Photograph: AP Photo / David Stone / Little, Brown and Company
In Stephenie Meyer's introduction to her latest Twilight tale, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, she whets her fans' appetites by suggesting that in this novel she's "stepped into the shoes of … a 'real' vampire – a hunter, a monster". Any readers frustrated by the mundane suburban detail of Meyer's previous Twilight books – vampires who play baseball, drive Volvos and give each other tasteful, thoughtful gifts – might be tempted to perk up. Sadly, it's a folorn hope. One of Meyer's notable weaknesses is that she can't bear any of her narrators to have pasts or morals blacker than dove-grey. We're promised a wild, amoral, bloodthirsty teen protagonist, but what we get is Bree. Despite a few gritty touches, there's never any danger she's going to get into real trouble after running away from an abusive father in her early life. While starving on the streets she carefully avoids becoming a "junkie ho" before getting suckered by the promise of a cheeseburger, and subsequently being turned into a vampire. OK, she exsanguinates a prostitute here and there, but she spends most of the novella offering her new vamp boyfriend, Diego, high fives and double-wrapping the books with which she whiles away the daylight hours, because she "hates water-damaged pages". In fact, Bree is a thinly-disguised, bloodsucking version of Meyer's first Twilight heroine, Bella Swan – geeky, dependent on males to protect her and think for her, and utterly devoid of black-hearted, kick-ass joie-de-vivre.