Teenage girls from around the North Shore — and their mothers — are counting the hours until midnight tonight, when the film version of the book "Twilight" opens in theaters. Some will show up to school, and work, sleepy-eyed tomorrow; others will wait until the weekend to see the film, based on the first in a series of four novels by best-selling author Stephenie Meyer. Rest assured, most fans will have seen the film before week's end.
Karen Hackney, a mother from Marblehead, recently bought tickets online for herself and her two daughters. They'll see the movie Sunday at AMC Loews at Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers.
"Twilight" is the story of forbidden romance between two teenagers — Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), an immortal vampire, and Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a "different" girl in small, rainy Forks, Wash. The two face many obstacles: Friends and family disapprove of their true love; Edward must resist his primal urge to drink Bella's blood; and he has to protect her from other, blood-thirsty vampires.
One would think that a book about vampires with violent themes would not be appropriate for teens, but local parents and educators agree the book is full of positive themes, such as abstinence, religion, chivalry, politeness and selflessness.
"('Twilight') is the first book (we've read) that's so true to life, and it's helped us discuss things that are central to their own lives," said Hackney, about her two daughters, Anne, 13, a seventh-grader at Veterans Middle School, and Laura, 15, a sophomore at Marblehead High School.
Laura read the "Twilight" series first, her mom said. When "Twilight" appeared on Anne's summer reading list this year, Karen Hackney took an interest. Originally concerned the book would have too much graphic adult content for young Anne, Hackney picked it up in August, while her daughters were visiting relatives. She liked it so much, she read all four novels in a week, bonding with Laura and Anne over the phone for an hour to an hour and a half a night.
"('Twilight') had none of the darkness and explicitness of other vampire novels," such as Ann Rice's, Hackney said. "The basic values that you want to teach your children were coming from a vampire."
Middle- and high-school students, and parents, have devoured the "Twilight" series since the first book came out in hardcover in 2005. The "Twilight" series, including subsequent books "New Moon," "Eclipse" and "Breaking Dawn," has spent 66 weeks at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List. The phenomenon has spawned a franchise similar to JK Rowling's "Harry Potter" series, with T-shirts, a sound-track and a book of stills from the upcoming film on sale.
Vampires in school
In anticipation of the film's release, Joanne O'Keefe, school librarian at Collins Middle School in Salem will host an after-school "Twilight" party this afternoon for students who have at least read the first book. There will be "Twilight"-themed snacks, a discussion group and trivia questions.
O'Keefe said more than 20 students have already signed up, and there's a buzz around school about the party. The library's classroom holds 40.
Educators see value in the books, according to O'Keefe.
"When students and their parents can enter into conversation about a good fiction book, teachers and librarians do find that very exciting," she said.
Nancy Anthony, librarian at Veterans Middle School in Marblehead, will host a "Twilight" discussion Monday.
"We've had a lot of excitement around that series of books in the last year or so," Anthony said. "The excitement around it really matches 'Harry Potter.'"
Tania Buchanan, 13, a Collins seventh-grader, said she will attend the "Twilight" party, and she'll see the movie in Danvers with two friends tomorrow night.
Tania is a native of Kazakhstan who was adopted by Agnus and Jo Buchanan three years ago. Upon arrival, the native Russian speaker was not fluent in English, nor was she a big reader, Agnus Buchanan said. Since reading the "Twilight" series in September, Tania's mother said she has become more vocal, even joining the debate team this year.
"(Tania's) made a tremendous jump in her reading comprehension, her vocabulary and her ability to communicate," Agnus Buchanan said.
Tania's focus is on the movie version of "Twilight," and she "can't wait" until tomorrow.
"From the previews I've seen, I think it will be better than any movie I've seen," said Tania, adding that she especially wants to see the part where Bella meets Edward on the big screen.
Others are excited, too, and Loews in Danvers has set aside four of its 20 screens for tonight's midnight screening, said Sun Dee Larson, spokeswoman for the theater's parent company, AMC Entertainment.
"We want to accommodate everyone, and as it sells we will continue to add auditoriums," said Larson, who said AMC's policy is not to release specific sales figures.
Like Tania Buchanan, Laura and Anne Hackney want to see how true the film version is to the book.
According to Anne, the "Twilight" series, which was first popular with girls only, now has some male fans.
"It's such a great thing that both genders can understand it and connect with it," she said.