Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

So I used to be one of those so-called Twihards. Yes, once upon a time I read the whole Twilight saga (I have all four books, three in hardcover, sitting on my bookshelf to prove it) and I was addicted. Edward Cullen obsession, chapter title memorization, quotations from the books slipping into casual conversation--you name it. I'm not sorry for this obsession, mainly because it rekindled my lust for reading.

And that is precisely why that addiction died down; I read a lot of great, great, AWESOMELY great books, got into in-depth theme analysis, tried to re-read Twilight which was an awful, severe failure, started craving strong heroines... Still, it doesn't change the fact that I'm still curious about what other yarns Stephenie Meyer can spin. So when I spied this sitting on the Best Bets section at my local library, I made a grab for it (I'm going to try to say I did it slowly, but what the heck).

Here's the product description (don't I sound totally clinical now and detached?):

Fans of The Twilight Saga will be enthralled by this riveting story of Bree Tanner, a character first introduced in Eclipse, and the darker side of the newborn vampire world she inhabits. In another irresistible combination of danger, mystery, and romance, Stephenie Meyer tells the devastating story of Bree and the newborn army as they prepare to close in on Bella Swan and the Cullens, following their encounter to its unforgettable conclusion.

Holy moly when I read that the regular price of this slim volume was $13.99 (indubitably much higher in fair Canada), my eyes literally bugged out of my sockets. Because to be honest, I didn't think this novella was worth the price.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner as I read it rang pretty much as fanfiction (and some rather fanciful fanfiction at that). While I thought it was rather nicely written, I didn't think it deserved to be published at all. A while back I heard that this was released online for free--in my opinion, it should have stayed that way.

For starters, the numbers that Meyer came up with were pretty unbelievable. Knowing that around twenty newborn vampires ravaged the city of Seattle nightly and drained probably three or more humans each per night seemed too much to, well, believe. It was hard to get past that.

The eponymous character, Bree, while easy to relate to, also seemed to be a bit bland. Sure, she's alright. She's got a few skills up her sleeve and soon she has a bit of a dynamic going on with a fellow newborn Diego--but there was little about her that was truly compelling. I suppose it was Diego that I liked more; he seemed to show more personality. The two of them share some childish banter that appeared inconsistent with Bree's character and too immature for Diego's age.

What bothered me a lot though were Riley's speeches. They were... I guess the word that comes closest is inconsistent. Meyer would describe his words as persuasive but, as a reader, they fell flat. They were mishmashes of some abrasive words (I recall that he used the word 'stupid' a number of times) and junky vocabulary (superfluous, anyone?) that combined with a jumbled effect, almost as if they were hastily written but would not be said in a hasty, heated speech.

I suppose the writing was good enough, though I found myself staring at a page with glazed eyes more than once (that could be my fault, however). If further explored and consistently layered, the book could have more satisfying. There were many fascinating parts in this narrative--Seattle's menacing streets, gang life in the old vampire basement, the longer-yet-not-dandy first life of Bree Tanner--that could've have given us readers more food for thought, thereby resonating deeper... Meyer was given the opportunity and it's disappointing that she didn't use it to its full potential.

Sure, there were a few redeeming qualities: Meyer mentions a few realistic things (albeit in passing) such as teenage prostitution, homelessness, and a bit of gang life (out of the basement and in it). The streets of Seattle were palpably menacing; emotions ran high and some tension was developed pretty well. But it could have been much more.

All in all, it was tragic enough--both in Bree Tanner's end and Meyer's squandered opportunity.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5