Author: Stephenie Meyer
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance
Rating: 3 Stars
Because I couldn’t find a good synopsis anywhere, let me give it to you as it is: This is Twilight, re-written as a giant gender swap. Bella is now Beau. Edward is now Edythe, and though there are a few changes to the story (mostly to avoid having to write a sequel, I’m sure—this is basically the same story. If you don’t know what Twilight was about, you live under a rock and probably won’t read this review anyway.
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
I picked up Life and Death almost as soon as I heard that it existed. Let me pause for a moment to preface this review by saying: I’m not a huge Twilight fan. I don’t have a problem with the teenage angst or the love triangle—theoretically, the young adult paranormal romance should be right up my alley—but, Bella and Edward just weren’t for me. She was a painfully weak character, and he was kind of stalkerish. The writing itself (or more importantly, the editing) was awful. The movie series wasn’t much better—mostly because the characters seemed to lack any personality on the big screen. On the other hand, the story was still entertaining, so yes, I read all the books. I watched all the movies. And I understand that some people are going to hate me for these statements. That’s okay. To each his own.
So, when Life and Death came out, I was curious. Would it improve upon Twilight? The answer is both a yes, and a no. Editing wise, Life and Death was better written. There were fewer typos, less flowery awkward sentences, less teenage in-head drama. I appreciated that. And, since the stories were very similar (though not identical) it was kind of interesting to see what changes were made and how they changed the story. I liked that. Unfortunately, that isn’t where my review ends.
Had I never read Twilight, had I never had the comparison between the two books, I don’t know that I would have liked Life and Death as a stand alone, untried book. I mean, sure… it’s interesting to see the genders swapped and how that affected the sheer number of female characters present in the book… because there was a definite increase. But did I like any of the characters more? No. In fact, I think I liked some of them less. Most of the characters seemed obviously secondary and faded into the background a lot more than in the original telling of the story.
The funny thing is, at the very beginning of the book, the author made a note to point out how one of her most-complained about things in Twilight is how weak Bella is as a character, and one of the reasons she wanted to do a gender swap was to show that had Bella been male, the character would still hold up. Except… I think it backfired. Beau has to be one of the most infuriatingly weak male characters I’ve ever read about. He makes Bella seem strong. He’s carried around, ordered around, basically does whatever Edythe asks him to do… and doesn’t stand up for himself. Like Edward, Edythe invades his room for months, treats him kind of like crap, and he just shrugs and continues on if it’s normal. In fact, it seems to be a running theme that everything just kind of rolls off Beau like droplets off a duck’s back. He didn’t have a lot of personality, and it was kind of frustrating to watch him go along with everything like nothing was a big deal.
I did like some of the changes made to the story. It was great to not have to spend a ton of time with Jacob’s fem ego, Jules. Her character felt kind of superfluous. It was nice to see Charlie in the same familiar role he’s always held as Bella/Beau’s dad. I like that the book ended differently than the original and didn’t drag on into several more installments. I like that Beau didn’t seem as shy as Bella, and I liked that there were more female roles in the story. Also, the book was well edited—I only found one obvious typo.
So where does this book stand with me? Overall, it’s a “meh.” I’m glad I read it, I certainly liked parts of it much more than Twilight… but was it a good book? Not particularly. There were still a lot of problems with the story (mostly, the character’s lack of personality). This felt too much like a ploy to keep the series relevant without having to actually write something new.
If you liked the original series, I’d encourage you to pick this one up if for no other reason that to get a second chance at the story in a new and strange perspective. If you didn’t like the original, you probably won’t like this one much either. It’s a novelty, but I don’t think it’s something I’d actually encourage people to read and enjoy like any other book.