Stephenie Meyer, . . Little, Brown, $17.99 (498pp) ISBN 978-0-316-16017-9
Isabella Swan, 17, narrates this riveting first novel, propelled by suspense and romance in equal parts. The story opens with a cryptic scene of the heroine "facing death," then flashes back to Bella's departure from Phoenix, where her mother lives with her new husband, as the teen heads off to live with her father, the police chief in Forks, Wash. From the first day at her new high school, she finds herself magnetically drawn to Edward Cullen, whose behavior towards her is erratic ("I'd just explained my dreary life to this bizarre, beautiful boy who may or may not despise me"). Then she finds out why his interest in her runs hot and cold: he is a vampire—but of an unusual variety. Edward, his siblings and their adoptive parents have disciplined themselves to feed on animals rather than humans; and Edward is obsessed with Bella. Other elements factor into the plot, including a rival group of vampires who are not as disciplined as the Cullens. This plot twist (which includes a subplot about one of the Cullens' past life) contributes to a rushed denouement (much of it takes place offstage) that is perhaps the novel's only weakness. The main draw here is Bella's infatuation with outsider Edward, the sense of danger inherent in their love, and Edward's inner struggle—a perfect metaphor for the sexual tension that accompanies adolescence. These will be familiar to nearly every teen, and will keep readers madly flipping the pages of Meyer's tantalizing debut. Ages 12-up.
Reviewed on: 07/18/2005