How I Backpacked Europe and Discovered Vampires

Picture it.

Europe, January 2009.

After enduring two harrowing weeks of Art and Theater Appreciation class in London, four American college kids–three guys and a gal–strike out on their own for a 10-day romp across the continent.

Side note: This is the same trip in which we planned our route from a tiny room in the basement of a library. It’s how we made big plans in a small room.

They fly from London to Rome, then utilize the legendary Eurail pass to traverse Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. They’d also spent a test weekend in Paris…just because they wanted to try out their ability to travel together before setting out on their whirlwind tour.

french pastry
Paris knows its way around a pastry.

The girl, a sassy, brunette English major from sunny Florida, decided the book she’d tucked into her backpack (Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray) was boring, so she needed to find a substitute.

Even though Twilight had debuted four years prior, the vampire books were still all the rage, even on an international scale. She’d heretofore ignored such…common…offerings, but decided to embrace the hype and secure a copy. After all, she’d only be this young once!

 

And, of course, she decided to track down a new novel in countries that don’t speak her native tongue. Therefore, she had zero luck through many cities, and, unfortunately, wasted valuable time asking for cheesy fantasy novels in posh foreign bookstores. Yes, she could feel the “Americans!” and the exaggerated eye rolls as she left each store empty handed.

Then the foursome arrived in Berlin. Did she see the Berlin Wall? Yes! Did she take a picture of the Brandenberg Gate without knowing what it was? Of course! Did she watch Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural address surrounded by excited Germans? Well, that goes without saying!

 

pisa
Yup. It really does lean.

“But what about the vampire book?!” you’re probably not asking yourself.

 

Hark! Late one night, she stumbled across a two-story, well-lit bookstore that just had to have an English section. She fumbled through some pretend German when asking a clerk for guidance. And then, she found herself gripping that black novel with the bright, red apple. She clutched it to her chest, which was covered by a sweater, pea coat, and scarf, because goshdarnit! Europe is freezing in January.

And then she read the novel twice in a row.

Because…sometimes, when you spend 10 straight days with three friends you only kinda know (or even 10 straight days with people you deeply love), you need a break. And you’re going to delight in spending that break in the mind of a girl obsessed with a vampire.

Yes, I did go home to buy the three remaining books in the saga. (I hope to write a saga someday.) And I generally enjoyed them. The movies…not so much, but the books were generally enjoyable.

So, those 400-plus words you just endured now bring us to present time.

Picture it.

South Carolina, 2020.

A 30-ish-year-old mom with small children in tow patrons her local library. Even though she’s already on the waitlist for Stephenie Meyer’s newest vampire novel, Midnight Sun, at an adjacent county’s library, she sheepishly asks the librarian if she can get on this library’s waitlist. The librarian nods understandingly and compassionately.

wp-1598751879570.jpgShe then goes on vacation and sends her unsuspecting husband to obtain his own library card in order to check out her now-waiting copy of Midnight Sun so it’ll be ready for her when she gets home.

Will she feel the same about the vampires? She’s heard Midnight Sun is simply a retelling of Twilight, but from the vampire’s–not the human girl’s–perspective. But will that be enough to keep her attention? After all, she’s 12 years older now. Is she also 12 years wiser?

Apparently not. OK, here’s Mama’s nitty-gritty review of Stephenie Meyer’s newest book.

I loved the concept. It wasn’t gender-bending or even a rewrite. It was an honest-to-goodness perspective change from Bella to Edward. Frankly, I think Meyer is brave to reuse what she wrote 15 years ago to make something new. Surely, there were times when she read her old Twilight dialogue and cringed. Like, “Dang, why didn’t someone make this better back then?”

She did a good job making Edward likable, because, I don’t know if you remember, but he was kind of a cold, demanding jerkwad. And that’s coming from someone who was 100% #TeamEdward.

We have 650 pages of the why. Why did Edward react in such jerkwaddy ways? Apparently, he had very good reasons. Well, the main reason we learn so much about Edward was because Meyer became a much better writer in 15 years. She gave her hero a solid backstory and motivations.

Here’s my main beef.

Have you ever watched a movie, then read the book? It’s the same reason I didn’t read Pride & Prejudice for many years. I’d seen every version of the movie, so I didn’t think there’d be much left to discover in the book.

OK, obviously, I was wrong about P&P, which is a beautifully crafted book.

With the vampires, though, I already knew what was going to happen. I spent many, many pages wading through Edward’s internal drama, all the while waiting for the next thing to happen.

Mostly…when are we getting to the meadow, amirite?

And I got bored.

So, for those of you who unabashedly loved Edward, Bella, and their coven of angsty vampires, I’d say go for it. Yes, all 650 pages. They probably could’ve been edited to 550 without much loss, but who am I to question a NYT best-selling author and her editing team?

Notable notes:
1. Alice. She’s delightful, especially when she meets her vampire family for the first time.
2. Charlie. We all know Edward can’t read Bella’s mind, but his issues with Charlie’s thoughts were a nice touch.
3. Jasper. The extent of his powers were something special to see.
4. I still don’t understand Bella’s appeal, especially when compared to Edward’s obsession.
5. Emmett. I was never a big fan of the big lug until he decided Bella had joined the family.
6. Rosalie. Meh. Gorgeous, petty mean girl. More could’ve been done here.

Even with my average review (and my three-star review on GoodReads, which makes me feel unappreciative), I’m still cheering for Meyer to write the Edward-POV companions to New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. I’m not sure if I’d lay down my Visa for the hardbacks, but I’d jump on that library waitlist on Day One.

Have you read Midnight Sun yet? Thoughts?

Currently Reading:
Heartstone by Elle Katharine White – Do you love Pride and Prejudice? Do you love fantasy novels? Would you like to see Mr. Darcy as a dragon rider? The answer? Of course, obviously, and HOW HAVE I NOT DISCOVERED THIS BOOK BEFORE?

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