It took me a while to get this part out. I finished the book a few weeks ago and wrote my first draft right away, but I was a little frustrated with how many times I used the word “boring.” I’m going to abuse that word, a lot. I can at least promise that I use it less than Meyer used the word “perfect” to describe Edythe. But hey, at least I am done. At last, I can read something else. But first, I must divulge the details and unload my frustration onto you, dear reader.
In the first half of the book, I made a list as I went of changes made and compared how gender and personality differences informed those changes, or didn’t. I proceeded with the second half in much the same way. I knew beforehand the endings were completely different. I will also point out that Meyer includes an afterword where she says the different ending wasn’t because Beau is a boy or because that’s how she wished she had ended Twilight, it’s just a “what if” ending. Personally I think part of it is because she has no plans to rewrite the other books, so the different ending does clue things up so the book exists as a whole instead of the first book of a series. That said, it still really pissed me off, but I need to hold your hand and explain how we get to the different endings. It’s the lead up more than the conclusion that makes it infuriating.
I made far more notes for the first half of the book than the second, and part of it was because my attention was waning. If you haven’t read Twilight, you’re actually not missing much because not much actually happens. We don’t even get an antagonist until Chapter 18 of 24, unless ennui is meant to be the true villain. This does mark the end of the day to day, blow by blow narration, at least. There is a quote on page 565 that I really love because it describes how I feel about the first half of the book:
“It was so much fun!” Jessica gushed. Needing no more invitation than that, she launched into a minute-by-minute account of the previous night. I mmm’d and ahh’d at the right places, but it wasn’t easy to concentrate. Jessica, Mike, the dance, the school—they all seemed strangely irrelevant at the moment. My eyes kept flashing to the window, trying to judge the degree of light behind the heavy clouds.”
In that moment, I truly related to Bella Swan, because that’s how I feel reading about her daily life. By the way, Beau never talks to his friends ever again. Friends are a girl thing, apparently.
Anyway, the second half of the book starts with the forest scene, in which Edythe/Edward reveals their true self to Beau/Bella, standing in the sunlight, dazzling like millions of diamonds. Meyer tries to clean up the writing in Life and Death, but it’s still just as silly. Again, because Beau adds so much more thought than Bella, not only is it just as silly, it’s a lot longer and more drawn out.
They go to Beau/Bella’s house afterward. Edythe/Edward admits to having spied on Beau/Bella, even coming to the house every night to watch them sleep. It’s incredibly violating and creepy, but again the delivery of this is different so that Edythe comes off as less creepy than Edward. She is at least apologetic and realizes it’s wrong. Edward is very nonchalant about the whole thing.
“He reached the door ahead of me and opened it for me. I paused halfway through the frame.
“The door was unlocked?”
“No, I used the key from under the eave.”
I stepped inside, flicked on the porch light, and turned to look at him with my eyebrows raised. I was sure I’d never used that key in front of him.
“I was curious about you.”
“You spied on me?” But somehow I couldn’t infuse my voice with the proper outrage. I was flattered.
He was unrepentant. “What else is there to do at night?”
I let it go for the moment and went down the hall to the kitchen. He was there before me, needing no guide. He sat in the very chair I’d tried to picture him in. His beauty lit up the kitchen. It was a moment before I could look away.
I concentrated on getting my dinner, taking last night’s lasagna from the fridge, placing a square on a plate, heating it in the microwave. It revolved, filling the kitchen with the smell of tomatoes and oregano. I didn’t take my eyes from the plate of food as I spoke.
“How often?” I asked casually.
“Hmmm?” He sounded as if I had pulled him from some other train of thought.
I still didn’t turn around. “How often did you come here?”
“I come here almost every night.”
I whirled, stunned. “Why?”
“You’re interesting when you sleep.” He spoke matter-of-factly. “You talk.”
“No!” I gasped, heat flooding my face all the way to my hairline. I gripped the kitchen counter for support. I knew I talked in my sleep, of course; my mother teased me about it. I hadn’t thought it was something I needed to worry about here, though.
