‘Defining Twilight’ — A Bummer?

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years and don’t know what Twilight is, it’s part of a saga coming from the mind of the New York Times bestselling author, Stephanie Meyer. The saga is about a young teenage girl, Bella Swan, who falls in love with a vampire, the mysterious Edward Cullen and the complications that present themselves due to their forbidden love.

After the 2005 release of the book, Twilight, and its follow-ups New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn, and the wildly successful 2008 movie, magazines, fan Web sites, clothes and now an SAT practice book have emerged.

The author of Defining Twilight, Brian Leaf, an M.A., came up with the ingenious idea of creating an SAT book based on the first Twilight novel, especially designed for big Twilight fans, also called “Twi-hards.”

I took a test run of the book myself for a week, defining vocabulary words and doing the drills that came along with them. I was particularly excited about the whole concept of Leaf’s book, as he tried to get young adults to practice for the SATs and other tests alike by combining topics that peaked their interests and making it educational.

I was disappointed, however, for the book itself, as it was insufficient. It required the reader to have their own copy of Twilight available to work with side by side. I thought this was inconvenient, considering that a lot of people that picked this book up had probably assumed they could do with the book alone, and maybe didn’t own a copy of the book, like myself.

I did end up borrowing a copy from the local library, however, and went on with my trial.

Leaf’s book was consisted of a page of vocabulary words (or, as they were referred to in the book, “groups”) and gave you the page number where you could find the sentence containing the word in your Twilight book. You were to read it and guess the meaning of the word, jotting down your guess in the workbook. Then you were to flip to the back of the page to see the correct definitions of the words and check your guesses.

I think it’s great that Defining Twilight incorporated the use of context clues, a very valuable skill to students that will help them when taking vocabulary tests. But, unfortunately, a lot of the example sentences were awfully vague and imprecise, making it very hard to guess the definition of the vocabulary word. A lot of them were too easily phrased, such as “He was very [insert vocabulary word]” or “I felt [insert vocabulary word]” and so on.

A great deal of vocabulary words were much too easy and simple, like “noble,” “detested,” “hyperventilation,” “gawked” and “hostile.” I only guessed them correctly because I’d known their definition beforehand.

During the drills, which were like mini-quizzes, the author had the reader practice the newly learned words utilizing synonyms, analogies and sentence-completion exercises, which weren’t very helpful and sometimes not very well phrased. For some reason, they mentioned a large quantity of words that hadn’t been addressed or even mentioned during the course of the book. This confused me greatly, and sometimes my low quiz scores were due to not knowing the definition of these previously unmentioned words.

Taking Quiz 1, which was a quiz including taking 21 of the 49 words you’d been taught in the first couple of groups, I was disappointed to find I’d only scored an 85.71 percent. It was a good score, I suppose, but was below my expectations. I expected to do better.

Overall, I support Leaf’s efforts, but I think that the book could have been improved as to not require a copy of the novel, but offer excerpts instead. This guide only increased by vocabulary by a small fraction, and proved itself to be useless at times. I appreciate Leaf’s attempt, but it’s a letdown, I’m afraid, for a lot of readers who purchased it. I wouldn’t recommend it.