Oh my god, it’s sort of Twilight, ya’ll…So I realized that my thoughts on the freaking forward to this book were going to overwhelm this post, so I just broke all the rules and gave it its own post. In case you haven’t seen it, here on my thoughts on the Life and Death foreword.
The preface is barely worth mentioning and exactly the same as the one in Twilight. A “hunter” is approaching, the narrator of the scene feels he or she is about to die. IF ONLY HE OR SHE HAD NOT COME TO FORKS IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Life and Death Chapter 1: First Sight
It is January 17th, 2015. Let’s timeline the shit out of this book.
This chapter sets the scene for the adventures to come. Beau/Bella/Ana/gender-swapped-Ana-probably-Banana is reluctantly moving from Arizona, where he lives with his mom, to a small town in Washington (good old Forks!) where he’ll live with his dad.
The two main things the gender-swap brought to the start of this chapter were some changes in word choice. Now, as you learned from my post about the foreword, Meyer said she’s improved word choices and cleaned up the writing, but she also changed things based on the gender-swap.
- Beau wears a Monty Python t-shirt, which Bella wasn’t wearing. So I guess Monty Python = FOR BOYZ.
- Bella isn’t “allowed” to call her dad Charlie to his face, while Beau “isn’t supposed to.” I feel like this was probably an accident, but what an accurate, spot-on change.
What’s very strange is that I got this awful sense of deja vu while I was reading the first couple chapters. Back in the day when I first read Twilight, I distinctly remember thinking, “This actually isn’t so bad…I could get into this.” And here reading it again I’m lulled into that same false sense of security. It’s a little too verbose and overly-detailed for my liking, but it’s not bad writing at all! I started to worry we’d made a huge mistake going into this, and that actually we’d been wrong all along and this is Not a Bad Book, Abort Mission situation.
Then another memory came to my mind of when I tried to start the second book and hated it so much I couldn’t read past the first couple of chapters. So clearly something happens along the way, and I can’t remember when or how or why, but I know it’s bad! But not that bad…yet.
Beau, like Bella, is clumsy:
My foot caught on the lip of the exit door and the bag swung out and hit the guy trying to get in.
The guy wasn’t much older than me, and he was a lot shorter, but he stepped up to my chest with his chin raised high. I could see tattoos on both sides of his neck. A small woman with hair dyed solid black stared menacingly at me from his other side.
“Sorry?” she repeated, like my apology had been offensive somehow.
Luckily Charlie is a cop, so he just uses the power of being a police officer to diffuse the situation with his facial expressions/uniform.
At Charlie’s house, Beau sees the old truck that Charlie’s gotten for him. I think it’s from Jacob’s gender-swapped parents. Beau is super into the truck. So Is Bella. Gender matters not here, folks. Things do get a lil’ different when Beau/Bella talk about how they’re gonna be the new kid at school and everyone will talk about them because they’re from a city and this is a small town where everyone knows each other already.
Maybe if I had been one of the cool kids, I could make this work for me. Come in all popular, homecoming king–styles [sic, but maybe it’s just my copy of the book…?]. But there was no hiding the fact that I was not that guy—not the football star, not the class president, not the bad boy on the motorcycle. I was the kid who looked like he should be good at basketball, until I started walking. The kid who got shoved into lockers until I’d suddenly shot up eight inches sophomore year. The kid who was too quiet and too pale, who didn’t know anything about gaming or cars or baseball statistics or anything else I was supposed to be into.
I’m glad to see that being a completely empty void of nothing does not depend on whether your were born male or female. At least I’m remembering now why I don’t like this book.
Unlike the other guys, I didn’t have a ton of free time for hobbies. I had a checkbook to balance, a clogged drain to snake, and a week’s groceries to shop for.
I’m sorry but I’m an adult human who has to do all of those things and I work, run a blog, watch television, read books for both for pleasure and for learning. I totally appreciate the point that Beau was taking care of the house and shouldn’t have had to, but these are all things you could do for a few hours on the weekend. YOU COULD ALSO HAVE LIKE ONE INTEREST. Even if that interest is cutting coupons to find the best deal for said groceries. Just something. Anything.
Beau – and also Bella in her story – talks more about how he can’t really relate to people let alone people his age, which fair enough. Detailed accounts of trying to sleep, eating breakfast the next morning and heading to school follow. Then there is a gender-swapped secretary at the high school. So progressive!
“Of course,” he said. He dug through a leaning stack of papers on his desk till he found the ones he was looking for. “I have your schedule right here, Beaufort, and a map of the school.” He brought several sheets to the counter to show me.
“Um, it’s Beau, please.”
“Oh, sure, Beau.”
But like, Beau is actually a name…is Beaufort even a name? Stop it!
We get the titular line!
Seriously, though, this wasn’t a life and death situation—it was just high school. It’s not like anyone was going to bite me. I finally exhaled, and stepped out of the truck.
But it IS life and death because that’s the title. Know that.
In class, everyone stares, and we meet new potential pal Erica. Can you believe this is a gender-swapped Eric? Almost unrecognisable! No matter what gender you are, you can still offer to show someone how to get to their next class. Know that too.
“You don’t look very tan.”
“My mother is part albino.”
She studied my face uneasily, and I stifled a groan. It looked like clouds and a sense of humor didn’t mix. A few months of this and I’d forget how to use sarcasm.
