Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Twilight Got Banned?

I'd never given much thought to how I would die-- though I"d had reason enough in the last few months-- but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this...

So begins the book that started it all--fangirls, fanboys, movies, merchandise, a whole slew of 'Unofficial Guides', the recent surge in paranormal romances in the YA section, some Bella Swannabes anxiously sighing and waiting for their own Edward Cullens...and the revival, if I may hazard to say, of the young adult genre.

And by revival, I'm not saying that Stephenie Meyer is the Queen of YA and that we must all bow down to Her Graciousness. No, what I mean is that a whole slew of reluctant readers, a new generation of teens, have suddenly discovered a whole genre catering to their wants, needs and desires. They're buying books, reading books, sighing over books, recommending books, reading books, squealing over books and well, they're reading books.

And I'm totally loving that.

At one point, I was a hardcore Twi-nut. Seriously. I had chapter headings, exact word-for-word quotes, descriptions, and scenes memorized. I fantasized about Edward, felt how it was to be awkward, clumsy, plain Bella Swan, swooned at the Meadow scene, started guarding my thoughts (just in case someone was listening), scoured the Internet for fanfiction, and even chose my vampire superpower once I was turned. (It was lightning speed reading skills, by the way).

And it came at pretty good time in my life too--I was this awkward, insecure, perpetually bored newly teenaged girl, waiting for some excitement in my life. Okay, let's face it. I still am awkward, insecure, teenaged girl, but back then, I was nursing an insane crush and was letting my thoughts roam all over the place. I was desperate for some romance in my life and I sure as heck wasn't going to embarrass myself to get it.

Then I read a book review on Twilight in the local youth paper, and I thought, "Ooh, vampires. That sounds like it might freak out my mom." Then I noticed the word 'romance'. And I knew that I just had to get it.

-insert Edward Cullen obsession here-

Needless to say, I found it perfect. I reread the book 6 times before I branched out to fanfiction. And after that got a bit repetitive, I started looking for novels with the same bite (pun intended) that would propel me into the heady swooning-sighing-reading rush that I got from Twilight.

Four years later, I can't read the book without having to skim, thinking of creepers and getting furious over Bella's passivity. But one thing hasn't changed: I haven't stopped reading.

The reader in me (missing since childhood) returned the day I read that book review. And I have to thank Stephenie Meyer for that. If it wasn't for Twilight, I probably wouldn't be as voracious a reader of the YA genre, nor would I have been compelled to find quality literature.

And I swear, books have taught me way more than those four walls I'll be confined in starting next week.

They showed me injustice, evil, intolerance, hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness, along with the consequences and the best way to conquer them. They showed me courage. (I'm looking at you, Atticus Finch.) They showed me love.

But they also showed me that there will always be a little piece of evil in the world, and sometimes it will be overwhelming. Yet, instead of being cowed, we should stand up and stare it right in the eye.

And well, censorship is one of those evils. The fact that such a squeaky clean book like Twilight has been dubbed "sexually explicit" with "offensive language" and then subsequently banned just strikes me.

Because now I'm thinking about those other teenagers, teenagers like me who might have been bitten by the reading bug earlier on but have pretty much forgotten the allure of the written word. Teenagers who could benefit so much more from reading a good book. Reluctant readers who might not discover the power of literature because of this ban, which is just shameful.

Because I just know how good that reading rush feels.

On a side note: I am perfectly aware that Twilight is not exactly quality literature, seeing as it promotes abusive relationships, unhealthy co-dependence and just about the weakest female protagonist I have ever read about.

But the way I see it, Twilight is just the appetizer in a full-course literary extravaganza--it makes you eager to devour other similar books, and with the help of a good librarian (or maybe those fanfiction profiles), finding better books (with a much more active heroine, please) won't be such a daunting task.

Plus, some good news! After four days, the school lifted the ban on Twilight. I'm by no means an advocate for the series, but teens should be able to answer the famous "To read or not to read?" query for themselves.


Em said...

Hey Squinto! Excited that you are doing the Banned Books Reading Challenge! So are we! If you want to enter a Banned Books Month (yup, we're celebrating all month!) giveaway and share your review with others through our site, feel free to head on over to our Banned Books Month page and add your review to the Mister Linky Widget! Looking forward to following your blog!

(Also, I think banning Twilight is silly. My guess is that it is never a required reading book so it's not like folks who don't believe in the occult will be forced to read it.)