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Twilight author Stephenie Meyer is writing a thriller. I have some concerns.

Premiere Of Sony Pictures Classics' 'Austenland' - Arrivals Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Stephenie Meyer, the best-selling author of The Twilight Saga, has a new book coming out this fall. The Chemist is, her publisher announces, a tautly plotted thriller.

Wait, what?

Meyer has her strengths as an author — yes, really! — but plotting has never been one of them.

In the Twilight series, nearly all of the first volume is devoted to Bella and Edward gazing into each other’s eyes and Edward’s family playing vampire baseball. The villains don’t enter the scene until the last 50 pages or so, and even then, their motivations are fuzzy. There are no real dramatic stakes to anything in the book, outside of Bella and Edward and whether their love will last.

Twilight is, of course, compulsively readable. I’m not a fan, but when I read it I found myself turning those pages like the ink was laced with heroin. Yet what’s compelling about it has nothing to do with plot: Meyer clearly couldn’t care less about that. She cares about emotions, about evoking adolescent romantic longing and turning it up to 11.

Which is perfectly fine for a YA romance novel, but not at all fine for a thriller. Thrillers need to be, as Meyer’s copywriter knows, tautly plotted. They need clearly defined dramatic (not just emotional) stakes; they need compelling antagonists and clear throughlines. None of that is in Meyer’s wheelhouse, and none of that suggests that this thriller will be any good.

That’s the pessimistic take. Here’s the optimistic one: What is in Meyer’s wheelhouse is incredibly disturbing body horror, and that’s great for thrillers.

Meyer has always said she’s too much of a chicken to watch R-rated movies, but her books are riddled with violent and disturbing subplots about women whose bodies are being taken over by outside forces. There’s Twilight’s Bella, for instance, whose fetus insidiously takes control of her mind and body, ultimately leading to Bella’s transformation into a vampire, and The Host’s Melanie, whose body is taken over by an alien that wants to steal her life.

The outside force is always supposedly benign (the alien in The Host is a nice person), but there are creepy subtextual undertones of violence and domination. Bella might love her child, but it breaks her spine and makes her vomit blood. Her vampire husband has to chew through her uterus to get the kid out of her. Sure, the three unite into a happy, immortal family in the end, but that happy ending is forgettable compared with the violence and horror of Bella’s pregnancy.

So what if, in her new book, Meyer starts to make that subtext text? She’s clearly tapped into some weird, compelling ideas about how women keep finding their bodies subjugated by powerful outside forces — and that could be a fantastic center for a thriller.

She still might not find a way to hang a plot off it. But at the very least, it won’t be boring.

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