Okay, I’m not exactly eating my words… but I kind of am.
When the news came out last fall that Stephenie Meyer was publishing a gender-swapped version of Twilight, I scoffed. And sneered a bit. And declared that it was just a greedy money grab. And laughed at the idea of the author doing a search-and-replace in her word processor (let’s see, find “Bella”, replace with “Beau”… done!).
I swore that the evil corporate bloodsuckers (ugh, sorry) would not get my money this way!
They didn’t. No money changed hands. But I did read Life and Death after all.
Can you blame me? It was right there on the library shelf, practically daring me to take it home. And I’ll admit it — I was curious.
So, first things first. It’s not as evil a scheme as I expected it to be. Twilight might seem like a thing of the past by now — remember the hysteria? The crazed midnight release parties? The insatiable hunger for photos of RobPatz? But it’s actually only been ten years since the release of the first book, and what we have here is a “special tenth anniversary edition” of Twilight, packaged with the reimagined version.
This new anniversary edition is a big, hefty hardcover that’s a flip book. Read from one side, and it’s the original Twilight; read from the other end, and it’s Life and Death. This makes it convenient (-ish) when you get to an interlude that’s familiar but weirdly different, and you want to compare to the original. Insert bookmark, flip upside down, find the Twilight passage… huh. Not so different.
Okay, so what’s the deal, and is it worth reading? Your mileage may vary. I think the thing to keep in mind is how you felt when you first read Twilight, before it became the pop culture phenomenon that swallowed up the world. I read the original book not knowing that it was a “thing”, and while I laughed at bits of it, I also couldn’t put the damned book down. It might have been candy, but it was awfully addictive candy.
In Life and Death, the genders of all characters are swapped (other than Charlie and Renee, who remain Charlie and Renee — the author explains why in her introduction, although I think it could have worked with a swap too). Bella is Beau, and Edward is Edythe; and they’re still more or less the same people. Beau is awkward and trips over his own feet a lot. Edythe is (of course) the most perfectly gorgeous person who ever existed, and still drives a shiny silver Volvo.
Little moments are changed. In Port Angeles, rather than Bella being pursued by a group of menacing men on the street, Beau stumbles across a bunch of drug dealers who assume he’s a cop and almost kill him. There’s rather a bit more bro talk among Beau and the guys at school, and we (thankfully) are spared scenes of them trying on tuxes to replace the girls’ dress shopping expedition.
Frankly, the gender swap thing is a tolerably cute gimmick, and it mostly works (although the image of Edythe running through the forest with a gangly Beau clinging to her back made me giggle). I was really only truly irritated at one point, when (in the original), Bella is impatient and needs distraction, so she heads outside to read in the yard with a stack of Jane Austen novels. In Life and Death, Beau brings his favorite Jules Verne… and I got all righteously offended for a good ten minutes. What do you mean, Jules Verne? Males can’t read Jane Austen??? I beg to differ!!!
Beyond that, it’s all mostly fine. If you like the original, you’ll probably enjoy the entertainment of reading this upside-down version of things, although to be honest, I kept forgetting who was supposed to be whom and occasionally forgot to picture Beau as a guy, or had to remind myself that Royal is Rosalie, and that the tracker vampire bad guy at the end is actually female. Whoops. Whatever.
I will say that the most fun aspect (which pretty much makes it worth your time, if you’re at all curious) is that the ending is different. I suppose I should not go into how or why… spoilers, don’t ya know? Suffice it to say that it works out differently, but still goes out with a bang. No loose threads here, so don’t expect any reimagined versions of New Moon, Eclipse, or Breaking Dawn.
And as to all the jokes about a gender swapped Renesmee (which here, I suppose would be something awful like Charnest? Earlie? …ugh…) — well, let’s just say that this ending makes the existence of a super-baby unnecessary.
Summing it all up: If you do feel the need to find out what this Twilight Reimagined business is all about — go ahead! It won’t hurt, I promise. It might even be a little bit fun. As light-weight pop entertainment goes, you could probably do worse.
Title: Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication date: October 6, 2015
Length: 389 pages
Genre: Young adult