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Twilight and New Moon: sexual longing in a world of vampire abstinence

Twilight's Edward Cullen and the New Moon movie: What message do they really send?

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If you've been spending time in proximity to teenage girls this week, there's a strong chance you've heard about "New Moon" and Edward Cullen. Edward is the undead hero of the bestselling young adult fantasy/romance "Twilight" series."

He's reached heartthrob status in a major way, and he's done it while refusing to devour, or sleep with, the story's heroine, like a Jonas Brother for the literary set. And now "New Moon," the second book in the series, is coming to a movie theater near you.

The "Twilight" books, written by Stephenie Meyer, have been heralded as the next "Harry Potter." To bank on the comparisons, "Breaking Dawn," the concluding installation, hit bookstores last summer with "Potter"-esque midnight parties, secrecy, and sales in the millions (although they didn't touch the "Potter" series' numbers, mostly because the fan base is so exclusively female and postpubescent).

There's plenty to cheer about when it comes to young girls reading voraciously. "Twilight" is much in the tradition of teen literature such as the "Nancy Drew" mysteries and "Goosebumps." The books are also rife with allusions to Shakespeare, Austen, and the Bront√ęs, a nice touch that will inspire fans to hit the classics sections of their bookstores.

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