Everyone knows about Fifty Shades of
Puke Grey, the infamous Twilight fan fiction (Master of the Universe) that was barely changed and then published and became a worldwide sensation because of it’s poorly written sex scenes with a rude emotionally stunted billionaire (Seriously, red room of pain? I’d rather be with someone who wears a bat suit and decides to be a vigilante because he can’t get over the fact his parents were killed by a mad man.). But this isn’t the first book to have heavily incorporated elements of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. Several YA books that I have read and ranted about, are essentially Twilight duplicates even though they’re essentially original work. Legally, it’s okay for these works to exist, based on the principle that there are no original ideas. But even though it might be legal in most cases (though you might could argue that in a few it’s not), is it right ethically? I understand why publishers would want to go for these types of books. They make a profit. It’s just like when giga pets were popular, we got tons of no name brand electronic pets. Or when Indiana Jones was popular in the 1980’s, everyone and their mom had to make an action adventure film. But at the same time, some of these books just seem tacky and a lot seem to borderline on plagiarism. It’s a complex answer that obviously won’t be answered in this one blog post, but I’d like to dig deeper into a few of these so called “ripoffs” and explore some of these issues.
A) Vampire Books a Plenty
Vampire books exploded after Twilight was released. There are so many vampire books that it’s not even funny. There are so many YA paranormal books too. While each of these series had their own vampire mythology there were some similar elements to Twilight.
House of Night by PC and Kristin Cast: I’m actually thinking of doing a drinking game for this series. Unrelated I know, but still sort of relevant. The House of Night was published in 2007. The series itself has like ten plus books right now and is going to continue for a couple more books or so (honestly, I can’t keep up). The vampire elements are quite different from Twilight, i.e. you they call them vampyres not vampires, and you have to be born to be a vampyre but it still shares the similarity of not being I need blood to survive type vampires. The vampire element simply seems added to the story, so that it could sell. There are other subplots involving the vampyre world as well (most dealing with how super powerful and awesome Zoey is, but that’s pretty much it). It deviates so much towards it’s origin, I honestly wouldn’t expect the paranormal element to be vampires. Grant it, I quit the series after about 3/4 of the second book and that was almost five years ago. But still.
The Vampire Diaries by LJ Smith: This series was published way before Stephenie Meyer had that
erotic dream about a vampire that got a hold of too much body glitter. But it was essentially reborn after Twilight (i.e. there was a “hiatus” in the series till 2007). I’m not going to examine the content of this series, so much at look at how it has been revitalized and marketed post-Twilight. I think that’s relevant because it shows how much vampire lit in the YA market has sold. It’s especially interesting considering that the series is owned by a book packager and that the original author has been kicked off of the series so that they could continue the series. Also, does anyone wonder if the TV show would’ve ever existed if it hadn’t been for Twilight? I don’t think it would.
Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz: Like House of Night, Blue Bloods was published in 2007, though Melissa de la Cruz has stated that she came up with the idea way before Twilight was published. The series does have an interesting take on vampires and for the first few books, you really felt like these characters were vampires. However, as the series continued the vampire element was lost somewhat. Interestingly enough, this was after the vampire trend started to die down and the fallen angel trend picked up. An interesting case of market adaption? You be the judge.
Okay, let’s be honest here vampires have been popular forever. And their popularity comes in waives. Remember when Interview with a Vampire was popular? Well, I don’t because I was like five, but I’ve seen the movie on U-verse and seriously I understand why they casted Robert Pattinson now. I mean, they casted Tom Cruise for that movie and he’s just as (if not freakier looking) than Pattinson. Though at least Cruise bathes. Grant it, he owns his own beauty parlor and ultrasound machine so that makes things a bit freaky.
B) Insta Connections
Insta love and insta family is one of the most annoying things the Twilight Saga has given YA. And it seems to be one of the most annoying cliches that publishers seem to replicate. I guess I can sort of understand why. After all, developing relationships in novels is a pretty difficult task. People, after all, don’t want to see how the characters fell in love and watch their interactions with each other*. That’s just taking up page space….but some of these insta connections can be a little more than annoying.
Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon: This book is infamous for its Twilight similarities. In fact, Fallon threw a temper tantrum about it. I think one of the things that stuck out to be Twilight-y more than anything else was the relationship element. And I don’t think it was intentional, I really don’t. Even though at times the similarities seem pretty striking, I see them more or less laziness than copy cat behavior. And yeah, I’ve read the books and I kept thinking Twilight, Twilight, Twilight. But on deeper thought, the formation of the relationships just seem like they were done so that Fallon could get to the story faster. Which was a major mistake. Also, it might ave helped if the characters didn’t resemble Alice, boy version of Rosalie, Carlisle, and Edward. Oh, heck, these characters are really the Captain Planet counterparts of Twilight.
Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini: Oh God, the characters and relationships are so like Twilight it’s not even funny. And did I mention that there’s a sister with a pixie hair cut with psychic powers. Grant it, I think they might be different. But still, insta love/hate the first time the characters meet and…it’s original enough because it involves Greek mythology. Honestly, take out the Greek mythology stuff and the fact our bland protagonist is the local and has superpowers you have Twilight.
