Thursday, December 31, 2015

Life and Death: A Critical Analysis of Twilight, Reimagined, Chapters 4 and 5

Chapter 4: Invitations

Synopsis:  It's the aftermath of the van lifting incident, and Edward/Edythe won't talk to Bella/Beau.  Bella/Beau gets asked repeatedly to the Spring Dance, and finally--finally--Edward/Edythe speaks to her/him.  Edward/Edythe warn Bella/Beau that they shouldn't be friends, then, the following day, asks her/him to roadtrip to Seattle.

Analysis:  This chapter is a lot about the dynamics between Bella's and Beau's friends, and I thought Meyer did a pretty deft job of maintaining similar dynamics even with the gender swap.  Which really shouldn't surprise me, but still kind of does.  Bella's relationship with Jessica is kind of thorny because of Mike, and I don't know if I would have assumed it would be easy to replicate that dynamic between two guys.  And she doesn't, exactly, but she does create the same kind of tension--that both Bella and Beau feel the same concern for Jessica and Jeremy, and yet the contradictory guilt about disappointing Mike and McKayla.  It's not like she split the atom or anything here, but, still, it's worth noting.
Also worth noting is the fact that Beau seems to be a way more logical character than Bella is.  When he's making those damned chicken enchiladas and wondering why Edythe said they shouldn't be friends, he decides it's because she knows he's obsessed with her and doesn't want to encourage him. Then he thinks:
I was boring--I knew this about myself.  And Edythe was the opposite of boring.  This wasn't about her secret, whatever it was, if I even remembered any of that insane moment clearly.  At this point, I almost believed the story I'd told everyone else.  It made a lot more sense than what I thought I'd seen.
But she didn't need a secret to be out of my league.  She was brilliant and mysterious and beautiful and completely perfect.  If she was, in fact, able to lift a full-sized van with one hand, it didn't really matter.  Either way she was fantasy and I was the very most mundane kind of reality (61).
The way he arrives at his conclusion, even questioning the impossibility of what he saw, seems understandable, relateable.  It just seems real.
Add this: when Edward admits to Bella that he held her up in the parking lot to give Tyler a chance to ask her to the dance, Bella gets mad, but doesn't question how Edward could have known that's what happened.  Beau, on the other hand, does wonder that, and reasonably so.  I mean, Edythe was a car ahead, possibly with windows closed, and the roar of the truck is super loud (as we're repeatedly told), so, Beau is right to wonder how Edythe knew.
I assume this is just a matter of Meyer looking back and noticing holes in her own logic, but, it ends up doing the same thing, which is making Beau seem like a much smarter character than Bella.
Finally, she changed Twilight's squish (For not letting that stupid van squish me) to the much improved L&D's crush (For not letting Taylor's van crush me when it had the chance).  Thank goodness.  Squish?  Why?  How?  For what purpose?

Chapter 5: Blood Type

Synopsis:  Edward/Edythe and Bella/Beau spend lunch together, then Bella/Beau goes to Biology where she/he nearly passes out during blood typing.  On the way to the nurses office Edward/Edythe swoops in and carries Bella/Beau to the office, then drives her/him home.

Analysis:  So, this was the first incident I was like, I wonder how she'll handle this.  And, the answer was: in the exact same way.  True, Edythe doesn't technically carry Beau to the office, but, essentially.  Which is okay, I mean, Edythe is really strong.  It feels fine that Beau gets woozy; I actually thought he was way funnier about it than Bella.  I think Beau just seems to take himself less seriously than she does.
So, that's all fine.  But, then they walk out to the parking lot, and Edward/Edythe wants to drive Bella/Beau home, and it's the first time that Edward/Edythe gets kind of bossy, and, I'll tell you, it's a lot easier to read the scene in Life and Death.  I re-read the chapter in Twilight, and, yeah, it reads weird.  Like, Edward's holding onto Bella's coat, dragging her to his car, and she tells him--insists-- that he let her go, and he ignores her, and that's kind of weird.  There's no two ways about it: there is a lot of noise out there about how predatory Bella and Edward's relationship is, and that kind of "no means yes" nonsense doesn't help anything.  It just reads easier when Edythe's "little hand" grabs a fistful of Beau's jacket.
Which, again, makes me think, is that me?  Is that my cultural baggage that's making it feel like Beau has a choice in the situation but Bella does not?  I mean, Beau kind of breaks it down: while he knows Edythe is strong, he also knows that he's bigger than she is, taller, same age, and I think there's a confidence implicit in that.
The fact of the matter is, whether Edward has super-strength or not, he's stronger than Bella, he can--and does--physically dominate her, which is maybe what makes their interaction feel a little more sinister.
Also, there's something about Bella--and I realized I felt like this the first time I read Twilight, years ago, so I know it's not just in comparison to L&D, but she doesn't feel particularly mature.  Maybe it's the way she's always pouting or puckering her eyebrows or something, but she just reads really young.  So when Edward tells her she doesn't seem seventeen, I'm like, really?  But, when Edythe says the same thing to Beau, I kind of get where she's coming from.  He does seem more mature.  He seems more grounded, less likely to describe himself as helpless.
It makes me wonder how much of this change is due to the growth that can happen to a writer in ten years, and how much is due to Meyer seeing Bella interpreted by other people--Melissa Rosenberg and Kristen Steward in particular--who both seemed to see Bella as far more grounded and competent.
Also, I was for sure not expecting this, but L&D is occasionally kind of funny.  I was caught off-guard and nearly laughed during the scene in the parking lot.  Who saw that coming?  Not me.


  1. Thanks for reviewing this, Val. I think about this kind of re imagining a lot, and you have sold me on reading this. If you want, I'll give you some thoughts after I read it/listen to the audiobook.

  2. Val, this is Ella. I just finished reading L & D and I am loving your analysis. Please, please continue doing it!