Apparently vampires are all the rage for high schoolers and some pre-teens. The Twilight series, written by Stephanie Meyer, is about a group of Washington state teenagers...ordinary except for the fact that they just so happen to be vampires. The main character, Bella, falls for one of them (Edward Cullen), and the first 3 books in Meyer's series are about the ohsovery interesting adventures that follow the Cullen family. Yes, I realize that to say a series about vampires-especially one involving a love story between mortal and immortal-is good might seem strange. The thing about Twilight is that no plot synopsis or book review can truly do it justice. I myself raised my eyebrows and gave a weird look at the person who recommended it, and every time I try to tell someone about it, they give me that same exact look. I get it. Bear with me, though, because I am going to make an attempt here to explain.
The Cullens are indeed vampires, but have "renounced human blood based on moral grounds." Time recently featured an article (linked here) about Meyer's series, and in it I learned some pretty intriguing facts about the author and her characters. Her intended theme is the importance of doing the right thing regardless of what all the other kids are doing, and her books are free of the usuals that tend to plague young adult literature. There is no underage drinking, smoking, sex, etc. Edward and Bella rarely do anything beyond holding hands. Meyer actually shares in the Time article that she resists pressure to include intense sex scenes, because that is so prevalent elsewhere. She says that "you can go anywhere for graphic sex. It's harder to find a romance where they dwell on the hand-holding. I was a late bloomer. When I was 16, holding hands was just--wow."
But high school students aren't reading the Twilights because they are clean. They are reading them because of how incredibly well they are written. These stories take an ancient plot concept and give it a very fresh twist. The normal vampirish myths (intolerance for garlic, crucifixes, etc.) are debunked, but there is a pretty odd sensitivity to light that you'll have to discover for yourself. Meyer also does a fantastic job of planting little seeds of information in the first book that become huge branches of the plot in the second and third books.
So there ya go. This may not clear any at all of the confusion surrounding those vampire books, but al the very least now you'll know what the kids are reading!