This is shameful, but here goes.

I read the entire Twilight series. In one go. I devoured those books. Once I was a ways into the first one, I knew I’d have to finish the series so I went out and bought them all, and read all three thousand or so pages of the series in one exhaustive reading marathon.

My redemption is that I thought the books were just horrible. TERRIBLE! Unbelievably bad. I just could not believe that this enormous fad that was so engrossing to our nation’s teenage girls was basically a long story about how great it is to have a boyfriend. Pages upon pages of nothing but overblown, badly written adoration of a dude and his beautiful skin and chiseled face and how unbelievable it was for the heroine (clumsy, inept, incapable – you know I LOVE characters like that) to be adored by a creature of such unmitigated perfection. When he was too busy saving her from one impossible menace, he’d hand her off to the other superpowered guy of the series who was also totally smitten with our helpless heroine. I mean they would literally hand her off – meeting at a predetermined place and pass her over the line, one to the other. When that wasn’t going on, one or the other of these guys was watching her sleep, because she wasn’t even capable of doing THAT without getting in harm’s way, evidently.

Ew.

This had to be a joke. It just HAD to be! I read the series as fast as I could, hoping against hope that it was all going to be wrapped up with some amazingly empowering, girl power ending in which the main character realizes how controlling and insane this relationship is, and dumps him unceremoniously while at the same time using her own new superpowers to rule the vampire world. Or something. ANYTHING but what really happens, which is just more “my boyfriend is the BEST!” simpering.

Not to spoil this masterpiece for you or anything, but the books are exactly what they appear to be on the outside: a gigantic step backwards for anything remotely resembling independence or personal achievement for women. Think about how many young girls are reading this crap – a lot. How many of them will absorb the message that having a boyfriend is the only goal they should pursue? And how many of them will be convinced that to get said boyfriend, they have to be as inept, clumsy, fearful, and useless as possible? Gah! It’s just dreadful. Girls in that series are “imprinted” to their future (already adult) husbands at birth, for the love of Pete, and said future husbands spend a decade or two monitoring the girls as they grow and mature – what, to breeding age? Gross! This is what your kids are reading.

Contrast that series, if you would, to Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games books, which I also read as fast as possible, but because they were awesomely good and inspiring. The books, which I won’t spoil (much) feature a female teenage protagonist in a post-apocalyptic setting. They’re a little more mature, both in tone and in subject matter, and present female strength, power, and sexuality in a positive and empowering way. The fact that these books are being made into movies as we speak just might save the world (assuming Hollywood doesn’t water down all the parts that make the heroine totally rad, and I’m not holding my breath for that. But the books will always be good). Hopefully young girls will forget about that Twilight nonsense if they read this series, and maybe we’ll even get more young adult books with great heroines.

The Hunger Games series is not without one disappointment for me. The main love triangle, involving the heroine, her best friend, and the boy whom she’s essentially forced to fake a relationship with, is a continuing theme throughout the series. When I started the last book, I was really hopeful that the books would break new ground and resolve this triangle with a nod to bigamy and let our kick-ass heroine have both guys in the end. But no, it doesn’t, and I feel okay about spoiling that for you because it’s possible I’m the only person who was really rooting for that ending.

So she doesn’t end up with both guys at the end (damn), but the books are still great and their popularity leaves me with some hope that our teenage girls are not ALL being utterly brainwashed by thinly disguised misogyny masquerading as a fantasy love story between vampires and werewolves.