I have put together this list I don't know how many times in the past couple of years, and I guess I just have to bite the bully (get it? like Twilight shoves all the other books around?) and admit that: 1) People want to read Twilight and 2) People LIKE Twilight.
I mean, why am I such a snob about these books anyway? What was I reading when I was eleven? I'll tell you what I was reading when I was eleven. No wait, read this book - Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick - and you will know what I was reading when I was eleven. And I turned out ok. Reasonably ok. Ok shut up - am I exploring my nascent sexuality with my twin brother or luring my arch-enemy into a leech-infested pool? No. I am not. That was a rhetorical question by the way.
And maybe that's setting the bar kind of low, but I think it is some kind of proof that young readers of Twilight are not going to grow up and fall in love with pale, stalker-y older men. Pale, stalker-y older men are in fact CREEPY in real life, and almost all young women are viscerally and instinctively aware of this. We can trust our girls. (Hi, Olivia! We can trust you, right?)
There's still the issue, recently pointed out by someone at the Princeton Romance Writers Conference (and I am too lazy to go looking for it so I am going to paraphrase), that these paranormal romance novels represent something of a throwback to the old doctor/nurse kind of power differential that turned so many of us against romance novels to begin with (think Mr. Rochester and his employee - Jane - in Jane Eyre). Nowadays, romance novels feature women who are just as strong as, and on equal social footing with, the men, but in Twilight et al, the male character is by definition more powerful than the girl - he's immortal! he can change into an animal! or, uh, sparkle!
But that I don't know what to do about. EXCEPT. To recommend the following pretty good books as follow up reads for people who enjoyed the romance, the drama, the imaginative world of Twilight. Some of these books feature characters with supernatural powers or are set in alternate or future worlds, but some do not. There's at least one cute boy in each, but none of them has a female protagonist as wimpy as Bella.
The Luxe by Anna Godberson. Soapy and irresistably fancy, dripping with drama. Look at that dress!
Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater. An extremely cute boy, some psychic torment, a well-written, lovely setting, and a harp. It's all good.
Prom Nights from Hell. Stories by Stephenie Meyer, Meg Cabot, Lauren Myracle, and other writers who are all about what it is to be a girl.
Prom Dates from Hell (Maggie Quinn: Girl vs Evil, Book 1) by Rosemary Clements-Moore. Good-looking teens, more dramatic than it looks, snappy dialogue. I reviewed the third book in this series a couple weeks ago.
Tithe by Holly Black. Anything by Holly Black, in fact.
Margo Lanagan's Black, White, and Red books. Dark, with a side of strange, drizzled with a stylish-sexy port wine reduction.
The somewhat overlooked Troll Bridge by Jane Yolen and her son, Adam Stempel. Music, magic, peril, attitude.
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. The first in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, about drama and magic in a Victorian boarding school.
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. Ms. Klause has been writing about the allure of the supernatural boy for longer than anyone, and in this one, the boy's a werewolf. Grrr!
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
and what the heck... you know what else any red-blooded reader of the Twilight books will like?
Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews. It's wrong. It's hot. It's so hot that it's wrong and it's so wrong that it's hot. And you just know "V.C. Andrews" is a pseudonym. Who do you think it is really? Wonder if that's what Salinger's been up to all this time.