Stephanie Meyer said to herself, “If that bitch E.L. James can make millions off of Twilight fanfiction, the SO CAN I”, and Life and Death was born. I’m a person who somehow managed to escape the experience of reading Twilight…up until now. To be completely honest, I did read Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, because the plots sounded more interesting than that of the first two books. And yes, I did start Twilight, but I got creeped out by Edward and irritated by Bella, so I stopped after about 100 pages. And when this new, gender-bent recreation was announced, I laughed and said “no way in hell”…and then bought it out of morbid curiosity. What followed was my first full experience with the beginning of the Twilight series (I know, I know, the ending is different, but still).
And you know what? I actually didn’t hate it. However, I’ve seen some Twi-hards touting it as “awesome” and “incredible” and that is definitely something it is not. Yes, the girl is the badass and the guy is the awkward klutz. However, that doesn’t mean that this is a book all feminists should read and praise. News flash, there are a ton of much cooler and more badass females in YA literature today than Edythe. Tris Prior? Celaena Sardothien? Mare Barrow? Rose Hathaway? Get my point yet? Still, it was kinda cool to see Twilight with the girl being the mysterious and kickass vampire, and I did enjoy clumsy, sarcastic Beau…maybe because I kept picturing Edythe as Rose Hathaway and Beau as Stiles Stilinksi.
Yeah, that definitely helped a little bit. Doesn’t help the fact that this book is mediocre at best. And as fans have been pointing out, there are several glaringly obvious flaws. Since the copy I bought also comes with the tenth anniversary edition of Twilight, I took the liberty of reading a little bit of it, and the fans are right; Stephanie Meyer pretty much just copied Twilight word for word, simply changing a few pronouns here and there. Reimagining? Not so much. Another miss is the whole reason Stephanie Meyer wrote this “new” Twilight was because she was tired of Twilight being labeled as sexist (news flash, it was). However, Life and Death contained just as many sexist themes as the previous Twilight did (I never read the book, but I did read quite a few informative articles on the subject). For example, when Edythe reveals her badassery and vampire status, Beau is not intimidated in the least. He also never feels self conscious around her. Because she’s a girl, right? And he’s a boy? Bella was constantly viewing herself as inferior to Edward, and if I’m not mistaken, even slightly fearful of him at some point. Not Beau though, because he’s a boy, and Edythe is a girl, so why should he feel inferior (please note the sarcasm). Now, let’s take into consideration Chaol Westfall and Celaena Sardothien of the Throne of Glass series. Celaena is the most talented and feared assassin in the land, so she’s just as lethal as supernaturally enhanced Edythe. When Chaol Westfall escorts her to the palace, he is clearly wary of her and possess a pretty healthy fear of her, no doubt because she could kill him instantly, and they both know it. To further my point, you have to take into consideration that Chaoll is a highly trained fighter, and Captain of the Royal Guard, so he himself is pretty lethal. So why then would skilled Chaoll be wary of Celaena, but clumsy Beau, who can injure himself just by walking on ice, isn’t afraid of Edythe who could probably overpower him with her pinky finger? Sorry Stephanie Meyer, but if you were aiming for a feminist story, you missed. There are dozens of other examples that I’m not going to get into, but that sites such as The Daily Beast, Flavorwire, and Jezebel have been more than happy to point out. Last but not least, the names. Yeah, Beau isn’t horrible but Edythe?! Really?! I could make a list of about a hundred names that are similar to Edward that aren’t synonymous with old grandmothers who love to knit and pet their cat.
If you’re looking for your average, run-of-the-mill human falls for a supernatural character story, and you’re sick of the vampire/fallen angel/werewolf being the guy, then give Life and Death a try. It’s not as annoying or mind-numbingly boring as the original Twilight was. Instead of being bitter and angsty, Beau is sarcastic, slightly funny, and a total klutz. He reminded me of a less interesting, not-as-smart Stiles Stilinksi (Teen Wolf). Edythe was nowhere near as creepy and stalkerish as Edward, and in fact she was kind of funny as well. She did get a little dark and broody at some points, but for the most part she was an outgoing bubble of energy who kicked ass every now and then (a lot like Rose Hathaway of the Vampire Academy series…though Rose was a lot more awesome). I did enjoy some of the banter between the two, and their relationship was a lot more interesting to read about than Bella and Edwards.
Still…it’s mediocre at best
In the end, funny Beau and kickass Edythe did not makeup for the many flaws in the book. Nevermind the fact that as far as Paranormal YA Romances go, this falls incredibly flat by any standards. See, YA isn’t the small, obscure drama that it was when Stephenie Meyer originally released Twilight. Now, it is one of the biggest genres in the game, and to do well in the genre you have to have interesting characters instead of average stock characters. You need to build a world that captures the imagination of readers. You have to create a rich history of the supernatural world you are exploring. Life and Death fails at all of these. In fact, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if Life and Death was released by an unknown author as a debut work, it wouldn’t even make a ripple in the ocean of YA novels, let alone a splash. Yes, it’s a fascinating idea, but only because it’s a gender bent version of a book that was already successful. If it was a standalone or a debut novel, it would undoubtedly fail miserably. Yes, some people may enjoy this book. However, if you’re someone who has already read Twilight, especially recently, you’ll probably get bored within the first few chapters and call it quits. If you’re someone who’s looking for a Paranormal or Fantasy YA where the badass character is the female, I can point you to several other books that will be far more interesting and actually worth your time. Seriously, go check out Glass Sword (Aveyard), A Court of Thorns and Roses (Maas), Throne of Glass (Maas), Clockwork Angel (Clare), The Darkest Minds (Bracken), White Hot Kiss (Armentrout), The Lux Series (Armentorut), or Vampire Academy (Mead), and its spinoff series, Bloodlines (Mead). Really, the only people I’d recommend this book to are those who are curious (like I was), and lacking other things to read. And of course, anyone who has ever wanted to read a gender-bent Twilight. Obviously.