A former critic, I am astonishingly now a fan. This book/series is sort of Jane Eyre meets X-men saga; it tells the story of a humble, kind, introverted girl who feels incomplete and longs for home, love, connection, intimacy, family, and agency. Within a simple 'boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again' tale there are many layers. To explain the book's appeal and artistry I strongly recommend the Granger lectures on Ancient Faith Radio.
Bella, with her shy, self-effacing manner and intense first love, is not a model of career woman efficiency. This is a fairy tale parable of opening our hearts to love, and allowing that love to transform us. This tale is also a coming of age story. We see a smart, capable girl grow up, mature, make her decisions, and blossom. That she chooses being a wife and mother as her adult priority is probably the single most controversial aspect of this book.
Now read my earlier negative review from years ago - written in a knee jerk reaction after having read the book only once.
My previous review: "Bella is a poor role model for chastity, honesty, and self-care:
The book was suspenseful and erotic, but morally 'junk food'. WHY are parents letting young girls read this? Bella pursues only her infatuation w/ the vampire. She makes no female friends; she has no career plans; no extracurricular interests, no religious practice; no sports; no job. She has no interest outside of wanting to give her body to the older powerful attractive male - even if he kills her. She lies to and deceives her father. She hides her boyfriend in her bed at night as he passionately and dangerously kisses her neck. Bella is not an upstanding role model for a young girl."
Obviously my feminist hackles were raised the first read through, but strangely enough I delight in the book now and have read the series through several times. In fact I really like everything S. Meyer wrote: The Twilight series, The Host, and especially, Midnight Sun (book 1 from Edward's voice) downloadable from her website. And I no longer think Bella's physical desire for Edward is inappropriate for teens to read. Humans feel desire. What matters is how we handle it. Bella and Edward's restraint and choice of chastity is more of an accomplishment b/c it did take effort. Bella and Edward are fine role models - their maturation takes 4 books, so don't judge them too soon.
If interested in the inner life, popular culture, or the power of story to transform, I strongly recommend you read or listen to John Granger on both Twilight, Hunger Games, and Harry Potter at hogwarts professor site.