It was midnight, and sophomore Marsha Kononenko found herself surrounded by wigs, powder and vampires. She wasn’t on the set of a vampire horror movie—instead, she was attending the midnight release of the fourth and final installment of the Twilight series, “Breaking Dawn.”
Kononenko traveled to a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Staten Island, arriving there at 9 p.m. to join a line that wrapped around the store. “There were many people that wore dresses and high heels like they were going to the prom [in Twilight],” Kononenko said. When the fans finally got their hands on the book, “they started yelling and taking pictures with it,” Kononenko said. Others could not wait and “just sat on the street [reading],” Kononenko said.
In 2005, the publishing company Little, Brown printed author Stephenie Meyer’s first novel, a teenage vampire-romance titled “Twilight.” Following publication, the novel garnered much attention from the media and critics, becoming a New York Times bestseller and appearing on several “Best Books” lists. The novel has been translated into 37 languages and has been followed by three successful sequels, a hit movie released by Summit Entertainment in November 2008 and a top-selling movie soundtrack. The Twilight series has snowballed into a cultural phenomenon, with millions of enthusiastic fans worldwide.
The Stuyvesant community unsurprisingly has not been immune. A simple search on Facebook finds over 100 people in the Stuyvesant High School network who have listed “Twilight” as one of their favorite books. “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob” hoodies, referring to the heroine’s two love interests, are not an uncommon sight in the halls of Stuyvesant. Another gauge of the book’s popularity at Stuyvesant is the number of people who have tried to borrow it from the school library. “‘Twilight’ is probably the most popular book in the library, after textbooks,” junior and library monitor Owen Duffy said. “The school library has several copies of all the books in the series, and there is still a long waiting list to check them out.”
Fans at Stuyvesant offered up their opinions as to the root of the series’ popularity. “[The Twilight series] feeds on the desires of young girls,” senior Peter Valdez said. “Edward in the eyes of many is the perfect guy.” It is this ideal that “hooks all of those readers,” Valdez said.
While there is much talk about Edward’s apparent perfection, a bit of imperfection may also be a contributing factor to fans’ obsession. Though Bella Swan, the story’s heroine, dates a vampire, she is very much human. “Bella is very relatable,” said sophomore Abbie Kouzmanoff, who read the first book in the series in one day. The ability of the reader to identify with the characters, according to Kouzmanoff, is part of what makes Twilight so appealing. Bella Swan is an average teenage girl—making readers believe that “if [Bella] can find someone like Edward, they can too,” Kouzmanoff said.
Kononenko agrees. “Bella isn’t particularly smart or pretty, but she is the only thing that matters to Edward,” she said. “Seeing a guy like that fall in love with a normal girl really makes it the perfect love story.”
Whatever Meyers’s secret is to drawing in readers, it works. According to Reuters, the four-book series has now sold over 20 million copies in the United States alone. Behind these soaring book sales are the legions of dedicated fans who have made the “Twilight” movie a box office record-breaker. They also jump at the chance to attend promotional “Twilight” events, maintain fansites and wait excruciatingly long hours in crowds for midnight releases.
But this runaway popularity can sometimes get out of hand. Valdez went to a Twilight promotion with high hopes, but realized quickly that he had a small chance of seeing the actors. “Once I saw how crazy the people there were, I definitely knew I would not have a chance at seeing any actor,” Valdez said. The crowd there was seemingly “ready to pounce people,” Valdez said. Actor Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward in the movie, caused a frenzy when he entered. Fans swarmed the street and simply “ignored every law and ran,” Valdez said.
Overall, the craze that the series has generated cannot be overlooked. It may not hit the status of “a cultural phenomenon in the same vein as Harry Potter, but it is certainly significant,” Duffy said. With the prospect of a second movie, “New Moon,” looming and book sales high, it is clear that although the series may be over, the sun hasn’t set on the “Twilight” phenomenon.