By Ameerah Holliday
As a recovering “Twi-hard” I was fully aware of the approaching tenth anniversary of Twilight. However, when the novel’s author Stephenie Meyer announced a “surprise” release of a Twilight book I had no doubts as to what it would be. In 2008 Midnight Sun, a retelling of Twilight from Edward’s perspective was illegally leaked onto the internet. Meyer was devastated by the leak and proclaimed that the novel would remain unfinished because of it. However, it seemed as though after seven years she may have finally changed her mind and the Twi-hard fandom rejoiced in the possibility. However, her fans were mistaken.
The debut novel of Stephenie Meyer, Twilight was originally published in 2005 by Little, Brown and Company and debuted at number five on the New York Times Best Seller list within a month of its release. Since its publication three other novels were released within the saga: New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn – as well as a novella to accompany the third novel – and a total of five movies. On October 7th in honor of the anniversary of the first novel of the saga Stephenie Meyer released Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined which featured a complete gender-bended retelling of the original Twilight novel and is currently only available as a tenth anniversary duel edition. Meyer said she was inspired by people’s complaints about Twilight’s main character Bella “being a typical damsel in distress […] I have always maintained that it would have made no difference if the human were male and the vampire female” and in this reimagining of the story she attempts to prove exactly that.
Life and Death opens with a foreword to the reader expressing how happy Meyer is about the anniversary and apologizing because her new material is “(A) not entirely new, but mostly (B) not Midnight Sun.” With this as an opening it immediately made the novel feel like a disappointment. Meyer not only admits that it’s essentially not a new novel, but that it’s also a novel that no one had initially wanted to read. However, in her letter she does express that after much consideration Midnight Sun will eventually be completed and released. Overall the foreword left me unsure I wanted to complete the novel at all, but an interest to see how the story translated inspired me to turn the page and keep reading.
With the knowledge that this would be a gender-bended retelling I still found myself surprised at how seriously she took that idea to heart. Not only were all the main characters swapped (with the exception of Bella’s parents Charlie and Renee) but small, nameless secondary characters such as the office attendant and the nurse were also gender-bended. With the new genders came new names for almost all the characters. Meyer keeps up with her use of unpopular and older-sounding name choices in this novel as Isabella (Bella) became Beaufort (Beau), Edward became Edythe, Jacob became Julie and so on and so forth. The characters personality traits remained the same however, which proved to be an interesting twist and although it did develop a feminist angle the book still seemed to fall short in its believability.
The novel’s main character Beau Swan is depicted as a clumsy teenage boy who suffers from OCD and is over protective of his mother and estranged father. Meyer attempts to portray him and his friendships in a similar style as those of Bella’s but her language seems to fall short in its authenticity. The novel does attempt to remove the flowery language from its main character; an example of this is when Beau enters Forks for the first time and remarks, “It was probably beautiful or something. Everything was green.” Although it’s quite clear this was an attempt to place the perspective into that of a teenage boy and it read as forced. As this kind of change continues throughout the novel it leaves Beau depicted as obtuse and intense in certain matters that happen around him. His character however does not stray far from his predecessor, Bella, as he takes on the role of a victim flawlessly and helps convey Meyer’s original idea of human in distress verses damsel in distress.
As the novel develops it does become clear that Life and Death is it’s own story and holds its surprises, but ultimately Meyer seems to provided her readers with a fanfiction reworking of her own novel. She corrects many of the unclear plot elements of the original novel and portrays a clearer idea of the vampire gifts some of the characters possess. However, the ending is the true testament to this novel’s uniqueness. The end of the novel is reimagined in a way that demonstrates what could have taken place had Twilight been a standalone novel rather than a series. With Beau’s life in danger Edythe learns “There are only two futures left, Carine [Carlisle]. He survives as one of us, or Edythe kills him trying to stop it from happening.”
“There were a few things I knew for sure. For one, Edythe was an actual vampire. For another, there was a part of her that saw me as food. But in the end, none of that mattered. All that mattered was that I loved her.”
This new addition to the novel is by far the most enjoyable part as it allows you to truly commit to these new characters and understand that their story is separate from Twilight. Although this novel was appreciated the idea for this reimagining is unoriginal as it has been portrayed through her fanfiction community and ultimately reads and was seemingly received as such. Life and Death was unexpected but resulted in an enjoyable story for fans or anyone who is curious and with these new characters entering into a familiar fantasy world fans may find themselves satisfied with this story.