Rating: 5 lemmings! (but your mileage may vary!)
I said in my own LJ that I resisted reading these books because they were so popular in our community... and I have not had good luck with the books that get popular here. (Case in point: The Work and the Glory series, which I stopped reading at book three. I'm sure they were faith-bolstering and uplifting for some people, but not for me.) But I finally did read Meyer's trilogy, just to have an intelligent response when it came up in conversation.
I fell for them right away. I think I had good reason, though... I identified closely with the protagonist. Awkward, nonathletic, smart. The fact that they were set in high school, about teens, didn't really bother me, which surprised me, because usually books written for that age group tend to write down to their audience – a practice I do not condone. Meyer avoided that trap, much to her credit.
All the same, these books are clearly written to attract a certain demographic of readers, largely female, and mostly young – though I have it on good authority that a lot of moms have read and enjoyed them, too. I also have it on good authority that as some moms have screened these books for their teens, they were reluctant to let their teens read them, and I can see where they're coming from.
There is no sex, and (greatly to its credit) plenty of discussion about saving intimacy for marriage. I highly approve. There is, however, intimacy of a different sort, the kind where an undiscerning teen might not be able to draw the lines: heavier kissing, laying under covers together, and allowing boys to stay overnight in a girl's bedroom.
There is also, though with great reason, a lot of lying. It's kind of built into the plot, when you know something that you can't share with ANYONE.
As a romance story, this one is the ideal Forbidden Love setup, where not only is the guy perfect (except for, you know, the fact that he is among the undead), but he falls for the girl and pursues her against both his own better judgment and her best interests. And in the end, what she desires more than anything else is to become like him, so she is in essence dooming herself. At the same time, he insists that if he is in all other respects literally damned to Hell, he's going to get the one thing right that he still can: he is going to save himself for marriage.
Edward is a bit unbelievable... perfect for Bella, but also unreal in the amount of restraint it says he needs to keep from, you know, killing her. That after one day of encountering her he felt he had to move to Alaska to get away, just to keep from doing her harm... and yet he still comes back, because he can't get her out of his mind... is pretty amazing.
Her level of selfishness is pretty high, and at times irritating. On the other hand, it gets her in pretty deep water by the end of the three books – and she pays for it pretty heavily, emotionally, once she realizes what she's done to Jacob. I like that there are consequences for her actions, and I like the touch of tragedy at the end.
I am anxious to see what a male reader thinks of the books. I knew from the first chapter of Twilight that my husband wouldn't make it through the series. (I was right, too... he got through about five pages before he gave up. It's just not his thing.)