t a criticism of the book, more of the young adult genre as a whole.  Ironically, a dysfunctional family that offers plenty of obstacles to its children is at the center of The Brothers Karamazov, the other book I’m reading right now (part of my ongoing project to read more of the “great books” I passed up in my misspent youth).  It’s set in 1800s Russia, no vampires, but plenty of monsters–the human kind.

It’s also a little amusing, at this point in my life, to read a book like this, because it plays right into all my insecurities about the boyfriend/girlfriend thing with my kids.  Aaagh!  It’s the edgy, dangerous guy with the fast car I keep warning my daughter to stay away from!  Aaagh!  They’re kissing!  Aaagh!  They’re driving 100 mph in a 55 zone!  Aaagh!  Ice cubes on the neck!  Aaagh!  Vampire in-laws!  Aaagh!  He’s sneaking into her room at night!  Aaagh!  Stalker!  And so on.

It was fun, but I’m not sure my daughter needs to add this to her reading list until she’s, oh, 30 or so (“young adult fiction,” like PG-13, is sort of a moving target these days).  Maybe with me sitting next to her, inking out the necking instructions as we go.  Ah, well, back to The Brothers Karamazov.

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