What I Discovered Re-reading

Twilight as an Adult

Edward Cullen is an abusive boyfriend.

Inspired by the release of Midnight Sun (which is Twilight retold from Edward’s perspective) and out of sheer boredom during quarantine, I decided to re-read Twilight for my podcast Breaking Down Bad Books.

Since reading Twilight as a gawky, sexually-repressed 16 year old, I earned a Bachelor’s of English Literature and had my own foray into the dating world and relationships.

These formative ‘adult’ experiences allowed me to realise two major themes during my re-read of Twilight:

  1. Stephenie Meyer is a terrible writer;

  2. Edward is 100%, completely and utterly, a total psychotic abuser.

In the first half of the book alone, we witness Edward stalking Bella, gas-lighting her, isolating her, withholding information, and teasing her.

In almost every conversation between the two characters, Edward laughs at how clumsy she is and insists that she is a danger-magnet that needs his protection.

We find out that he followed her on her girl’s trip to a nearby town in order to keep an eye on her. Hello, stalker alert!

When Bella firsts starts to suspect that there is a touch of the supernatural about Edward, he tells her she is crazy, that she is seeing things, and that no one would believe her.

Once he does admit that he is a vampire, he consistently brings up how badly he wanted to kill her and drink her blood, and how this makes him feel sad and conflicted — leaving her to emotionally reassure him, even though she is the potential murder victim.

After they begin dating, he slowly but surely isolates her from her group of friends, such as by inviting her to sit alone with him at the school cafeteria and never offering to integrate with her social circle.

Not to mention the fact that he is 108 years old and she is 17! Why did we not see that as a problem in 2005?!

And this is all just in the first dozen chapters — as the series progresses, we see even more signs of obsession, possessiveness, and control.

What makes this so frustrating is how Stephenie Meyer presents these incidents as romantic. We are meant to swoon at the handsome, brooding vampire taking an interest in the quiet, blushing school student.

We’re meant to think of him as being considerate when he feeds on mountain lions before their dates so that he doesn't accidentally rip her throat apart.

Their relationship was clearly toxic from the start, with red flag after red flag ignored and dismissed.

I’ve heard from friends who have read Midnight Sun that it gets even worse, and that Edward was actually sneaking into Bella’s room to watch her sleep at night, and tracking her movements by reading other people’s thoughts.

As well as the problematic central relationship, Twilight is stuffed with cringe-worthy writing.

The plotting is clunky and the supporting characters are weak. It is repetitive and yet at the same time nothing ever happens. Bella’s daily movements are over-described in obnoxious detail yet we still don’t really know what she looks like. There are plot holes, plot dips, plot swerves, plot speed-bumps, and plot dead ends.

Twilight’s greatest crime, however, is how it mishandles the vampire genre. Stephenie Meyer cherry-picked parts of established vampire mythology to suit her needs and ignored any other aspects which would weigh her down. A vampire that glitters like diamonds in the sun? I mean, come on.

How I didn’t realise any of this while reading Twilight as a teenager, I will never know.

Now, as an adult, I’m thankful that Twilight has given me a blueprint for who not to date and how not to write.