Twilight, the instantaneously classic story of a boy vampire who vigorously sniffs, then falls in love with a human woman, turns 10 years old this year.
To celebrate the book’s anniversary, Stephenie Meyer re-released a special edition of Twilight, which comes with an even LONGER book entitled Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined.
In Life and Death, all of the characters (with two unimportant exceptions) are gender-swapped. Bella is now Beaufort Swan. Edward is Edythe Cullen. Jacob is Julie, Carlisle is Carine...and the names don't get any less elaborate as the book goes on.
Obviously I needed a copy of this book, so I cold-called every Barnes and Noble in New York City until I found a copy:
•The first store manager said she didn't have it and was very sorry.
•The second one laughed at me, accused me of pranking him, and hung up the phone.
•The third asked me to spell "d-e-a-t-h," then said nothing came up in the system.
•The fourth actually turned out to be Barnes and Noble corporate headquarters and I had a really confusing ten-minute conversation with their receptionist.
•The fifth store let me get as far as "I'm looking for the new Twi-" before wheezing "YES. WE HAVE IT" and put one on hold for me ASAP. She sounded like she was having a rough day.
Once it was in my hands…I started reading. And tweeting.
The changes start out pretty small. Beau wears a funny t-shirt while Bella wears a lacy top.
Bella can appreciate the wonders of nature while Beau has no interest in aesthetics.
Bella on the left, Beaufort on the right.
His tendency to shy away from florid description may have to do with his rather tortured sense of masculinity.
Even though this book takes place in 2005, Rosalie’s character, now named “Royal Hale,” has a man-bun.
The whole point of the vampires is that they’re all really hot, but some of these descriptions are on the creepy side of complimentary.
My favorite description is probably of Eleanor, formerly Emmett. She is described as so hot The Rock wouldn’t whistle at her. The Rock. Dwayne The Rock Johnson is in Twilight now. I am blessed to live in this world.
(For the record, The Rock fears no sexy gender-swapped vampire woman, but nice try.)
Beau is also much less of a pragmatist than Bella. If possible, his sense of self-preservation is even worse developed than hers.
In the foreword of Life and Death, Meyer mentions that one of her reasons for writing this version was to respond to critiques that Twilight perpetuated gender roles. She makes his point by literally having Edythe snap at Beau about gender roles.
But Beau’s friends act like stereotypes of awful teen boys when they find out he’s dating Edythe.
For reference, here is how that passage goes in Twilight.
The rest of that conversation in Life and Death goes about as well as you can imagine.
A lot of the side-by-side comparisons of the book show how subtle changes in phrase can completely change the tone of a scene, even from some of Twilight's more iconic passages.
Here is that same passage in the new book.
Edythe as a character is a lot like Edward. She has the same hangups over being a big scary monster, but she's a lot more assertive than him in some ways.
She's also a lot stronger than Edward was as a character. She can break a tree in half with another, smaller tree.
Jacob's character, now Julie Black, is kind of a footnote in this edition, which should put a muzzle on the #TeamJacob supporters this time around.
And some of the other specifically gender-related changes are dubiously intentioned. Here is Edward's handwriting vs. Edythe's