His expression shifted instantly to chagrin. “Are you very angry with me?”
“That depends!” I felt and sounded like I’d had the breath knocked out of me.
“On?” he urged.
“What you heard!” I wailed.”
It’s okay because Bella is flattered.
“I wondered why she sounded like she didn’t want to answer. Was it too broad a question?
“No, you don’t have to be general. Like, what are you going to do tonight after you leave?”
It was the wrong question. I could feel my high start to slip. She was going to have to leave. It didn’t matter how short the separation was—I dreaded it.
She didn’t seem to like the question, either, at first I thought for the same reason. But then her eyes flashed to my face and away, like she was uncomfortable.
She made a face. “Do you want a pleasant lie or a possibly disturbing truth?”
“The truth,” I said quickly, though I wasn’t entirely sure.
She sighed. “I’ll come back here after you and your father are asleep. It’s sort of my routine lately.”
I blinked. Then I blinked again.
“You come here?”
“Almost every night.”
“You’re interesting when you sleep,” she said casually. “You talk.”
My mouth popped open. Heat flashed up my neck and into my face. I knew I talked in my sleep, of course; my mother teased me about it. I hadn’t thought it was something I needed to worry about here.
She watched my reaction, staring up at me apprehensively from under her lashes.
“Are you very angry with me?”
Was I? I didn’t know. The potential for humiliation was strong. And I didn’t understand—she’d been listening to me babble in my sleep from where? The window? I couldn’t understand.”
Edythe at least understands what she is doing is creepy. The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging there is one, right?
But Edward isn’t the only man in Twilight who’s a bit controlling, oh no. When Charlie comes home, Edythe/Edward scram while Beau/Bella has supper with him. Charlie asks his child about the dance they are missing. Bella insists she didn’t want to go, Charlie approves of her not wanting to date, saying she should wait until college. Beau insists he doesn’t want to go, Charlie wonders why he isn’t dating. When Beau/Bella goes upstairs, their vampire is waiting for them without Charlie’s knowledge. Charlie thinks that Beau/Bella are going to sneak out. To prevent Bella from leaving, he unplugs the battery in her truck. He does not do anything to prevent Beau from leaving. This might be a small thing, but remember this is about the lead up. It’s not me making a mountain out of a mole hill, it’s me pointing out that there’s an awful lot of fucking mole hills.
Both couples spend the night cuddling. Beau/Bella ask about sex, but Edythe/Edward doesn’t think it can happen. Edward will admit to finding her sexually attractive, but Edythe pines on about his eyes, either because Meyer thought that was more interesting, or because girls shouldn’t admit to sexual attraction. Brevity does indeed make Edward/Bella the more lovable couple, to be honest. The next day, they decide to go visit the Cullens. And that’s great, because the side characters are notably more interesting than the main characters. Right?
Well, one of the major problems with Twilight/Life and Death is that side characters don’t really speak for themselves much. We learn about them more from info dumps provided by Edward/Edythe. Later, Archie gets more to say than Alice, but Meyer didn’t fix Carlisle/Carine not telling their own story, and she adds more info dumps later. When Bella/Beau meet the Cullens, they barely talk. They are introduced, and the parent vampires love them right away, and then it’s just back to the main pair again. It is incredibly frustrating to learn about the family this way.
The family leaves after a short introduction and Edward/Edythe plays the piano. Edward/Edythe then tell the story of Carine, the founder of The Humane Vampire Society. They were the child of an Anglican priest in England who hunted vampires and witches and heretics. I’m pretty sure vampire hunts weren’t a thing in fifteenth century England, but let’s go with it. Carlisle took over for him and was turned into a vampire when he tried to attack a coven hiding in the sewers. The vampire bit him, dropped him and then took out several other people before fleeing. Carine’s fate was different. As a woman, she wouldn’t have become a priest. The vampire instead turns her to take revenge on her father. But it wasn’t just that, he forced him to watch as he tortured her, then killed him. It’s a very dark story for a book about sparkly vegetarian vampires, and a disturbing tone to take right before they go to Edward/Edythe’s room to make out.
