Total ‘Eclipse’

Young adults dressed as vampires gathered at the Coral Gables Youth Center in anticipation of the bestselling author’s arrival, shouting the name of the book series’ hero. But the name shouted isn’t “Harry” it’s “Edward,” and the author isn’t J.K. Rowling. Instead, it’s Stephenie Meyer, whose teen fantasy “Eclipse” knocked Harry Potter from the No. 1 spot on several bestseller lists.

“When I first heard, I honestly thought it was a big hoax,” Meyer said, smiling as she signed a book. But Meyer’s surprise is unwarranted, given the more than 1,000 fans in line toting books and snapping photos.

The crossover appeal of teen fantasy books began with “Harry Potter,” but Meyer’s success shows that adults are still engaged with youth literature. At 640 pages long, “Eclipse” is lengthier than some Potter novels, but readers have devoured the fantasy/horror book with just as much enthusiasm. The novel has been optioned for a film by Summit Entertainment. Director Catherine Hardwicke (“Thirteen”) and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (“The O.C.”) have officially signed on to the project.

This internationally-acclaimed series begins with a common enough set-up: Bella, the heroine, transfers to a new high school. While braving the cafeteria she notices the most “inhumanly beautiful” boy she’s ever seen. This is where the familiar high school romance ends and the supernatural thriller begins. Bella’s description couldn’t be more “dead”-on, since the gorgeous boy, Edward Cullen, is a vampire.

Once Bella begins dating Edward, a “vegetarian” vampire (he chooses to feast on wild animals rather than humans), the real drama begins. In addition to putting Bella in danger from less civilized vampires, her relationship with Edward also entangles her in another kind of struggle: a love triangle, as Bella’s best friend Jacob falls in love with her too. And if this wasn’t complicated enough, Jacob is a werewolf, so Edward is his sworn enemy as well as his romantic rival. The romance has all the star-crossed destiny of “Romeo and Juliet” and all the liveliness of “Pride and Prejudice,” but with plenty of gory action thrown into the mix.

Hundreds of women (and several dozen men) lined up for their chance to meet the creator of this mythical showdown hours before Meyer’s arrival. Some wore T-shirts sporting slogans like “Sorry Romeo, I Want Edward” and “Teachers Love Eclipse.” Proving that the series appeals to both sexes, one young man wore a shirt that read “Edward Cullen has nothing on me.”

Meyer, a 34-year-old Mormon mother of three, received a rock-star’s welcome, holding a 20 minute Q&A while the audience screamed and applauded. Books & Books hosted this final stop on Meyer’s book tour, and fans took advantage of the opportunity to get personalized autographs. One costumed woman with an “Eclipse” tattoo drove five hours from Tampa, Fla. for the chance to meet Meyer.

The series’ final installment, “Breaking Dawn,” will be published next fall. Meanwhile, fans can satisfy their cravings with her first science fiction novel, “The Host,” due out in spring 2008.

Kelly Herson may be contacted at