"How many of you are Stephanie (sic) Meyer fans? Tell me, if you will what you liked about the Twilight Series. I haven't read the books, but admire Ms. Meyer's achievement. I am curious. Why do you feel that the books satisfy?"
My response is simply too long to paste to her Facebook fan page. I've given this question a lot of thought since I picked up the Twilight saga and began reading it in April this year. I couldn't explain initially why I felt compelled to read and read the series and all of the other online pieces Stephenie Meyers wrote which accompany these books.
Stephenie Meyers' Twilight saga has great appeal to me because of the universality of the topics she writes about -- both at a superficial level and a deeper level -- and because of the archetypal natures of the characters she employs. She also uses the heroic story arc whether she's consciously aware of this or not; the hero's/heroine's journey is in itself an archetype. The language she uses is broadly accessible, too.
In a way, the Twilight saga is like George Lucas' Star Wars trilogies. It replaces the near-magical nature of advanced technology with near-technological magic; note in Meyers' Breaking Dawn the discussions of genetic science involved in the differences between vampires, werewolves and humans, which may not be far fetched considering we have already altered the genomics of animals to make chimeras and entered an age of transhuman nature.
Movie goers accepted the near-magical technology of Star Wars at the time the first movie was released; perhaps they'd already embraced Arthur C. Clarke's premise that any sufficiently advanced technology is nearly indistinguishable from magic. A generation later after Star Wars: A New Hope, young adults accept the idea that other life forms which are nearly similar and nearly compatible with humans can exist in tandem; Meyers removes many magical elements by eliminating or voiding the accumulated popular mythology of vampirism and lycanthropy, making it far easier to accept the potential reality of her non-human characters.
And like Star Wars, the heroic story arc challenges the heroes/heroines and asks them to tackle the nature of good and evil and grapple with moral choices. Twilight's arc asks them in the course of responding to their challenges to exercise individual agency rather than submit to group norms of accepted behavior -- and for this generation which is battered and buffeted by social media to conform en masse, learning how to individuate and accept themselves as individuals is extremely important.
For young adults there is still a crying need to tackle the issues of identity, belonging, love and intimacy, maturation and transformation, relationships with one's friends/partners/families/communities and the essential role that one's sexuality plays in reaching adult understanding of these issues. Some of these issues are not resolved when one reaches a fixed biological or chronological adulthood; they are challenges which we continue to face as part of our essential humanity throughout our lifetime.
We even face these challenges vicariously as we help our children and grandchildren tackle these issues; Meyers reflects this ongoing challenge through the modeling of parental behavior on the part of Renee Dwyer, Charlie Swan, Billy Black, and Carlisle and Esme Cullen. She offers us a range of parental responses to evaluate as readers, so that the reader can freely make their own choices about the nature of role models.
And it is the broad range of characters both human and non-human -- many of which are archetypal -- which makes the exploration of human challenges so appealing, so safe for readers. Readers can talk about bloodlust, at a remove from the more personal and socially "dangerous" topic of lust; they are given the tools to explore the nature of young love and the urgency of its desires without having to get too close. They can explore the range of responses to lust, from Edward Cullen's monk-like denial to Bella Swan's naive passion, and everything in between manifested by other human and non-human cohorts.
Lastly, Meyers has done a tremendous job with creating characters through which archetypes can express themselves succinctly. She is fully into their heads, clearly differentiating Bella's voice and experience of events from that of Jacob, continuing with both Edward and Rosalie in her outtakes published at her website. Her unfinished work, Midnight Sun (regretfully leaked before completion and likely lost to her readers as a finished tome), is a real masterpiece of character exploration. Her Edward is truly the darkest of angels before love transforms him; it is her own ability to embrace and accept her own characters with love and respect in spite of their tremendous frailties and their challenges that makes her work so captivating. We all of us want to be loved and accepted for what we are as individuals, no matter how dark or angsty we may be -- and even when we are feeling other than entirely human.