Halo Trilogy by Alexandra Adorentto: Insta love, check. Insta family (hmm, not so much on Xavier’s side, but definitely on Bethie’s). Adornetto has discussed her love for the Twilight books. But do I think this is a direct rip off? No. More or less, I think Adornetto lacked experience (she was only a teen when she wrote Halo) and used it as a guide on what to expect when it came to relationships. That and let’s be honest using insta love is a cheat sheet to easy writing. But should she had based her writings so heavily on Twilight?
C) Oh, Boy Here Comes a Love Triangle
Love triangles existed well before, Twilight. However, it seems they have reached new popularity with the series being released. And the formula of the triangles seems to reflect that of Twilight (i.e. normal girl falls in love with special boy only to have another special boy lust over her, and more often than not settles for original special boy). Let’s dissect a few of these triangles, shall we?
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare: This is your typical Twilight Saga triangle if there was ever one (if we’re going to look at the original trilogy). We have Clary (a seemingly normal Bella), who sees the unattainable/supernatural Jace with his special family (Edward) and falls in insta love while her best friend and seemingly human (Simon) is is love with her from a difference. Of course, Simon has to become a vampire (ooh, would this be Edward or Jacob) and throws a wrench in things. Still though, same format. Honestly, I think one of the reasons this series is so successful is because it borrows heavily from other series. Though it’s original enough because it involves incest (okay, maybe not).
The Selection by Kiera Cass: Oh, God. I think this is probably the lamest love triangle ever. And even though it’s a dystopia not paranormal love triangle it still can easily be compared to Twilight. You have Aspen who is the boy next door (Jacob), who pulls away from America because he’s no good for her (Jacob/Edward). Then you have Maxon who’s a prince with an amazing family (Edward) and acts like a girl (Edward). Oh, and everyone obsesses over (Edward). And of course America is bland as toast (Bella). Sigh, you could I guess say this is like any love triangle, but once again look at the familial/economic relations of the party. I might be stretching it, but I’m calling Twilight. Also, sort of unrelated but interesting to note, the CW is really interested in this book mainly because it’s cashing in on another cash cow The Hunger Games.
Honestly, I could give more examples and I started too, but they all sounded the same. Semi normal to normal girl who falls in love with some loser who’s forbidden or special and then some childhood best friend or crush come ins and intrudes and we find out he’s special. Seriously, enough is enough. A lot of times I think triangles are merely inserted to help an otherwise weak plot. It’s a good technique I suppose, hide how shitty the book otherwise is but when you look at these books as a whole God…..my brain bleeds.
D) Bland Mary Sue
One thing Twilight has reintroduced audiences to is the bland Mary Sue. She catches on for several reasons. Perhaps because she lacks such a personality she’s relatable (dubious), it’s easy writing a character with no personality, or writing your ideal version of you. Actually, I think it’s a combination of these factors. Let’s look at a few:
Firelight by Sophie Jordan: Oh, God, I’m reading this one right now and it screams Twilight but with dragons (yeah, there’s going to be an interesting review for that one). The main character though, we’re told right from the bat she’s special. Oh, and did I mention she moves to a new town and….yeah, even the title is similar. It’s hard to believe that a lot of the similarities aren’t intentional, but the thing is I’ve seen this in a ton of YA books. The idea of dragons seems original enough why soil it with Twilight?
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater: Oh, God. You know, actually while I was reading Firelight I couldn’t help but think how similar Jacinda is to Grace then I was like, they’re both like Bella except Jacinda sort of has the Jacob Black thing going for her except instead of turning into a dog she’s a giant lizard with wings. Grace would like her better if she was a dog though. That’s the only thing I know about Grace she likes wolves and she’s pretty much like Bella and lacks a personality. Her relationship with Sam becomes her entire existence and once again we have the innocent I’ll sleep in your room and not touch you romance. Yeah, like that’s reality.
Okay, to be honest Sues existed way before Twilight. But Stephenie Meyer’s books if anything empowered sues. A lot of things, that authors wouldn’t dare try to do with their characters before were perfectly acceptable because of Twilight. Bella empowered Sues. She was considered the every day girl and being super special was in.
Logical Explanations for Similarities:
Obviously, similarities are going to occur in books. Especially if one theme is popular. We just have to accept it. But with P2P fan fiction and fiction that doesn’t have P2P origins but has similarities that are awfully eery to Twilight, it makes you wonder when does one cross the line. Using tropes is expected, but having an almost identical story with a couple of elements that are different can rub a reader the wrong way. Look at the case of Kailin Gow. Gow’s books seem eerily similar to many popular YA books and she’s made a living off of it. Jumping the bandwagon is perfectly fine within reason, but how far is too far? It doesn’t just grate on readers nerves (every time I read a Twilight wannabe I just want to stick the author with Kristen Stewart for a day and then see if they want to make me endure another Twilight ripoff), it also keeps authors with original ideas from selling work that is different and risky.
And sure, you could claim that if the book is really good it’s going to sell anyway. But having so many ripoffs, changing work so it resembles a popular series and sells, is more than a little annoying. Interestingly enough, at the time Twilight was published a lot of the elements Meyer used hadn’t been popular in a long time. We’ve seen vampire books before, but she added a new dimension to them (though, I personally think stupid dimension to them).
I get where publishers and authors are coming from. But let’s be honest, readers aren’t stupid. They might like Twilight, but at the end of the day they don’t want ripoffs. Then again, I might be wrong.
*Sarcasm is heavily implied