After three years of anticipation, and enough Team Edward vs. Team Jacob debates to put the Lauren Conrad/Heidi Montag feud to shame, 1.3 million copies of Breaking Dawn the final installment in Stephenie Meyer's massively popular four-book Twilight series flew off bookshelves on Aug. 2, its first day of release. And just like that, devotees of the vampire-centric franchise began logging on to message boards and accusing Dawn of lacking, well, some bite. ''It wasn't what I expected at all,'' says Katie Bludworth, who co-runs the Twilight fansite Bella Penombra. ''It didn't seem to fit the world that I thought Stephenie Meyer created.''
So what contributed to the letdown? (We'll pause here for the requisite spoiler alert.) Among other quibbles, many were turned off by protagonist Bella's bizarre, Rosemary's Baby-esque birth of a half-vampire. After all, it's a plot development that might have been too gory for the series' young target audience. Others felt that Meyer neglected to fully explain how Bella could have been impregnated by her vamp husband, Edward, since the series' mythology seems to render this implausible. And then there's the length. At 756 pages, Dawn is actually shorter than past kid-friendly blockbusters like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but many readers, such as 14-year-old fan Michelle Secunda, found it ''hard to get through.'' In fact, rifling through Amazon.com's reader reviews, it's difficult not to stumble upon a befuddled poster who asks, ''What was she thinking?'' (Click here for our review)
Asked for comment about the uproar, publisher Little, Brown issued the following statement: ''With a book that has been as eagerly anticipated as Breaking Dawn, it would be simply impossible to meet every reader's expectations. Stephenie Meyer's fans are tremendously passionate about her characters and emotionally invested in the lives she's created, so it's no surprise that they'd respond with equal passion and fervor.'' Well, of course not. And besides, for every dissenter, there are still plenty of faithful fans. Take Laura Byrne-Cristiano from the fansite Twilight Lexicon, who found Bella's disturbing birthing scene ''realistic'' considering the otherworldly circumstances. ''It makes a lot of sense within that context,'' she says. ''Just thinking of any other number of vampire movies, it could have been a whole lot more gross.''
And besides, even though fans are baring their fangs now, it's hard to imagine that their dissatisfaction will ultimately dent Dawn's sales. And it's even more unlikely that the hugely touted film version of the franchise's inaugural novel, Twilight (which hits theaters Dec. 12), will suffer as a result.