Book one, Twilight, was a sweet story, fairly innocent, and better than the movie. Big surprise. The book is not, however, a literary masterpiece.
Book two, New Moon, was my least favorite. I skimmed through a chunk of it, not really caring about all the vampire and werewolf history. I didn't seem to skip over anything too crucial, because the rest of the series continued to make sense. That may speak to the caliber of the writing, but I'm no writing critic. I am, however a major Harry Potter fan and couldn't help but compare the two series. There is no comparison. The literary quality of Harry Potter is in a much higher universe than that of the Twilight Saga of books. However, the Twilight Saga story in its entirety is an enjoyable one to read. I say "in its entirety" because if you take any one of the books alone without seeing how it ends, the characters' choices can be frustrating.
What jumped out at me in this book was that Bella was nuts. She was a whack-job. She wasted months of her life being depressed over Edward's leaving, then led Jacob on in a way that was frustrating to read. It made for great conversation with my daughter. "A girl can't tell a guy with her words that she just wants to be friends, then let him hold her hand and snuggle with her on the couch. It's just not lady-like nor is it fair to the guy. We gotta be a little wiser and more discerning than little Miss Bella."
Book three, Eclipse, was my favorite. I enjoyed the alliance the werewolves and Cullins' family created. There were a lot of "teachable moments" in this book. The benefit of alliances with people who should be your enemy, according to the world. Showing kindness to those who don't see the world the same way you do. Coming together, even with those who live contrary to your worldview, to fight against a greater evil. I liked those themes in this book.
The fact that Bella is a virgin came into light in this book. While it sounds very "Christian" that she's a virgin, she doesn't want to be one. She's only going along with Edward's wishes. She pushes herself on Edward often and only remains a virgin because of his self-control. Other than the fact that he doesn't want to kill her in the process of ending her virginity, he also wants to give her soul a chance at salvation since (he believes, but it's not a fact) his soul is already damned. Again, that sounds very chivalrous of him, but if he knew the truth about heaven, hell and God, he would know that losing ones virginity before marriage doesn't equal eternal damnation. One's soul also isn't lost or saved based on outweighing your bad deeds with your good deeds.
So while, yes, as a conservative mom, I appreciated the fact that they did not have sex, it's not enough to leave it at that. My daughter and I had already discussed Bella's behavior toward Jacob during the second book. In this book, we had to witness more of her aggressive behavior and decide she was not a heroine. Not to us anyway. And for the record, I do believe that sex outside of marriage is against the laws and will of God. I just know that breaking God's law alone doesn't equal damnation or else we'd all be without hope.
I began reading book four, Breaking Dawn, and realized just how important it was that I was reading ahead of my daughter. After the lovely description of the wedding, the book dives into the married relationship of Bella and Edward Cullen. There will be a time when Hannah can read this story. It's not dirty or sordid. It tastefully describes their physical relationship, but it's information I feel is not for a 12 year-old girl. Maybe in a couple of years. That's exactly what I told her. I let her know it was sweet and romantic (she knows that God created marriage and the physical relationship that is the great gift within that marriage), but that it's not something I want, or even she would want to read at age 12. She agreed and put up no argument. Part of the benefit of reading through a series like this with her is that it builds our relationship and trust.
The honeymoon chapters include a lot of tough themes. She's bruised and battered after consummating their marriage. She immediately is pregnant, with the baby growing at an alarming rate. Knowing the baby will most likely kill her from the inside out, Edward wants her "get rid of it." That's a LOT more than I was ready to dive into with Hannah. I didn't even have the energy to keep reading, so I shelved the book for a week. (I had read all three in less than a week.) I did end up picking it back up and finishing, skimming through much of Jacob's thoughts and the werewolf stuff. While I like Jacob, that side of the story didn't appeal to me. And the book wasn't written in a way that forced me to stay with it.
The movies were a different story. I previewed each one before deciding to allow my daughter to watch it. I felt like the more grown-up themes were written into the book in subtle ways. The movie is much more overt, in-your-face, leaving nothing to the imagination.
I let my daughter watch the first movie, skipping one scene. I didn't let her watch the second movie at all. We watched the third movie, skipping through one section. We also watched the fourth movie, skipping the entire time on the island.
Hopefully, this will help any other parents who have girls wanting to read the series. Funny, despite the theme of vampires and warewolves, my son wasn't even remotely interested in Twilight. Go figure. :)