Edward/Edythe also confess that for a time, they left Carine/Carlisle to hunt people. Since they could read minds, they targeted murderers. If they could tell a man was stalking a girl to harm her, why not save her and rid the world of a monster of another kind? They still felt guilty, though, and returned to their family. A small nitpick here: Bella/Beau imagines such a scenario, where there vampire is saving a girl from her would be rapist/murderer. Bella wonders if the girl would be terrified of Edward. Beau wonders if the murderer would find Edythe hot. Good grief.
Archie/Alice predicts a storm coming in, and the vampires decide it’s okay to play baseball. They need thunder, you see, because they’re so strong that when they throw or hit a ball, it sounds like thunder. It is a pretty boring part of the book so I won’t bore you down with the details. Before the game, however, Bella/Beau introduce their vampire to Charlie. Sexist hijinks ensue.
In Twilight, Charlie can’t get Edward’s name right, calling him Edwin. He also thinks he is too old for Bella, apparently confusing him for Emmett. Charlie warns Bella not to stay out late. Will he be this protective over Beau? Of course not. While Beau tries to avoid the conversation with Charlie by organizing cleaning products (and yes, this is the second and last reference to Beau’s supposed “OCD”), Charlie just acts impressed. How did his son land such a hot girlfriend? He asks Beau if they are going to stay out late, and does not warn him to be back by a certain time. You’re killing me here, Charlie.
Remember in the first half of the book, how much time Meyer takes to make the gender flip seem awkward? Like how Edythe carrying Beau or offering him her scarf just had to be this big thing? Well, we get that again when Beau/Bella get into the Jeep their vampires drove. The Jeep has a harness for off road driving, and Beau/Bella have difficulty strapping in and need help. It is briefly mentioned in Twilight, but it has to turn into this big thing in Life and Death. Because of all the things in Twilight I thought needed more detail, it was the belt buckling scene.
At the ball game, Earnest/Esme casually mentions to Beau/Bella that they miscarried/lost a child and then tried to commit suicide. “Oh, okay. Thanks for unloading that on me, person I just met. I bet you’re fun at parites.” Is what I wanted Bella/Beau to say. This book would have been a lot more fun if Bella was basically Daria. They play ball and it’s really dull and pointless until other vampires hear them and show up. They were just passing through and got curious. Once the wind shifts, the vampires get a scent of Beau/Bella and realize they are just human. One of them decide they need to kill Beau/Bella. Oh. Okay.
Instead of killing them there and then, Edward/Edythe drag their mortal lovers away and decide to drive off with them. The bad vampire, Joss/James, they explain, is a tracker. A vampire who hunts for the thrill. They will stop at nothing until they kill Beau/Bella. So why they have to hatch an elaborate plan to catch this vampire before they catch Beau/Bella instead of doing so while they were RIGHT THERE, I don’t know. Beau/Bella has to flee, they decide to hide out in Phoenix, yada yada.
In Phoenix, Beau/Bella chills with Alice and Japser/Archie and Jessamine. Archie mentions he has no memories of his human life, but Edward already dumped that info about Alice so Bella doesn’t need the reminder. It’s revealed later that Joss/James killed the vampire who turned them and this is all very coincidental and meaningful and in no way trying to button up a mysterious past in the most boring way imaginable. I am confused why Edward/Edythe, when reading Joss/James’s mind, didn’t see that they recognized Alice/Archie. They’re only the most interesting characters in the book and perhaps deserve a little love from their author, but whatever.
Joss/James tricks Bella/Beau into a confrontation at a dance studio. Joss/James beats up Bella/Beau. This scene is much more graphic in Life and Death and yet just as tedious. And this is were the endings divert. Bella loses consciousness, but hears that she was bit and Edward is going to suck out the poison that would make her a vampire. She later wakes up in a hospital, beat up but alive. She tells Edward she wants to be a vampire, but he won’t hear of it. She says she’ll get Alice to do it eventually. In the epilogue, Edward tricks her into going to prom with him. Charlie has given her a curfew and limitations on Edward’s visits. Billy warns her to break up with Edward, forcing Jacob to deliver the message. Edward is a controlling asshole. Bella has an awful lot of patriarchal authority figures telling her what to do, but she’s happy, more or less.
