Book Recommendation #2: Fallen by Lauren Kate, or In Twilight’s Defence
The following review is one that I wrote almost a year ago, about Fallen by Lauren Kate, a novel that I recommend you DON’T read:
“This is by far the worst teen fiction novel that I have ever read, quite an accomplishment, considering some of the contenders. Next to nothing actually occurs in the story and what action there is takes place without the presence and often knowledge of the heroine. The heroine is the only vaguely developed character and yet one has to wish the author had failed to develop her as well. Ignorance is her primary characteristic, while stupidity takes a near second place. She is incredibly pathetic and my only sympathy is for any teens who relate to her. Despite all this, a teen fiction fan might hold out some hope for the romantic element of the novel, but to no avail. The romantic tension between the two protagonists is non-existent, except when it feels incredibly contrived. What little desire I felt for their relationship was driven by a hope that, as suggested by the completely ridiculous plot, [spoiler alert] their eventual embrace might result in the protagonist’s death. If only. I hate this book.”
As I was rereading my review, I found myself wondering whether I had been a little harsh. I wouldn’t have been surprised, since I can be fairly cynical, but this review seemed a little overly aggressive even for me, so I pulled the book out to take another look. My review wasn’t an exaggeration.
Fallen is a truly awful novel. What bothers me the most about this, however, isn’t the time I wasted reading (and then rereading parts of) this book, the time other innocents will waste reading it in the future, the impact it might have on teen audiences, or the knowledge that such a hateful book even exists, but that other less hateful books, ie. Twilight, always get criticised when they could CLEARLY be much worse.
OBVIOUSLY I am aware that “it could be worse” is far from a defence, but it could be SO MUCH worse.
Here’s a comparison of some of the worst parts of both books.
Lack of Action by the Heroines:
I’m not really taking any part in the action, which is disappointing, but I’m trippin’ out on VAMPIRE VENOM and watching some vampire chick rip a vampire dude’s head off.
I COULD take part in the action, but instead I’m going to sit on the other side of a hill and listen to some kind of battle take place… because… someone told me to?
Lack of Sex:
We can kiss and make out or whatever, but I’m threatened by your sexual desire, so I lied and told you that if we have sex, you might lose your soul. (Don’t worry, we’ll bonk our brains out later, you just gotta put a ring on it.)
I secretly fantasise about kissing you, but verbally abuse you and generally treat you like shit because if I’m even nice to you then you WILL DIE. So yeah, sex is also out of the question, but we are TOTES SOUL MATES!
I didn’t know what was going on, but I got my shit together and google-ed vampires, so now I know why my boyfriend sparkles and smells like cherry pie (?!).
I didn’t know what was going on, I still don’t know what’s going on, and I asked my boyfriend but he can’t tell me, because then I’d, like, DIE.
My boyfriend stalks me occasionally and watches me sleep, which we both admit is pretty weird, but he doesn’t actually abuse me. He can be a bit of a jealous pig, but that’s because he knows that there’s, like, this buff werewolf who keeps taking his top off in front of me.
My boyfriend consistently makes it pretty clear that he just doesn’t like me, and also, that if we talk, touch, possibly even just make eye contact, I might DIE.
The Anti-feminist ‘Nurturer’ Complaint:
I’m a ‘nurturing anti-feminist’. I cook for my Dad, but assume I won’t need to do all that much cooking in the Cullen household. Also, in the end, my non-aggressive femininity saves everyone, because I have magic powers (?!?!… don’t worry too much about it, it’s a sparkly vampire thing) that make people not be able to kill each other. (Feminism is not the same as anti-femininity)
I might be nurturing, but it’s unlikely my character develops enough for you to find out, and if you did, I might DIE.
At the end of the day, there are going to be a lot of people who like Twilight, and a lot of people who hate it, but just because you hate something, and the way it portrays girls and relationships, doesn’t make it necessarily anti-feminist. I find it really irritating that certain people seem to think that this is the case. Twilight has SIGNIFICANT (!!!) ideological room for improvement, as does much of the romance genre, but it was hardly written as the anti-feminist manifesto that some people seem to believe. Certainly, Fallen shows us that it could be, and often is, much worse.
In the end, it’s fine to hate either or both of these series.
By the same token, even though I’ve just spent the last while criticising them both to different extents, I, obviously, personally enjoyed Twilight.
Furthermore, if you enjoyed Fallen, then fuck the haters and own it!
Ultimately, it’s only when we begin to tell teenage girls what they should or should not read and to what sort of story or character they should or should not be attracted, that we become anti-feminist.
So back off and let the Twi-hards have their fun.
At this point it might be worth pointing out that, while much of the paranormal YA genre, is somewhat lacking in active female protagonists, there a few series that are well worth a read and which even contain positive female role models in their heroines.
For younger readers, I would firstly recommend The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot, but for those looking for something with a LITTLE more substance and more mature characters, the Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead is also great. These chicks got moves.