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Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, is a young adult adventure-romance about a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire. Her struggle to build a relationship in a world filled with suspicion and danger helped make the book a number-one New York Times bestseller. The novel launched the Twilight book series, which has sold more than 100 million copies and received multiple young reader awards. The series also has been adapted into a set of popular films that have earned more than three billion dollars.
Along with the four Twilight books, author Meyer published alternate versions, including one from the vampire’s perspective and one that reverses the genders of all the main characters. She also writes novels for adult readers.
The ebook version of the 2022 printing of Twilight forms the basis for this study guide.
Bella Swan moves from her mother’s home in sunny Phoenix to live in cloudy, rainy Forks, Washington, with her father, Police Chief Charlie Swan. Bella is smart and pretty but solitary and clumsy, and she dreads navigating a new social world at Forks High School. The kids there, however, are friendly and take an interest in her, especially three boys who want to date her. Another boy, Edward, pale-skinned and handsome, is rude at first but later goes out of his way to be nice to her, and she feels greatly intrigued by him.
One chilly morning, as Bella arrives at school, a student loses control of his van on an ice slick and skids toward her. Edward suddenly appears next to her, pushes her out the way, and physically stops the van with his bare hands. Bella hits her head on the ground and is rushed to the hospital, but she’s ok. She demands to know from Edward how he managed to save her, but he’s tight-lipped. He tells her it’s better if they’re not friends.
For weeks, Edward is polite but distant. Bella dreams of him every night. Other boys invite her to a school dance, but she begs off—her clumsiness extends disastrously to dancing—and plans to spend the day in Seattle instead. Edward, saying he’s tired of avoiding her, offers to drive her there. Stunned, Bella accepts.
Bella can smell blood, and it nauseates her. During a blood-testing exercise in Biology class, she nearly faints. Edward takes her to the nurse’s office and then drives her home. They talk about their families and discover that they have the same taste in music.
Bella joins several students on a trip to the beach at the La Push reservation. Several young Quileute natives join them. One, Jacob Black, is the son of Charlie’s best friend, Billy Black, whom Bella remembers from her visits to the reservation as a very young girl. Jacob tells her the Quileute legend about how their men turn into werewolves to fight vampires. Today, they have a truce with a family of vampires led by Dr. Cullen. Jacob thinks it’s all nonsense.
On a visit with Jessica and Angela to Port Angeles, Bella gets lost on a back street. Four surly men surround her and close in, but Edward drives up out of nowhere, and she escapes with him. Edward admits that he’s been keeping an eye on her and warns that he’s a vampire. Bella says she knows and doesn’t care.
Edward drives her to school daily; they spend free time together there and after school, asking questions about each other’s lives. She learns that Edward and his family don’t attack humans but instead hunt large animals for their blood. One weekend, Bella and Edward go for a hike in the woods, and he shows her his skin in the sunlight: It glitters like diamonds. They kiss, and she gets woozy with happiness.
Back at home, she asks Edward to stay with her. He admits he’s been visiting at night to watch over her; strangely, this makes her happy. Quietly, to not alert her dad, they snuggle and talk, and she falls asleep in his arms.
The next day, Edward takes her to his home deep in the forest. Inside the beautiful, three-story house, she meets his adoptive family of peaceful vampires—Dr. Carlisle Cullen, the town surgeon who treated her after the van accident; his wife, Esme; cheerful Alice; and quiet Jasper. Rosalie and her husband, Emmet, aren’t there: Rosalie is still making up her mind about Bella. Edward plays a gorgeous piece of piano music he wrote for Bella, then gives her a tour of the house. He explains that Carlisle, the son of an English pastor, became a vampire in the 1640s but learned how to survive without hunting humans.
Jacob and Billy Black visit Bella at home. Privately, Billy warns Bella that dating Edward is a serious mistake; Bella rebukes him for intruding; she adds that she knows more about Edward than he thinks.
Bella watches the Cullens play baseball on a meadow in the mountains. They play during a storm because the crack of their bats sounds like thunder. During the game, they’re interrupted by visiting vampires who smell Bella and want to hunt her. Carlisle talks them out of it while the other Cullens whisk her away.
Edward says one of the vampires, James, is a tracker who loves a challenge and is already searching for Bella. They decide to take Bella to Phoenix while Edward and Carlisle try to find and kill James. Bella pretends to her father to be upset with Edward and wants to return to her mom; she leaves before he can stop her. Alice and Jasper drive Bella at high speed to Phoenix while Esme stands guard over Charlie.
Alice has a vision of James sitting in an empty ballet studio that looks like the one Bella attended as a child. Bella receives a call from her mom that’s interrupted by James, who tells Bella he’s holding her mother hostage and that Bella must go to him. She eludes Alice and Jasper and meets James at her childhood ballet school, where she realizes her mom’s voice was taken from an old family video recording. James taunts her; she tries to escape, but he hurls her against a mirror, which breaks several of her bones and slices open her scalp. As he moves in for the kill, he’s interrupted by five Cullens, who dispatch him violently.
They discover that James bit Bella’s hand; Edward gallantly sucks the poison from the wound and manages to resist taking the rest of her blood. They rush Bella to a hospital, where Edward and Renée watch over her until she wakes up. Renée thinks the Cullens came to Phoenix so Edward and Bella could reconcile and that clumsy Bella managed to fall down some stairs and crash through a window.
Weeks later, Edward and Bella dress up and attend the school prom. Still wearing a leg cast, Bella dances by putting her feet on top of Edward’s. Jacob also attends. He tells Bella that his father will be keeping an eye on her and Edward. Bella asks Edward to turn her into a vampire so they can be together as physical equals. He refuses, but he promises always to be with her.