Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
As I mentioned before, a friend of mine enjoyed this book a lot, and lent me her copy. I realize it's a very popular series, but it seems completely overrated. Granted this is young adult fiction, so I may be too critical of some things, but I thoroughly enjoyed His Dark Materials trilogy, and in comparison, this was just nowhere nearly as well written or developed. It definitely veered to close to the romance spectrum of things for me.
I read the whole thing, though. Honestly, the first hundred pages or so aren't that bad. That's when there is still a little bit of a mystery, and the character Bella seemed to have a little bit more going on than just her crush on Edward. The middle of the book was incredibly mushy, and then the last hundred pages or so got a little more interesting again (although, it wasn't really enough of a climax). The main reason I kept reading through was because I was kind of curious to see the mythology and the whole "how I became a vampire stuff" - there wasn't much to the mythology, and for the most part, the stories were kind of boring (actually, the whole idea of origin stories was one of the reasons that I preferred The Vampire Lestat to Interview with the Vampire, and why the fourth book in The Dark Tower series is my favorite). Their backgrounds were basically covered in one or two paragraphs a piece.
Obviously, I disliked how mushy it was. I can't count the number of times that Bella described Edward as "dazzling," or herself as "dazzled." She's 17, and has "finally found true love" - please, I am not arguing that you are in love (although it seemed to happen rather quickly) but "finally"? You're 17, you haven't been waiting that long. The 100+ year old vampire on the other hand, okay, he could get away with saying that. And she faints when he kisses her - come on!
In the beginning, it seemed like there might be something to Bella - she was insulted when other students assumed she did well on a lab because she was partnered with Edward when in fact she knew the answers herself. For an English paper, she told others she was exploring misogyny in Shakespeare. And then she starts hanging out with Edward and becomes a simpering idiot.
One of Bella's character traits is that she is a huge klutz. Edward tells her it is now his job to protect her because her klutziness places her in mortal danger - she's managed 17 years without him; I don't think it's necessary for him to suddenly become her protector (I realize where the sentiment might be sweet, but the wording and attitude just make him sound incredibly condescending and patronizing). At one point, she walks down a dark alley and some men are starting to follow her. Edward drives by, takes her to dinner, and then makes some comment how by this time, anyone else would already be in shock. How fragile does he think she is? Shock from feeling threatened? It was just a lot of little things like that. He eavesdropped on her conversations, and for the most part, she made only a little comment, but didn't get too upset or angry at him. He told one of her classmates that had a crush on her that everyone should consider Bella unavailable evenings because she'd be with him. His attitude is just too controlling and take charge but I guess that kind of stuff tends to get confused or taken as romance in movies and books (for example, before they started dating, he used to watch her sleep - completely creepy, but Bella feels flattered by his stalker-like behavior).
I heard the next two novels in the series are better but even though I feel a little bit of curiosity where it is going (something about werewolves), I don't care enough to read the books. The plot outlines on Wikipedia are more than enough to satisfy that curiosity (and also, apparently, all I need to get annoyed all over again).