August 3, 2016
You haven’t seen the last of Stephenie Meyer
by Bailey Flynn
We bet you thought you’d seen the last of Stephenie Meyer with Life and Death, her gender-swapped re-imagining of Twilight, the mega-hit YA series that made her famous. Life and Death was enthusiastically described as “a bullshit waste of paper.” For an author of fainter heart, having one’s work tecessantly labeled sexist abstinence porn that eroticizes domestic violence and is badly written might be cause to reexamine the idealizations and values she is spoon-feeding to, literally, a hundred million young people (and their mothers, too). It might also have been expected to dampen her future publishing options. But lucky for us, Meyer prevails: just last Tuesday, she announced a forthcoming new project.
The new book is titled The Chemist, and is set to be released this November from Little, Brown. The publisher describes the book, which is being billed as a “secret agent thriller,” with deliberate vagueness: an unnamed ex-agent of a hyper-top-secret government agency takes on one last job to get out for good, and will need to use every tool at her disposal to get it done.
What’s that you say? Where’s the improbably-haired, broody, bedazzled centenarian man-hero to inject some concrete romance into this thus-far-disappointing fog of a synopsis? Do not fret, reformed Team Jacobians and Edwardians: a forbidden-love-interest storyline like the one that worked so well for the Twilight series appears to play a pivotal role in The Chemist, too, hopefully with a leading man less likely to leave his proclaimed lifelong love alone and despairing in the fetal position. As the publisher’s synopsis explains, “Resolving to meet the threat head-on,” our heroine “prepares for the toughest fight of her life but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival.”
We can only hope that this “fierce and fascinating” new protagonist compensates readers for the famed lack of charisma Bella Swan maintained for the four (sizeable) Twilight books, riding through to the 2,000-page mark on an impressively unvaried wave of repressed teenage hormones and a clumsiness that should have landed her in mortal peril long before Edward ever came along. Talk of this new heroine’s “unique talents” at least offers the possibility that, if she too must be hopelessly dreary in personality, at least she will be equipped with a very particular set of skills.
Of course, we don’t want to be too quick to throw Meyer’s newest effort onto the ever-burning funeral pyre to which the Internet has consigned the Twilight saga. The Guardian’s Michelle Dean describes the book as a pivotal turning point for Meyer in constructing an entirely new fantasy world, her first based around an adult protagonist (The Host, Meyer’s 2008 success, was also focused on an adolescent girl’s adventures). And her publisher’s description of her as “one of the world’s bestselling authors” is, of course, not fantasy. There’s no question Meyer has shown her ability to weave a tale that has the power to entrance a whole generation’s subconscious. As USA Today’s Jocelyn McClurg said in her response to the new book, the author has “proven she can thrill audiences, so why not write a thriller?” The great Sady Doyle, whose book Trainwreck we’re publishing this fall, may have said it best: her books “are silly—and have been roundly critiqued by feminists—but they speak to a legitimate need.”
Bailey Flynn is an intern at Melville House.