What happens to Beau? Well, Edythe couldn’t get there in time to suck the poison out. Archie reveals that if she tries, she will kill Beau. So instead she gives Beau a choice, to die or become a vampire. He chooses to become a vampire. The transformation is painful, but the true pain I felt wasn’t in empathy for Beau’s physical pain, but for the huge, and I mean huge, boring info dump Edythe gives him about the vampire world. The Blacks are werewolves! The Volturi are the vampire police! Royal has issues! New vampires are really dangerous and you need to stay away from people, Beau! We have family in Canada! I’m sure if you read the whole series this stuff would matter, but if you read it, why would you need the info dump? If you haven’t, this is just tedious and boring as shit, and it goes on for pages and pages. Beau is in terrible pain and dying and I am dying of boredom.
Anyway, in the epilogue Beau watches his own funeral from a distance. They faked his death and now his parents are terribly sad. But Beau is happy as a clam with Edythe and proposes to her there in the cemetery. Meyer tries to make this seem like a hard choice for Beau, but really the only people who actually seem sad in all of this is Charlie and Renee. I don’t think Beau really gives a fuck about them anymore.
And then werewolves show up! Bonnie is concerned the Cullens violate the treaty. Beau shouldn’t talk to her because new vampires are too bloodthirsty around humans, but he controls himself well and everyone is amazed at how amazing he is. Really, he is thrilled to be a vampire and have superpowers. He doesn’t even find needing blood to be a problem. There are no consequences for this guy. He doesn’t have to deal with being a monster, he doesn’t really care that his parents are sad or even worry if Charlie will shoot his brains out after the funeral. He doesn’t feel guilty for how he said goodbye to Charlie. Edythe is way more concerned about it than him, but what does he care? He’s a powerful vampire with a hot girlfriend, who he is now on equal terms with.
Bella doesn’t get to be on equal terms with Edward. She gets curfews and lectures. She gets to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time. She’s there for her parents, even if she has to lie to them. She has to clean up her mess. Beau escapes his. And the lead up to this point just adds to my frustration. Edythe always gave Beau a choice, Charlie respects Beau’s wishes. Bella gets no respect and no choice, not even from Meyer. Beau doesn’t even get her flaws. He isn’t judgmental or snobby. All the things that saved Bella from becoming a Mary Sue, get nixed in Beau.
All my complaints about the original Twilight aside, I get why it was popular. It is an escapist fantasy for girls. Bella is flawed, and she should be because it allows the reader to step in her shoes and imagine a totally hot guy falling for her despite all that. Beau is impossible to relate to. He is a Gary Stu. He’s attractive, nice, everyone loves him, and he gets superpowers in the end and overcomes his reliance on the women in his life. The only flaw he has is his clumsiness, and in the words of the great anime Lucky Star, that’s not a flaw, that’s moe (cute), and even then he loses that one flaw in the end. He is really, really boring to read about. I know I keep saying that, but I swear I approached this with an open mind and was just overwhelmed by how dull this book was. At least I could judge Bella’s snobbish behavior and thoughts. Twilight is sort of entertaining as a hate read at the very least. In Life and Death, I was just extremely bored with perfect Beau and perfect Edythe. What should become a personal horror story of a new vampire who has to leave his parents behind and control his ghoulish desires, turns into a vampire circle jerk and happy ending.
Meyer’s original intent was to show how Twilight wasn’t sexist. She not only failed in that endeavor, but she managed to make Life and Death even more sexist. In her attempt to fix mistakes she made and improve the quality of the book, she failed miserably. It’s a bloated, boring mess. If she succeeded in anything, it was making the original Twilight look better. Life and Death is by far the worst book of the two, and it is no surprise to me that so many Twilight fans were disappointed with it.
The best thing to come out of it, really, is the Bella/Edythe fanfics.