Since 2005 teens and young adults from all across the world have been enthralled in the phenomenon that is the Twilight saga created by author Stephenie Meyer. The original series of 4 books chronicle the life of a young teenage girl, Bella Swan, and her struggles in loving the immortal vampire Edward Cullen. Selling millions of copies, in both audio and print versions, the Twilight books have became an international, gender-neutral, ageless obsession. In addition, since the first 2 books (Twilight & New Moon) have been transformed into best selling box office movies, the mania has continued to build, inspiring even more fanfare for the supernatural world of vampires and werewolves.
While there have been no negative feelings about adults enjoying the Twilight series, the impact of the books and movies on America’s youth has been called in question. With all the attention and money directed at the somewhat exotic and sometimes dangerous lives of the fictional creatures in Meyer’s books, some parents and educators have become increasingly concerned. The feeling among some parents is the Twilight series, in an already violent society, brings a misguided assumption that the ideas of fast cars, destruction of other species, and sexual tensions are acceptable behaviors. In addition, some groups feel the romanticizing of otherworld creatures, such as Vampires and werewolves, is unhealthy and sacrilegious. It is widely known that impressionable youth use what they read and see to invent themselves, and this is the ammunition behind the movement to have the books banned and removed.
Citing reasons of violence, targeting of improper age groups, sexual content, and religious views, the Office for Intellectual Freedom, affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA,) has named the Twilight series number 5 in the list of most challenged books of 2009. The Twilight books are in good company. On the ALA’s list, theTwilight series is nestled between two classics: To Kill A Mockingbird (#4) by Harper Lee, and Catcher in the Rye (#6) by J. D. Salinger. Both books have been under fire for generations, and yet are considered to be important literary works. To Kill A Mocking Bird and Catcher in the Rye continue to be commonly read and taught in schools across the world, despite the multi-generational complaints. Although the Twilight series may never become a standard in fictional writing, it appears to face the same criticism the classics do.
Supporters of the imaginative series feel that the Twilight books offer no real threat and reading enthusiasts enjoy the idea that the books force kids use their minds, distracting them from less creative activities such as video games. The 18th century author, Sir Richard Steel once said: “Reading is the mind what exercise is to the body.” In a society where health and fitness are becoming more important, the mind should be included in total health. Supporters of the series believe that any discouragement from reading could cause damage.
Although cries to have the book banned, removed, and in some extreme parental views burned, from schools and libraries the numbers of opposition are falling. According the ALA the request numbers 513 less than in 2008 than in 2007. Unfortunately for anti-Twilight enthusiasts (and fortunately for fans) those who do not submit the complaints the proper way are not counted. In order for a complaint to be registered with the ALA, a challenge must be submitted in writing. Many conservative groups believe that the number of challenges against the Twilight series of books is much higher than what is reported, however, there has had little success in getting many groups to submit their opposition in writing. The actual number of books removed for schools in 2008 only totaled 81, which is only a small percentage of the millions of copies found in school and public libraries across the nation. Numbers for the 2009 – 2010 year will be released in early 2011, however people in the literary world believe that the trend of decreasing complaints over the Twilight series along with the supernatural world of vampires and werewolves it creates, will continue.
It is highly doubtful that even if removed from educational institutions, young men and women will refrain from reading the books. Regardless of where the Twilight series is housed or made accessible to readers, it is ultimately the responsibility of parents to make the decision in what their children read, view, and are exposed to.
American Library Association.Top ten most frequently challenged books of 2009.www.ala.org
Jokinen, Anniina. Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729).www.luminarium.org