Or maybe she thinks you’re an idiot because you can’t be part albino? I understood Beau was being sarcastic and I wasn’t like slapping my knee, going, “What a sense of humor this lad has!”
At lunch, Beau sits with people because everyone is basically like, “You, sir, are the new star of the school.” What is really weird is in Life and Death, Erica waves and everyone laughs. Beau says they’re laughing in a friendly way, but he’s the butt of the joke…but in Twilight when Eric waves no one laughs at Bella? I don’t get it. I could equally have seen everyone laugh or not laugh in both situations, why was this the gender-specific thing to tweak in the scenario?
More importantly, this is when the first vampire sighting occurs. It feels really nice to write “vampire” instead of “vampyre’, let me tell you. We get like pages and pages of descriptions, but all you really need to know is that they’re gender-swapped. So now Edward is a girl, so there’s three girl-vampires and only two boy-vampires. That’s how gender-swaps and math work together as one.
Though we don’t even know her name yet Edward/Edith is perfect. What is super weird is that Beau goes on about how perfect Edith is for awhile, whereas Bella barely mentions it. Meyer’s decisions continue to baffle me. She’s said Beau is less flowery than Bella, but this seems untrue here.
I barely remember the original Cullens, but I remember Christian Grey’s family + Kate and her brother, so essentially I remember the original Cullens. Here they are anew:
He muttered his answer under his breath. “Those are the Cullens and the Hales. Edith and Eleanor Cullen, Jessamine and Royal Hale. The one who left was Archie Cullen. They live with Dr. Cullen and her husband.”
Beau points out they they are all very attractive.
“Yeah!” Jeremy agreed with another laugh. “They’re all together, though—Royal and Eleanor, Archie and Jessamine. Like dating, you know? And they live together.” He snickered and wagged his eyebrows suggestively.
Yes, I remember this. Edward/Edith is the odd one out. Maybe it’s been ten years since you read Twilight or maybe this is your first taste of it, so here’s how this plays out in the original:
“Yes!” Jessica agreed with another giggle. “They’re all together though — Emmett and Rosalie, and Jasper and Alice, I mean. And they live together.” Her voice held all the shock and condemnation of the small town, I thought critically. But, if I was being honest, I had to admit that even in Phoenix, it would cause gossip.
If I’m being honest, so far most of Meyer’s changes feel like they’re playing into stereotypes. Oh so a gender-swapped detail-giver would be slightly more judgemental? Or only Bella would recognize that in in Phoenix people would gossip about these circumstances?
They’re all foster kids. Totally normal foster kids that are not at all vampires, and they only moved to Forks a couple years ago, which is why Beau/Bella has never seen them before.
This couldn’t have anything to do with me. She didn’t know me from Adam.
Who the hell is Adam? I did a search to make sure I didn’t miss anything…and I didn’t. Is this a weird idiom? Also we find out Edith is actually spelled Edythe, so now I will also start spelling it that way.
Life and Death Chapter 2: Open Book
Shame on me for writing about one of these chapters in the morning and the other when I came home drunk. There are so many words…
Beau has suitors, McKayla and Erica who glare at each other. Everyone glares a lot in this story. Both stories, actually.
Edythe is not at school. Beau is concerned about this for a lot of words. So…many…words.
With all these words, I feel guilty wasting any, but it is my duty to make these comparisons. Here is how Beau/Bella react to the unwanted affections of McKayla/Mike, respectively.
I didn’t want to be arrogant, but I was pretty sure she was into me, which was a strange feeling. Girls hadn’t noticed me much at home. I wondered if I wanted her to like me. She was sort of pretty and everything, but her attention made me feel a little uncomfortable. Why was that? Because she’d picked me instead of the other way around? That was a stupid reason. Ego running wild, like it had to be my decision first. Still, it was not as stupid as the other possibility I’d thought of—I really hoped it wasn’t because of the time I’d spent staring at Edythe Cullen yesterday, but I was kind of afraid that was it. Which was about the stupidest thing possible, really. If I based my reaction to a girl’s looks off a face like Edythe’s, I was doomed. That was fantasy, not reality.
It looked like I was going to have to do something about Mike, and it wouldn’t be easy. In a town like this, where everyone lived on top of everyone else,diplomacy was essential. I had never been enormously tactful; I had no practice dealing with overly friendly boys.
Again, if the changes are meant to prove that gender is not important to this love story, this experiment, flawed as it is, is failing miserably. I get that women have to be more tactful with men a lot of the time, but I do not think this applies here. I think in the context of it being a small town, Beau could have easily thought about being tactful. Maybe it’s a brilliant cultural observation, but I think not. I don’t see why all the stuff about staring at Edythe was added in either.
Edythe continues to not be in school, and SO MANY WORDS are focused on this. Everyone at school is super nice to outcast Beau who is clearly not an outcast in the slightest. When Edythe finally returns to school later, it seems like she’s not glaring so much, which is a first for this book. She is suddenly very friendly in Biology and introduces herself, and then they science together. They have intense discussions about why Beau decided to come to Forks, and he is swooning a lot over Edythe and how perfect and beautiful she is. At least that’s completely the same as Twilight. Oh. And also intense staring.
This is so hard. There were other scenes I wanted to talk about but this post is so freaking long. Maybe it’s one for the Patreon or bonus posts.
For those of you who remember Twilight well enough, were there any gender-swapped scenes you wanted to discuss in these chapters that I missed?