Full disclosure, I've read all of the Twilight books, and The Host, and I enjoyed them all to varying degrees. I credit Stephenie Meyer with getting me to write. The thing I enjoy about her style of writing, say what you will, it is easy to read. I wanted to do something similar in my own writing. Everyone seems to have an opinion on her writing, and my friends reactions when I announced I was going to read this were all over the map.
If you enjoyed Twilight you will likely enjoy Life and Death. Meyer flipped the genders of all the characters, except for the parents of the main character. The story is a re-imagining of the original book, and there are differences . . . some significant and some trivial, but I won't put any spoilers in this piece.
The bad stuff.
It is the basic plot scheme of the original, so the flaws with that story come along with this one. If you hated the premise, that hasn't really changed. I didn't though, so this is simply pointing out the obvious. She uses some filters in a few places that serve to distance the reader a little, but barely noticeable during the read through. Some of the plot ideas are weak, like the baseball game or the way that a kid with no apparent skill can endear himself to a small school so quickly. The main character, Beaufort, Beau for short, has no interest in sports or video games or anything other than cleaning the house and cooking. I've raised two boys, known lots of boys, hell I was a boy a long time ago, and I've never met anyone that remotely comes close to this character. He's also clumsier than the Keystone Cops, even more clumsy than Bella. Meyer explains that Beau has been taking care of his mom for most of his life, and I can understand that, and even the "old soul" idea, but she takes it a bit far. That's about it though. I actually like Beau and he's not whiny like Bella was.
I missed Alice. The Archie character has the same abilities but lacks some of the charisma that the petite Alice had. Putting her spunky package in a guy didn't really work for me.
The good stuff.
I really enjoyed reading it. I read it quickly and it drew me to keep reading. I cared about the characters and the especially found myself drawn to Edythe. I get why women of all ages fell in love with Edward. Meyer paints Edythe in a way that is very appealing. I think most guys that read this will get the fantasy girl thing.
Meyer is very good at drawing on emotions. She does a lot of inner monologuing, so you are really in Beau's head and understand just how incredible Edythe is to him, and therefore to us. At least to me. Women will probably have a different reaction to this story than the original. The lead doesn't have the charisma of an Edward or a Jacob.
Meyer explains in the preface that she tried to really draw out the differences in the genders and the characters mostly reflect this. Knowing the plot of the original story and the characters made for interesting reading, because it is not a one for one correlation. It starts out much the same way plotwise, but it starts to go off the beaten path a little bit past the halfway mark. I like the way it changed. I was dreading some of the events that I knew happened in the original story, to Meyer's credit, she made me care again.
I read this book with different eyes than the original. I finished an MFA in writing before reading this version and I have to say I didn't want to put it down. I looked for speed bumps that might draw me out, and of course the writing's not perfect, but she really tells a compelling story. This one made a lot more sense in many ways and ending left nothing up in the air. It has a finality to it that is also satisfying.
I would recommend this book to anyone that likes urban fantasy. You won't have to have read the first one to enjoy this one.