I started hearing about this book several months ago when it was included in lists of YA novels considered to be “The Next Twilight”.
I feel I must disclose something right off the bat: I love the Twilight Saga. I love it with so much sincerity and intensity I don’t even feel embarrassed about it, even though I realize that I probably should. However, my love for those books is not because I prefer my heroines infuriating and my vampires sparkly. Its because they were my first.
I don’t mean, of course, that they were the first YA books I ever read. But they were, however, the first YA books of my adult life. The experience of reading them seemed to have flipped a switch inside of me, that I am unwilling and unable to flip back. Before reading those books, I had almost convinced myself that having reaching my early 30s, I was an adult and I read magazines and internet articles. Occasionally, I read a novel like “The Lovely Bones” or “She’s Come Undone”. Primarily, something Oprah selected and affixed her big O sticker to the front of. I did not read books about teen-aged vampires. But as it turns out, I love books about teenagers – almost exclusively these days, and if the teenagers are immortal or have magical powers, then all the better.
We might not all be proud of our first loves, but we still love them.
So I love Twilight, despite its flaws, and its unattractive metamorphosis into a global juggernaut. I love Twilight because of and in spite of all of all that. Some people are Diabetic or Hypertensive. I’m Twilight. Its who I am. Its my condition. Deal with it.
So, like a drug addict, when people say something is “The Next Twilight”, I pay attention. I still don’t know if it was the function of a publishing promotional machine, or if there was actual buzz about Firelight, but well before it was released, even Little Old Me knew it was the Next Big Thing.
Even so, I was really surprised at how much I liked this book, and not just because it was kind of like Extreme Twilight Makeover: Dragon Edition.
Firelight is the story of Jacinda, a teen-aged shape-shifting dragon who is new at school because she is on the run from her dragon tribe and its ancient rituals of forced marriage and physical mutilation. Of course, while at high school she meets a superhot dragon slayer named Will, and they promptly fall into my favorite brand of YA love.
Patented by Edward Cullen, Stalker-love is where the characters are instantly and completely enthralled with each other, and engage in generally inappropriate and illegal activities designed to express to each other that they care. They tend to break into each others houses, steal personal items and perform surveillance on each other. When they catch each other sulking around, nobody is horrified or worried. There’s no talk of setting “healthy boundaries” or “restraining orders”. Instead, everybody’s flattered and lovestruck – including me. Its totally unrealistic, and sends a terrible message to Those Kids Today about appropriate relationship conduct. Unfortunately, its very romantic and exciting, and its really easy for naive readers like myself to get sucked in.
Something in Will literally ignites the dragon inside of Jacinda, and whenever they are together she almost can’t stop herself from transforming and breathing fire all over him and burning his face off. But, if mysterious dragon-slayer Will and his family realize that Jacinda is a dragon in disguise, they may kill her and threaten her tribe.
Many aspects of this story remind me of Twilight – the new girl in school meets a beautiful but dangerous boy with whom she immediately discovers an instant chemistry. However, in Firelight, it is the girl who wants to kiss the boy, but worries she might kill him.
Jacinda is a much more respectable female protagonist than Twilight’s oft-despised Bella Swan, in that she isn’t always fainting or falling down or gazing mutely at her dangerously beautiful boyfriend. Instead, Jacinda is a fire-breathing dragon who can fly. So suck on that, Bella Swan.
These parallels strike me more as a homage to Twilight, than an attempt to imitate it. I find that a lot of Post-Twilight YA novels seem to make a point of differentiating themselves from The Saga, while refusing to acknowledge it. Firelight, on the other hand, seems to intentionally acknowledge the Twilight archetype, before slyly turning it on its head.
You know how you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover? Yeah, well, I do it all the time. I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for a beautiful book cover. Cover design is an embarrassingly important factor in my feelings about a book. So its an added bonus that the cover of my edition of Firelight is very pretty and the girl on the cover has hair that is the most beautiful shade of red. I kept holding the book up to my face to see how the color would look on me. Oh and the cool dragon eyes don’t hurt either.