"Breaking Dawn" is here.
The long-, feverishly, breathlessly, yearningly, awaited final installment in Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" saga, hit the bookshelves at one minute past midnight Friday night.
Release parties were held with much the same fervor that greeted the last "Harry Potter" book at Borders, Barnes & Noble, some Deseret Book and other bookstores throughout the state.
Typical of those gatherings was the one held at The King's English in Salt Lake City, where several hundred die-hard "Twilight" fans gathered.
Leading up to the official release, these fans had a chance to participate in trivia contests, act out favorite scenes from the books, get henna tattoos that marked them in Jacob's or Edward's camp and to mix and mingle with other people who share a common interest in the book.
That interest verges on passion, even obsession for some. "I love these books," said Nicole Laird. "I resisted them at first. But once I read one, I was into it hook, line and sinker."
Judy Shields first read the books when her granddaughter, Kailey Shields, gave them to her. "I love them," she says. "My granddaughter is a voracious reader. We love it when she has one to pass on to me or one I pass on to her."
"These are excellent books," said Kailey, who is totally looking forward to finding out what happens to the story. "I hope Edward and Bella stay together."
That, of course, is the big question. Will Bella end up with Edward, the vampire, or Jacob, the werewolf?
A case can be made for either ending, and there were plenty there to make their case.
Emily Robinson and her friend Jessie Anderson fall into the Jacob camp. "He's totally the underdog, but he's her best friend. Edward is too controlling," said Robinson. "We talk about this all the time," added Anderson. "I liked what Bella said once that Edward was like a drug, but Jacob was like the sun."
Maddi Redford and Jessica Rodgers come down firmly on the Edward side. "Edward's very good looking. He's a knight in shining armor," said Maddi. "He's the Mr. Darcy (as in "Pride and Prejudice") of our time," added Rodgers.
But Keri Redford and Rindi Hawkins support Jacob. "He's a real guy. He's manly and rugged. The Edward people have a false idea of what men should do," said Keri.
"Can you tell this is a family obsession?" joked Hawkins. But either way, the sisters are looking forward to the read. "They are awesome books. She's a great writer," said Rodgers.
Meyer, a Brigham Young University graduate who lives in Arizona, has had little to say about the book, except to say she feels it offers the ending that was meant to be, and she hopes that readers get that same sense of closure that she feels.
No advance copies have been released, because Meyer felt it was important that readers discover the unfolding story as Bella, the lead character, does. As she said on a video promo for Web sites such as Borders and Amazon.com, "I'd hate to ruin any aspect of the story."
She notes that it is the longest book in the series, took the longest to write, and as you'd expect for the final of any saga, the most complex, as all the loose ends get tied up.
Melissa McAughty is not in any hurry to find out how it ends. "I'm so excited," she said. But on the other hand, this will be the end of the story. "I want to spread it out, savor it."
Whatever happens, "I think it will be a happy ending," said Rachelle Rose, a psychologist who, with her husband Paul, came up with the scripts for interested people to act out. "I think Stephenie's a happy-ending kind of gal." But Rose has enjoyed the books. "They are fun, a nice diversion, a nice escape from reality."
Not everyone agrees. The crowd at King's English was definitely skewed female. But there were a few fathers, husbands and brothers in the crowd. "I actually hate the books," said one husband who asked not to be named. "They are way too teen-agey. I remember being a teen, and I don't want to live it again." So, why was he there? "I love my wife."
Excitement and anticipation has been building for weeks, said Jenn Northington, marketing director at King's English. In the past few weeks, the store has been taking pre-orders, and sponsoring some interest-creating activities, such as a contest to design Bella's wedding dress.
Some 3.2 million copies of "Breaking Dawn" will be printed, and pre-sales have already knocked it to the top of best-seller lists."It's been fantastic," said Northington, of the whole "Twilight" phenomenon. "It's the stuff we live life for. You get millions of different people with millions of different interests, in millions of different places, and they all come together over a book. That warms a bookseller's heart."