Let’s Read Life and Death: Chapter Six

All right! Where were we? Going to the beach, it seems. Every time I think “this thing is so overpoweringly dull, how can I possibly commit to recapping this whole book again,” something bizarre happens and I get my stride back.

Scary Stories

There are six pages of mindless teenage prattle before we get to anywhere interesting. I’ll do my best to stay awake while I recap.

Beau gets his truck back. Jeremy is jealous(?) that Beau was talking to Edythe. Logan (previously Lauren) comes out of the woodwork to torment Beau for being a big unlikeable nerd. Everyone’s really excited to go to La Push. Okay, now everyone’s going to La Push. McKayla likes Beau and Jeremy doesn’t like that because he likes McKayla. Logan continues being a jerk. They sort of hike and stuff. Driftwood burns blue. Beau, completely without irony, comments on how “every second was significant.”

Anyway, the Quileute kids show up. One of them, a fifteen year old named Julie (or Jules) is exactly who you think she is. Her description actually dovetails quite a lot with Jacob’s introduction in Twilight, which is kind of a pleasant surprise.

Beau and Jules strike up a conversation, realizing that they know each other. There’s some catching up (Jules’s sisters are grown and married, how’s your mom, how’s Charlie). Beau thinks on how “interesting” Jules’s voice is, “warm and kind of throaty.” Jacob’s voice was “husky,” though that didn’t seem interesting to Bella. Maybe Jules’s voice is a little… masculine?

Logan jumps in because he can’t miss an opportunity to pick on Beau, and loudly declares how sad it is that none of the Cullens came. Jules’s friend Sam (her name is still Sam!) breaks in at this point:

She was even older than I’d thought, now that I looked at her closer. Not really a girl at all, but a woman. Unlike Julie’s, her hair was cut short as a boy’s. She was standing now, and I saw that she was almost as tall as I was.

Not only that, but when Logan tries to answer her, he has to look up, because Sam is so much taller than him..! This is… this is…!

…Exactly what I wanted to see from this book, but it’s somehow leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Sam firmly states that the Cullens are not allowed on the reservation. Wow, like, how weird. Jules and Beau take a walk down the beach, and Jules pretty freely offers the explanation for why the Cullens are banned. Interestingly, this whole chapter is devoid of the original “Bella seduces a fifteen year old on the beach” chain of events. Did Meyer realize how completely terrible that was, or did she figure only women would try to do something like that?

Anyway, Jules provides the infamously butchered mythology of the Quileute tribe, with interesting changes—the wolves are their sisters now, and only women become wolves. In fact, the Quileute tribe is now wholly a matriarchy! It’s fun taking the accounts and histories of real, actual, oppressed peoples and just toying with them to fit your needs.

Ugh, I digress.

Jules continues into her story about the “cold ones” who are enemies of the tribe, and how they’ve struck a treaty with the Cullens to keep them away. She makes it pretty clear that she doesn’t believe in any of this junk, and seems incredibly embarrassed about all of it. Beau is already thinking “oh man how do i get in on this sweet immortality action.”

Some other teenage jerks find them and I don’t know, man, when the mortals show up my eyes sort of glaze over. Chapter end.

The Wolves That Turn Into Women

You’d think I’d be happy to see that at least one character, finally, is breaking gender norms, and that we in fact have a whole group of women-only werewolves.

Well, here’s the thing.

Meyer has tried really hard—bent over backwards, even—to preserve a specific gender ideology in the other characters. What was hyper feminine became hyper masculine and vice versa—Emmett the bear-hunting jock is now captain of the volleyball team, no girl is taller than her boyfriend, etc. Nothing threatens the binary in any way, unless you count Royal’s stupid “man bun” (and come on, it’s got “man” right there in front so we still can’t possibly be confused by it).

That’s until we meet the Quileute tribe, the first specifically, unavoidably non-white characters. Suddenly we get new details on how short Sam’s hair is, how tall she is, how straight-backed and confident. Only the women become wolves in this new tribe.

I mentioned this gave me sort of a bad feeling. Don’t get me wrong—in any other context, I would love the hell out of a story about all-female werewolves, where they’re all tall and strong and have “interesting” deep voices. But here it feels… well, racist as hell. The uncivilized natives let their women run wild and they act all manly and stuff! They’re nothing like these pure white gender-norm-abiding European vampires.

If I divorce Jules and this bizarre mirror Quileute tribe from their probably pretty freaking racist context, then yes, these characters are extremely exciting, because Jules is still a beautiful interesting 15 year old who builds cars in her free time and later she can turn into a frigging werewolf. If I didn’t know she would inevitably lose out to the petite and prim girl who is carefully nonthreatening to her boyfriend’s fragile masculinity, after several books of the whole tribe being deliberately positioned against (and under) the philosophies of a bunch of immortal white supermodels, I don’t think this stuff would make me angry.

I still hold on to hope that Meyer will, in a fit of pique, write a Life and Death version of New Moon, but at the same time, I’m worried about how flat a book like that would fall. Jules and Edythe can be taken as literal symbols of modern femininity versus old world ideals, and we all know which one wins in this series.

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