As I explained in a post on where to draw the line in teen fiction, I do not have a problem per se with fantasy and that includes vampires. What matters to me is the content of the books, the story and how it’s told. In that sense, the Twilight books are actually ‘safer’ and a whole lot less vulgar than many other teen fiction books I’ve read.
For those happy little few that haven’t read the books: they’re the epic love story of Bella, a normal 17 year old, and Edward, a vampire. Throw in some werewolves including Jacob, who also has affection for Bella, a couple of bad vampires intent on killing and ruling and there’s your story.
Let me start by saying this: I get why teen girls love these books, I really do. Bella is a normal teen in many senses (though a bit too passive for me) and her love for Edward appeals to the romantic dreams and hearts of teen girls. That’s also because these books truly are about love and not about sex. It’s worth mentioning that Bella and Edward don’t have sex until they are married and even then, it’s described in subtle words.
Also, the whole having to choose between two guys may be a bit of a cliché, but it works. Author Stephenie Meyer makes the case realistic, even amidst a lot of fantasy elements.
From a writing point of view, these books aren’t that great at all. The writing is awkward at times, slow and in the third and fourth books a lot of back story had to be introduced suddenly. But you want to know how it ends, so you just keep on reading.
As for language, these books are absolutely clean. There are no curse words here, no strong language whatsoever. A nice change from many other books on the list. This undoubtedly has to do with the fact that the author is a Mormon.
Would I recommend these books to teens? If the girls haven’t read them yet, I’d have no problem with it. I would check with the parents though, as some do have an issue with the vampire element. When girls have read them, I would talk about the relationship between Bella and Edward and what love looks like. Other possible themes are family and the choice between wrong and right.