Last night I went to the movies to see Eclipse. I had read and watched the first two titles in the series- Twilight and New Moon, yet failed to get through the third. I just couldn’t get into the whole over-dramatic, back and forth love between a human, vampire and werewolf. I suppose that if you love Stephenie Meyer’s characters already, you would be thrilled to spend more time with them (like, OMG, it was the BEST movie ever! Edward is sooo hot!) I, on the other hand, still don’t get what all the fuss is about (and believe me, I’ve tried). Even for my Readers Advisory class, I chose the ever-popular Twilight to further explore and discover read-alikes. After researching appeal factors, I limited the titles down to 5 best read-alikes (I will discuss 3 in depth).
In Review: In 2005, Stephenie Meyer became an international best selling author of the highly popular novel Twilight. This fast paced story of romance and suspense introduces seventeen year old Isabella “Bella” Swan who moves from Arizona to Forks, Washington and finds her life in danger when she falls in love with a vampire, Edward Cullen. Perhaps the popularity of the novel stems from the fact that although the novel is marketed at young adult readers, it has the ability to cross age barriers and satisfy both teenagers and adults alike. Moreover, the novel reaches across multiple reading interests through including aspects of the genres: romance, fantasy and action. In turn, the novel received great reviews, including Hillias J. Martin of School Library Journal who praised the novel, saying, “Realistic, subtle, succinct, and easy to follow, Twilight will have readers dying to sink their teeth into it”. In fact, readers became so addicted to Twilight, that they followed Bella and Edward’s story throughout the Twilight series of Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. However, after reading the complete series, many readers were left to wonder what to read next. Using a range of reading advisory tools (electronic, print, human), one can utilize the many genres and subgenres of Twilight to link the novel to other similar titles or read-a-likes.
My Recommended Titles
Novel # 1- The House of Night Series
Through the use of the electronic database NoveList, I searched for Twilight (via author search) and then clicked on the hand crafted ‘recommended reads- if you like…Twilight’. Seventeen titles of ‘compelling love stories with light horror and some humour’ appeared, and from that list I narrowed down my selection by sorting by popularity and examining the Lexile scores. In the end, after reading the summaries and various professional reviews, I chose two titles that I felt were most similar in genres to Twilight. The first was the paranormal series, House of Night co-authored by P.C Cast and Kristin Cast (2007).
According to the NoveList summary, “Sixteen-year-old Zoey Redbird is marked as a fledging vampyre and joins the House of Night where she will train to become an adult vampire”. At the House of Night, Zoey finds true friendship, loyalty, and romance as well as mistrust and deception. Through this description, it is evident that this young adult series mixes elements of the J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and Meyer’s Twilight to create a new thrilling world of teen drama and supernatural suspense. Certainly, The House of Night Series fits the majority of subject headings associated with Twilight. Such headings include: teenage girls, vampires, supernatural, friendship, teenage boy/girl relations, schools and social acceptance. However, although both series are classified as young adult novels and include vampires, the similarities end there. In Twilight, the relationship between Bella and Edward is emphasized in the storyline; whereas The House of Night books are based on actions, not relationships.
Despite this storyline difference, the authors Cast and Meyer have been recognized for their ability to mix paranormal, romance, and suspense genre elements to entertain their readers. In turn, they have received multiple prestigious awards and recognition from the literary realm. This is an important appeal element as distinguished and award winning titles appeal to the majority of readers.
Novel #2- The Uglies Series
Through exploring possible Twilight theme links (teenage girls, friendship, and social acceptance) the electronic database NoveList also recommended the series Uglies by Scott Westefeld. Uglies is a science fiction novel set in a future world in which everyone will be transformed into beauties through extreme cosmetic surgery upon reaching the age of sixteen. It follows the story of fifteen year old Tally Youngblood who is eagerly awaiting the day she can become pretty. However, her best friend Shay is not looking forward to the operation and likes herself the way she is-ugly. When Shay runs away, Tally must decide whether to find and turn her in, or run away from the city and never get the operation to become pretty at all.
A review by the School Library Journal recognizes Uglies as a “complicated and thought-provoking fable” that gives the reader a “thrilling, provocative look at a high-tech world” and “much to think about as they devour a well-paced novel.” Indeed, the fast pacing of the book is just one aspect why Meyer and Westerfeld’s writing styles are similar. Both authors use an easy to follow writing style that is packed with action and suspense so the books are impossible to put down. They leave the readers wanting to get their hands on the next book in the series to fulfill their curiosity in what happens next. Moreover, their characters are well developed and relatable on many levels (especially for teens). Both Bella and Tally are dealing with the typical issues of conformity, body image, individuality and peer pressure that all teenage readers can associate with.
Novel #3- The Southern Vampire Mysteries
Through utilizing my human resources of Twilight readers and a local librarian, the eight book series titled, The Southern Vampire Mysteries (also known to readers as the Sookie Stackhouse series) was recommended time and time again. According to NoveList, The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris is about “Sookie Stackhouse, a cocktail waitress in rural Louisiana who keeps to herself because of her ability to read minds, and Bill, a tall, dark, and handsome vampire with ties to a creepy crowd that may be responsible for the death of one of Sookie’s coworkers”. Even from this simple description, the theme and character similarities between Twilight and The Southern Vampire Mysteries are evident. Although both series are obviously about vampires; the similarities do not end there.
In terms of characterization, Sookie Stackhouse (like Bella Swan) gives a first person account of her life as a young woman in a small town. Although there is a focus on the heroine in both novels, the secondary characters are equally developed. The storyline of The Southern Vampire Mysteries details the love triangle between Sookie, Bill and Sam. Sookie falls in love with a vampire (Bill) while Sam (a dog-man) maintains his love for Sookie. This storyline is almost identical to Twilight’s where a human female has the love of two men-a vampire and a werewolf. For both titles, the fast paced action begins on the first page and continues throughout the series. There is a balanced mix of both dialogue and description to keep readers interested and wanting more.
Lastly, readers who enjoy the adaptation of books to film would appreciate the option of watching these characters and storylines come to life. Although most readers were aware of Twilight’s much anticipated film release last year, less individuals recognize that the popular HBO series “True Blood” is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries.
Despite the uncanny similarities between the two novels and the recent controversy over whether Twilight’s author Stephenie Meyer copied the idea for her novel from Harris’s series, there are differences. For example, the Twilight series is a classified romance, and while The Southern Vampire Mysteries series has romantic elements, the focus is more mystery than love. Moreover, although Twilight readers vary in age, it is considered a young-adult novel, whereas the Southern Vampire Mysteries is classified as an adult novel due to the sexual content. Overall, I think that mature Twilight fans will appreciate the various similarities offered by The Southern Vampire Mysteries to fulfill their vampire fix.
My final recommendations were: The Golden Compass- Phillip Pullman, & The Host- Stephenie Meyer
Any other suggestions?