Alcestis Books

‘Twilight’ addendum

In the comments to Justine Larbalestier’s great new post on the ways that Twilight has influenced reviewers of YA fantasy, Aja posted this brilliant bingo card:

This makes me sad, but not for the reasons you might expect. Since Alcestis isn’t YA fantasy, I’m afraid that I will never get a review in which the reviewer doubts my commitment to ~Sparkle Motion~.

I was thinking about connections between Alcestis and Twilight the other day, after a brief discussion of Twilight with my students. (Yes, they were highly amused to hear that I’d read it.) There have been loads of well-written posts about why the Bella/Edward relationship is 1) “problematic,” as we like to say in graduate school and 2) obviously not a good model for the teenage girls who are reading the books. There are several important relationships in Alcestis, but the primary romantic relationship of the book is also between a young woman (Alcestis) and a supernatural creature: Persephone. On a superficial level, there are some similarities between the relationships — both the human girls are uncertain about what’s happening, trapped by an attraction they don’t understand, controlled by the creatures they’re in love with. But Persephone’s behavior isn’t supposed to be romantic. She, like all the other gods, is selfish and capricious in the extreme. She’s not human and she doesn’t understand humanity, just as Alcestis can’t truly understand her. Also, she doesn’t sparkle. (I would find it super hilarious if there were a Team Persephone and Team Admetus, though.)

I don’t mean to be too flip, because I do find Twilight‘s portrayal of romantic love troublesome — or rather, I find it troublesome that the book doesn’t seem to find it troublesome, if that makes sense. I have no problem with a portrait of a girl who’s more concerned with her boyfriend’s happiness than her own continued survival, but I sure don’t like the approving gloss the book gives that decision. But I also don’t find Edward a compelling monster. He’s more like a super-special human; the only vampire in the book who is actually portrayed as monstrous in a nonhuman way is Victoria, the female vampire of the evil trio, who is introduced by name and then, for the rest of the book, referred to as “the female” while her two male vampire buddies get to keep their names. Got to watch out for those females, girls.

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